Ah, yes, utopianism is alive and well and living in the heads of Jim Kalish and his "score of people who love this city" {"Washington: A City That Doesn't Care," op-ed, Aug. 11}. Implicit in Mr. Kalish's indictment of Washington's general population and various institutions is the notion that all of its social ills are soluble.

But, as is invariably the case with such dreamers, his proposals for specific action to bring us to utopian status are shy on detail. For example, he says, "The local government needs to be re-energized, social programs modified, more money raised and a stronger sense of self-help and individual responsibility inculcated in those who are disadvantaged." Those are nice goals, but instead of saying how they can be achieved, he wails and gnashes his teeth over the apathy of the people. His "solution" is to establish a forum in which these problems can be addressed -- in a town overflowing with such forums.

Mr. Kalish shows a keen insight to the obvious when he points out the fact that "we are split by income, race, geography . . . 'haves and have-nots.' " The sad and alarming aspects of his using that fact in this context is the implication that some lower common denominator (as in socialist states) is better. Granted, the socialist-welfare mentality is creeping into the American fabric, but let's not rush it.

Cities, and nations, need their social and political gadflies and commentators. They even need their utopians. They're all important elements of the free world. But while the dreaming and finger pointing is being done it is pragmatists and realists who recognize the limitations and the extreme complexity of an ever-changing human social structure. It is they who come up with specific actions to relieve social stresses that can be relieved. It is fortunate for all of us that pragmatists and realists far outnumber the dreamers.


Takoma Park

Jim Kalish is all wet when he says that Washington doesn't care.

Saturday, April 25, was damp and cold. Rain continued through much of the day. A peace march for Central America drew public attention to Capitol Hill. Still, despite the elements, 1,550 volunteers showed up to renovate 62 inner-city homes and shelters as Christmas in April, a local group that I founded, marked its fifth year of service to the community.

The lesson: give people a chance to perform hands-on work for a limited period at least once a year. Show them that their efforts will improve the lives of the city's poor, elderly and handicapped. And they will respond -- magnificently -- every time.