Posts Tagged ‘youth’

Exploiting Youthful Idealism – Shamelessly

In the New York Times article, “Students Lose Zeal for Aiding Obama Again” (11/14/2011), are the following paragraphs:

Mr. Obama’s advisers, while acknowledging the shift, said they were confident that the loss of these workers would be negated by an influx of new students who have turned of voting age since 2008. Mr. Obama’s campaign manager, Jim Messina, said there had been eight million voters ages 18 to 21 registered since the last election, most of whom were Democrats.

“Their brothers and sisters started it, and they are going to finish it,” Mr. Messina said Monday. “They are storming into our office. Our volunteer numbers are up from where we thought they would be.”

This would be a stunningly shameless admission if such blatant exploitation weren’t so commonplace as to numb the senses to being stunned any further. Note that Mr. Messina acknowledged the sentiment shift, but flatly ignored Obama’s responsibility and the people he harmed. There is no perfunctory (and disingenuous) “We feel your pain,” no pro forma (and dishonest) “We’re doing everything we can,” no confession that the students’ disaffection is well founded, no compulsion to address them or their issues at all. Rove Messina may as well have said: F - - - them. We moved on, they should too.

These exploited voters are simply being discarded for the next group of unwitting dupes. It’s not even a speed bump for the regime. They see a path to maintain their power and the disappointment and powerlessness of those who invested their hopes and dreams are of zero consequence. Sadly, using history as a guide, the message will be lost on those who can ill afford to miss it, whose futures are jeopardized most, the very ones exploited — in this case the young.

The natural idealism of youth is a valuable input, counterbalancing the equally natural circumspection of the not-so-young. The two forces should create productive tension. Another way to state this difference is: the young lack — dare I say ipso facto — tempering experience.

This does not assert that experience negates idealism. If that’s what you hear, re-read the introductory clause of the previous paragraph. The two innate characteristics counter-balance one another. My history includes the idealism of my youth. The young do not, cannot, share my subsequent hard earned experience. A thought experiment for the young, and useful for young and old alike: I understand and embrace your idealism to offset my certainly diminished capacity for same. Do you similarly value my input to offset your lack of experience?

There is an irony here. (Isn’t life full of them?) Of the two demands requisite to productive engagement between generations, the one placed on the young is necessarily the more challenging. The old must put aside whatever barriers they have to pulling existing items from the memory bank in order to recall the idealism of their youth. But we ask the young to accept as true what they have not yet experienced, so cannot know. We ask them to take it as an article of faith.

We do a disservice to them and to ourselves when we fail to acknowledge that the young have the more difficult end of the bargain. It is a lack of empathy that our experience should warn to guard against, but too often doesn’t. And this is the gap exploited by partisans, ideologues, tyrants, and other power-hungry lovers of self.

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