There is an inherent joie de vivre in youth, unique to this stage in life, which engenders its limitless potential. When we are young, in years or spirit, idealism comes naturally to us.  We meld an age of maturity with the childlike belief in the power of goodness. With such an extraordinary innate capability, our youth should be the ‘movers and shakers’ of our world.

Sadly, all we see today is a broken and jaded young population. We seem to have lost entire generations to pessimism. Today’s young people give up not because of a paucity of strength to bring their dreams to fruition, but because they reserve it for ‘later’. They forget there will be no later, if there is no now. An acquaintance once told my daughter to drop her idealism and not ‘waste’ her brains on a socially relevant internship. Fortunately, my daughter is too bright and too youthful to be swayed by someone whose only accomplishment is his considerable wealth.

We pressure young minds to shelve their aspirations till the ‘work is done’. I see no bigger tragedy than the subjugation of young minds to utilitarian demands. How many musicians and scientists are ground to nothingness in those factories we call colleges? Replicas of doctors and engineers are churned out, irrespective of what greater genius is destroyed in the process. Certainly, mediocre intelligences do well in the entrance tests after going through their training (for it cannot be called teaching)! But what of the poet that will never be? Am I the only one who is grieved at what civilization has lost? Life is meaningless when built solely on what you are going to be. It negates the all-important who we are to be. We place our young in a race to attain quick success, and to bring that buttered bread home.

I believe this is a symptom of a more insidious, more troubling, malaise – the dying of idealism. It infuriates me when people dismiss idealism as frivolous. To me, dry practicality is worse. Idealism is what drives humanity forward. What was Gandhi’s desire for freedom if not idealism? The Egypt revolution was driven by the ideal of a better future. Every new technology is the result of a dream to build something better. Every startling breakthrough is the vision of a free mind. Our youth has always been our hope, not because of its energy, but because of its idealism. It is only idealism that allows us to dream, and more importantly dare, to crave and to create. Perpetual and total idealism might make you look disconnected with reality, but it is immensely inspiring. Sheer practicality, on the other hand, would simply make you an automaton. Youth is not a preparatory period. It is the period. Till our young learn to live what they believe, they will never bring for themselves – or for others – anything to live by.

Sarah Alam

The author began writing seriously when the Editor of Deccan Chronicle was kind enough to allow her to submit a story for her paper. She freelanced for the paper and wrote across the spectrum – children’s stories, reports, controversial viewpoints. She continued to write when she moved to the US. Her fairy tales were published, and she began her blog. Like most women, she juggles a lot of roles – wife, mother, teacher. But her qua writer is the one she cherishes the most!