“When they come downstairs from their Ivory Towers, idealists are very apt to walk straight into the gutter. ” This was a statement which was once made by Logan Persall Smith about idealists. Indeed, he was right in saying so. Idealists are people who are obsessed with perfection, people who spend their lives working towards achieving the standards of excellence which they have drawn for themselves. Now, most often than not, such ideals are being formed without giving due consideration to existing reality.
Simply put, these ideals could not be achieved because they were not based on realizable facts. Moreover, since perfection is beyond the capability of ordinary human beings, the ideals or standards of excellence which idealists have formed and live for often exist only in their minds. In other words, their ideals are merely imaginary, ergo, impossible to attain. Idealists, therefore, are people who are detached from the real world. Because of this alienation from reality, they no longer know what is feasible and what is not. This situation ultimately leads to their downfall.
For instance, when an idealist decided that only a labor-intensive manufacturing industry could help the people in his or her locality by making jobs available to them, he or she should also take into consideration several important factors. Foremost among these would be the skills and talents of his or her beneficiaries – do the people in the locality possess the required training and experience that would qualify them to work for such an enterprise? If not, then maybe a training program should first be conducted in order to provide the people with enough training and proficiency.
Then there is also the matter of the availability of raw materials and machineries to consider. These factors are important elements of reality which must be considered if success is to be achieved. An idealist who is obsessed with perfection and who is living in his or her imaginary world could be expected to ignore these realities and fail as a result of such alienation. When Henry Ford said that “An idealist is a person who helps other people to be prosperous,” he was completely mistaken.
When he uttered these words, Henry Ford simply forgot to consider the fact that idealists are not Gods who could simply will things to happen. As a matter of fact, he might have mistaken his own experience to be the success of an idealist, especially when helping others was at the back of his mind at the time that he founded his car assembly plant. Granting that one of his goals for starting his business had been to help others. Nevertheless, it completely eluded his mind that he was only able to help some people prosper because he was able to provide them with gainful employment in his automobile manufacturing business.
In this connection, if he did not have the acumen, acquired the necessary training, experience, skilled workers, and the necessary capital, he would not have succeeded in putting up his business. Therefore, he could not have helped other people. Because he was able to do this, Ford thought that anybody with the same lofty ideal could do what he was able to achieve. He forgot the basic reality that not all individuals have his acumen and native intelligence.
He also failed to consider the fact that not everybody could just put up a business, make it a flourishing enterprise, and help other people prosper by providing them with gainful employment. In other words, not everybody is blessed with the skills and capabilities that he had and not everybody could be as lucky as he was when he established his automobile business. Henry Ford, therefore, was utterly wrong when he said that an individual could help others prosper just by being an idealist – or by simply forming an ideal or establishing a mark of excellence which would serve as his or her objective.
Most of all, Mr. Ford forgot that when he established his car assembly plant and developed it into a flourishing enterprise, he was very much in touch with reality: working with skilled people, utilizing available resources and machineries, and selling his products to real people who could only afford so much for the price of a car. In other words, Henry Ford did not work with an ideal – he did not establish a mark of excellence which was beyond his capability to achieve. He was, therefore, not an idealist.