Clint Eastwood famously starred in the classic spaghetti western, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, and though it may seem like a perfectly useful way to categorise people, things are, unfortunately, not that simple.
Throughout my time growing up I was told that there was the good guys, and there was the bad guys. It was that simple. Black and white, with no overlap. In World War Two the Nazis were the bad guys. In Disney films, it was obvious who was meant to be the figure of hate. In football, Manchester United were the enemy.
As you grow up you learn to realise that this way of thinking about the world is not only far too simplistic, it is also inherently flawed.
As much as I desire for perfection, both morally and in terms of performance, perfection is an unattainable goal. We all have our flaws, and we all have our negative traits. No man is an island, and especially in this global community, it is impossible to survive without forming relationships and interacting with other people.
This is something I am slowly coming to terms with. I am constantly having an internal dispute over where I stand on matters because my heart is a radical idealist, whilst my head is an educated pragmatist. The two conflict in a big way, and I have no idea who will be victorious in the end.
This internal dispute is permeating almost every aspect of my life. It began in university and resulted in me distancing myself from a very good friend because of the career path he had chosen. I regret my action somewhat as it definitely built a barrier between the two of us, but at the same time I understand why I did it, and my thinking has not changed on the matter. Though my thoughts on his career have not changed, my awareness of the world has.
It is possible to remove yourself from all of the things that you consider bad. It is possible to live a life whereby you have absolutely no contact with anyone, or anything, that goes against the principles that you hold dear. This life though, would be an existence of incredible loneliness, deep self-instigated austerity, and a bitter contempt at the world around you.
The label of hypocrite may well be thrown at people for how their actions seem to contradict their spoken words and their principles. I believe that everyone is a hypocrite though, there are just varying degrees of hypocrisy.
Nick Clegg is arguably one of the most hated politicians in the UK right now, and it is not hard to see why. He cosied up to the Tories, turned his back on those who voted for him and his party, and (metaphorically) stabbed hundreds of thousands of students in the back. His is one of the worst cases of hypocrisy because almost everything he stood for, and everything he said that he supported, has now been thrown aside.
If we were to look at the world in black and white, and in terms of good and bad, Nick Clegg would be bad. He would be one of the worst, following just behind the toxic gang of Conservative MP’s currently in power, who in turn would be behind the likes of Nigel Farage and Nick Griffin. Utterly despicable people, with vile beliefs.
But the world is not black and white, and despite what I would like to say, Nick Clegg is not inherently bad. He is a massive hypocrite, he is a naive idiotic back-stabbing, lying fool, he is a puppet and a powerless piece of “liberal” decoration on the selfish and unforgiving Tory Christmas tree, but he is not a bad person.
Clegg knew that in order to change anything he had to be near the power source. To stand even the remotest of chances of making any single one of his policies ever see the light of day, he knew that he had to get closer to the historical enemy than he would have liked. In his head he must have had an internal battle of his own: Do I stay true to my principles, remain out of government and have no power? Or do I join forces with these people I have so long opposed, in the hope that I could make a change, no matter how small, from within.
Unfortunately for Clegg, and the rest of the UK, he made the wrong choice. He has compromised far, far too much in order to have his squeaky voice heard for the smallest amount of time. The things he, and his Liberal Party have given up far outweigh what they have gained.
Compromise such as this is present in every aspect of our lives. Hopefully we are not all as naive and idiotic as to make the same shambolic choices as Clegg has, but we all must make compromise. If you are a vegetarian, perhaps at times you eat fish, or dairy. If you are anti-capitalist perhaps that Che Guevara shirt you wear, or the V mask you bought, is mass produced by a huge multinational corporation. If you are a racist, perhaps an Indian man drives the bus that gets you to work. If you are anti-war perhaps you have a mobile phone that has a certain type of metal that can only be found in a war ravaged state in Africa, and the need for this metal perpetuates the war.
Whatever it is, none of us are perfect. None of us can be perfect, though I would encourage us all to try, no matter how futile it may seem.
With this being my thought process, I went into work today (I have recently started a new job as a Finance and Fundraising Officer for a renewable energy charity in Brighton) and I asked a question to one of my colleagues that was perhaps too heavy a question to ask on a Tuesday morning at 9:05. I asked her if she felt frustrated knowing that in order to make a difference and make a change in the world, we, as a charity, had to suck up to the companies that are causing most of the damage.
I had been looking through some previous grant applications the day before and I had seen one for Coca Cola, and I know for a fact that Coca Cola are quite a few horses short of an ethical stable, yet here we were, befriending these giants. My idealistic heart took great offence.
Yet after a conversation with my colleague, a woman that has been in the charity sector for decades, working with the likes of the RSPCA and the WWF, it became obvious to me that next to nothing would be achieved if we were to completely sever ties with the likes of Coca Cola. Unfortunately the biggest, baddest people and organisations are also the ones with the most power and money, a damning indictment of human civilisation if ever there was one.
If you are to change the world for the better, you need to change the people who are currently changing it for the worse. Ignoring them, and refusing to do business with them will in all likelihood not impact on their behaviour, and so even if your principles are the most moral and most ethical, your actions, or rather inactions, are causing more harm than good.
My idealistic heart may be marking the blueprint, but it is my pragmatic head that will lay the foundations.