The Ignorance of Idealism

by Nic Olson

We couldn’t count to eight. The consumed beverages we attempted to count inhibit most mathematical abilities, so it makes sense. It made the following morning’s cash deposit at the bank a bit more taxing than it normally would have been. It seemed that the irresponsibility of inebriation seeped from my pores with such potency that the bank teller just knew I needed the guidance of the branch’s Relationship Manager. Relationship Manager requirements: divorcee with three estranged children, an addiction for buying high heels, 45-year mortgage. I was being shanghaied. After three minutes of portfolios and mutual funds and MER%, I realized that she wasn’t just switching my bank account over to the new no-fee account (which I still don’t trust). She clicked around and looked down her nose at my banking information, took a short survey of my current life situation and she told me what I already knew: that I need to start saving for when I get old.

Invest. She told me. Invest in one of these three packages so that you get richer. She said.You get richer, I get richer, my company gets richer. This, she didn’t say. But in my understanding of history and of capitalism, as one party gets returns on their investment, another party gets returned to the ghetto with less than they had before. Prosperity for all is a harsh myth. Sask-a-boom is a shoe in the face of those without investment plans.

She dismissed me as a clairvoyant dismisses a non-believing truth-seeker, knowing I will come crawling back once I experience the real life of a wife or child or house or car and hand my convictions in with my loneliness. Only she won’t be the lucky Relationship Manager to sell me a package of ‘Ethical Funds’ that will give me a 10% return.

I am 25. I’d rather work until I die—to let work be my life and my death—than to participate in the death of millions of others. The weight on my chest multiplies. This, my friends, is what they call idealism.

I am 65. All my peers are retiring and relaxing on large boats. Sitting in the staffroom at work, I rub my stubbled face with my ugly hand, reading this passage on some archaic form of screen, shaking my head. I curse the fact that I was too stupid to understand the energy sector or financial firms, or investing and commoditizing ‘Consumer Staples’. My self-disappointment is inevitable, like one of those commercials where the 65-year-old couple realizes that they didn’t save enough to retire and end up spending the best years of their life selling groceries to 20-year-olds with retirement plans. The difference is that I neglected to start saving for retirement not because I didn’t think about it at all, but rather because I thought about it far too much.

I am generally ignorant about the things in which I claim to root my convictions. Ignorant as the people I have grown to believe are selfish and stupid, only allowing a different sect of intellectuals to sway me a different direction. I have the ignorance of idealism—I am holding on so tightly to an ignorance that I call morality. More recently I have attempted the opposite, the ignorance of realism—accepting life as it is, and using purposeful ignorance as an act of self-preservation.

And now, as step one is complete, as I walk into purposeful ignorance in the name of personal sanity, I wonder when step two will finally become reality. When I will cast my convictions aside and assume my rightful place as a another investor in this wonderful system of economic exploitation. For the comfort of my golden years, I pray that this day is soon.