I think many of us aging hippies are fighting a constant battle between the idealism of our youth and the cynicism of experience that is slowly suffocating the idealism. Thrown into the mix is also a generous dose of LIFE – that insidious thing: the work, the chores, the family, the friends, the hobbies … It all seems to mean that even when we still have plans to save the world and give cynicism the finger, we wake up to notice that weeks, months, years have passed since we made that decision and we have in fact achieved nothing, because we have just been too busy getting on with our lives.
How to prevent idealism from dying? There is no question that it is worth keeping it from dying, because a cynical world with no idealism is a bleak place in which I, for one, do not wish to live.
Then there is also the issue of privilege. We all know we have it, but we often forget just how much of it we have. We become blinded to the wealth, the opportunities, the love that surrounds us. We forget how lucky we are and we begin to take everything for granted. We think we are entitled to it, which is not only a sign of being ignoramuses, but also diminishes greatly the enjoyment we get from our good fortune.
We all have our ways of dealing with such profound issues of life. I try to dabble in this in my everyday life by supporting organisations that do the valuable work of saving the world while I’m busy just doing work. I also do it by keeping myself informed of the world, and engaging in discussions about it, whether over brunch with F or by ranting at my friends on the internet.
However, I find that none of this is enough for me. I find myself losing perspective. We can’t change anything anyway, so why try? It is so easy just to give in to the cynicism, because it has the effect of justifying the privilege.
I need something more radical. I need to ditch it all, to remind myself concretely about how the other half (more than half – vast majority, in fact) really lives and humbly offer the skills that I have to try to improve their lot, even if just by a little bit. This is about wanting to save the world, but more honestly, it is much more about wanting to save myself. From my cynicism and my privilege.
For the next three months my posts will come from Windhoek, Namibia, where F and I are currently giving a hand to the Gender Research and Advocacy Project of the Legal Assistance Centre. Check out their awesome work at: http://www.lac.org.na.