My life has been the process of gradually shedding idealism as I find out what really works.
One that took the longest to go was the idea that working on something cooler, sexier, or more noble is more important than achieving your objectives. Y'know, I'd look at people who take government benefits or got no-bid contracts, and I didn't really respect it. I thought, hey, that's not as good as doing it your own way.
Or maybe something is more glamorous, or more right and proper to excel in. Or something.
Now? Nahh, I'm starting to realize it all counts. All of it counts. If you need a certain amount of cash to do what you want to do, it counts pretty much regardless of how you do it.
Oh, still, don't violate your core ethics. Yes, of course. I've probably got more strict ethics than most people and I've spent a lot of time thinking about mine.
That's not what I mean here. No, what I mean is - moral superiority isn't the way. If there's a lot of easy money in, say, banking - well, it counts. No need to thumb your nose at bankers. They're getting where they want to go.
If you're eligible to receive some benefits, hey, it counts.
This doesn't get into whether it's good or optimum for things to be the way they are. It doesn't get into whether we should make changes or not. But I'm starting to think moral superiority is misguided.
You set your ethics. You set your objectives. Whatever gets you to your objectives without violating your ethics - it counts! And if someone has different ethics or different objectives, there's no real benefit to taking a haughty and morally superior tone with those people.
Hey, you might be in opposition to someone else. You want a different governmental system or you want to run a competing company in the same industry, or even invent a substitute for their product. Okay, that's fine. But if they're reaching their objectives without violating their ethics, it counts! They're getting what they want. Thumbing your nose at them solves nothing. It all counts.
The "sociopathic" view is extremely valuable; in particular, far too many nice people assume that everyone (or, even more naively, every state or other group) is nice. If you've not already read it, Kissinger's "Diplomacy" is thick but very readable, and I found it to be a very valuable introduction to this kind of thinking. Do keep in mind that Kissinger is guilty of multiple atrocities, though.
I would really like you to counsel to be nice, but I'm afraid I have too little experience actually following my inner sociopath to tell either way. A reputation for being nice should (and does) make it easier to convince people to cooperate with you; but some fields seem to be dominated by, well, bastards. I'd be quite interested in a good treatment of the effectiveness of good and evil, myself.
Oh, and I specifically said "speculation that throws the world into chaos".
I disagree. To the extent that a banker unproductively extracts the value of others' work (some financial work is really valuable to society, but not all), (s)he is just the winner of a zero- or negative-sum game.
Using social (dis)approval to steer people closer to win-win scenarios is one good idea, and evading this social pressure is good only to the extent that the pressure is applied wrongly: $10M from speculation that throws the world into chaos is not morally equivalent to $10M from building a $100M company that brightens many lives, even if your ethics permit either.
There seems to be two very different ways that the phrase "social contract" is used.
The first is an unspoken conduct agreement between two people. If you hire a great guitar player to teach you guitar lessons once a week, are you allowed to cancel? Is your instructor? How much notice? Is it okay if he's drunk or halfway-preoccupied during your lesson?
How much formality is there? If you don't do the recommended lesson from last time, how disappointed will your instructor be?
How prepared must you both be?
This is a social contract that's actually a social contract. Sure, there's edge cases - even if it's expected that both of you are always at the lesson on-time, prepared, and ready to go immediately, there's still an exemption if you have a family emergency or serious illness or whatever.
There's a long list of benefits that go along with keeping a journal, but I think most people go about it all wrong.
But hey, wait a minute, I thought only silly people wrote in journals?
If you ain't doing it, you're the silly one, silly.
So first of all, why the heck would you want to journal?
Here's my top reason: the externalization of thoughts and experiences