What happens to youth?
I look around me and see people with bright futures and promising ideals. These people are rare, but they're not that rare. And then I look at the world around me, at the older generations. I see fewer people actually living these ideals. Young idealists are rare, but role models are even more scarce.
I talk with people, and I hear great enthusiasm and hope for our generation's youth. And yet those who merely hope were also young once...
Money is cheap.
What's needed most in this world? People with time. And not just any sort of person. People who are able to think well and work hard. People who have the knowledge, the income, the skills, and the humility to step in physically when help is needed, bring in specialized knowledge when necessary, and get the job done.
But even in disasters, we make the choice to stick with our petty jobs, fulfill our insignificant deadlines, and maintain the status quo.
I have an excuse for not being in Baton Rouge right now, writing code to help distribute the charity goods pouring into the South. After all, I was leaving for a conference in Europe when the disaster occurred. Then, I was away during the critical time. And now, I have gradschool applications.
Can you imagine how horrible it would be to unbalance my graduate school plans just to save lives and care for homeless people? See, I'm special. I'm a smart guy. In order to prepare, I need some ME time. And once I (graduate, get that bonus, reach that level in the company, finish this task), I'll be able to do lots of things to help others. So of course, I can't help now.
Sigh. I think that the greatest error of my generation is the vice of personal fulfillment. Everyone is so busy bickering over the top items in Maslow's hierarchy, that they forget the people that struggle beneath their feet to find clean water and healthy food. Most ideals in my generation are merely birdcalls. They signal social group membership but do little to really care for others. Everyone looks after their own desires before really caring for others. If it were otherwise, then we would se a lot more professionals volunteering and moving down South.
Instead, we all decide that the next rung on the treadmill is more important than the narratives in the magic boxes we call TV and Computer, narratives which themselves struggle to be noticed among the cacophony of advertisement.
I think this is what happens to youth. Talk is cheap. Money is cheap. But a life is a precious thing to spend. When spent for other lives, it is well spent. Is a life well spent if it fails to realize the full potential of skill-talent, yet realizes the full effectiveness of a life spent for others? Yes.
Mark is right. The blogosphere, the press, the academics, and the government are all talkers. The people with ideals, with great skills-- what do they do? Try to convince the masses to sully their hands with the grunt work. Enough talk. We need some action.
And me? For now, I continue to fill out the graduate school applications. After all, I want to realize the full potential of my talent, don't I? And after all, most people don't even think about these things. I write this stuff for others to read. I think, and brood. I'm young. I don't have to do stuff now. I'm in preparation mode right now. After all, I have a promising future. That makes me OK, right?