Thursday, January 21, 2010

Death by Practicality

Lately, I've been toying with a vision of what could be that inspires me. It's a world where the disenfranchised have a voice, the invisible are seen, and the exploited find rest. It requires a complete rejection of illegitimate power structures and a radical commitment to individual freedom and the dignity of all life. To steal a few words from Nelson Mandela, it's a society where "the oppressed and the oppressor alike" are restored.

When I've attempted to articulate these ideas to those around me, I've been bombarded with words like "utopian" and "unrealistic" and "Rachel, you have to be practical." Practical. Such an innocuous word - yet full of such poison. When people tell you to be practical, they mean that you should compromise. Lower your standards. Water down your ideals. Go repackage your suggestions and bring them back when they no longer require risk or sacrifice or even temporary discomfort.

Who decided that practicality should be our aim? Why is that word given any credence at all? Practicality has never once changed the course of history or awakened the thing in us that longs for the heroic. What is practical about signing a rebel declaration... or going to jail over a bus seat... or dying on a cross?

Idealism may very well leave you lonely, poor, oppressed, and despised - but only practicality will murder your soul. When I die, I hope they write on my tombstone "Here lies Rachel Evans who, despite our best efforts, remained hopelessly impractical all the days of her life."