Who Wears The Rose-Coloured Glasses?

In a recent article on Politico, a young Clinton supporter urges his ‘fellow millennials’ to ‘take off [their] rose-coloured glasses’ and stop supporting Bernie Sanders. We shouldn’t choose our leader based on superficial criteria (like ‘authenticity’), he argues, but should look at proven leadership qualities and policy proposals. Practicality over naiveté. Realism over idealism. The sobering refrain goes on. As a young person asking other young people to get over their exuberance, the author appears to possess a level of self-awareness that eludes the rest of us. He is a sensible young man.

That the young are naïve and overly hopeful is so commonly accepted that it strikes us as self-evident. So much that we rarely question why it appears that way. Youthful rebellion, after all, is the natural order of things, and one day we will all be wiser. It should, therefore, come as no shock that in the Iowa caucus Clinton beat Sanders by a margin of 43% among seniors – the wisest of them all.

But the self-appointed realists rarely consider that hope is only a relevant category for the hopeless. If we were hopeful that the given present would deliver a prosperous future we wouldn’t be eager to participate in the ‘delusion’ of a political revolution. We realise that our inheritance is debt, wage stagnation and climate change, not wealth and opportunity. The fading image of a flourishing future has driven us to demand a change, not out of some youthful naiveté, but because the world we were told would be ours looks as if it will not arrive.

So the intelligent pragmatism of our young Clintonite is, in fact, an illusion. His level-headedness with regard to the future is only the product of a naiveté about the present. Only those hopeful enough about how things stand can rebuke those who hope things will be different. Only those idealistic enough to believe that the system at present can accommodate substantial change urge us to be realistic. The charge of naïveté turns out to be more naïve than the naïveté it claims to perceive.

—Brendan Harvey


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