Thursday, February 9, 2012

The idealism of youthfulness

There is something innocent yet incredibly observant and extremely powerful in the youth pointing out the flaws in decades-old trends and culture, just like Madison Vorva and Rhiannon Tomtishen have. It says, "How could you let things get to this point?" It also says, "We are inheriting this Earth after you. Why are you debasing and defiling it?" In that, all the criticisms of this culture, these politics, are crystallised. In it, the idealism of youthfulness is at play.

There are of course things that are seemingly more fundamental and timeless than others, things that don't change. For example, "Be nice to people" seems like something more fundamental than "Marriage is between a man and a woman". It is so because most no one would say that being nice to people is something we should not do. There are no objections. But marriage between two people of the same gender? That becomes murky for many people.

Many of the timeless lessons come just from human experience and time. Things have a way of revealing themselves to you. All you have to do is live, and, well, be observant and a little bit reflective and reflexive. When we are young, we can be petulant, abrasive, and say mean things to people. (I actually know a lot of people of my age, 26, and older that still behave that way. Just check out the Republican primary debates.) But as time goes on, hopefully people become kinder and gentler and thoughtful and more dynamic. At the same time, it is hard not to notice that there is something about the way that we've cultured ourselves, that as we get older and older, we get more and more drawn in to everything that is degrading to this Earth, and the human spirit. It is pretty clear, if you talk to your parents, grandparents, or anyone older than you, that as time progresses, people become more and more wary of change. We become part of "the system". We get jobs, get families, try to feed those families by buying food from box supermarkets in which produce has traveled one thousand five hundred miles. We see no way other than addressing things through bureaucracy. We seem to get mired in the same political debates that have now become so fractious that there is seemingly no way forward.

It is in these circumstances that imagination of the youthful breaks everything down, and creates things anew. Whether it is imaginary friends for children or pie-in-the-sky dreams for those seeking change, it is that idealism that must temper and dismantle the "pragmatism" that is grossly inadequate.

John Paul Lederach, Professor of International Peacebuilding speaks to this from experience. What he says is relevant and accessible to all of us, trying to address the manifold issues we face. His words are positive and constructive. Listen to his beautiful conversation with Krista Tippett (above). Or, read the excerpt below.
Ms. Tippett: You've talked about how you've seen that violence destroys a person's capacity to perceive themselves as an integrated part of a whole, and that makes it difficult for people to see themselves in a web of relationships that has to include their enemies and some imagination about their enemies' grandchildren, right? I mean, it's almost like you're asking the impossible of people.
Mr. Lederach: Well, it's — it's the impossible until you consider the alternative, which we've watched now evolve in so many places across decades, half-centuries. Columbia is a half-century. Middle East can go back centuries. In other words, the notion that it's more realistic to pursue the other avenue, the one that's supposed to be more pragmatic, shows itself over and over again to basically reseed the very things that create the cycles of violence that we're trying to supersede.

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