From the 1990s
The novels of John Marsden are a source of enjoyment to many teenagers as well as to others. I refer more to his quartet of novels about the invasion of Australia. He shows in a clear way that it is possible for human nature to be basically good and brave and the same time be reflective. It is shown that loyal friendships can exist and that it is possible to battle against enormous odds and even personal weaknesses.
Yet many adolescents do not seem to have the same cheerfulness. They could read into the same author their own perceptions of what is hopeless and violent. For them it can be the license to oppose and destroy. Books have the ability to affect the interpretations of real life. What imaginative experiences can so easily do is to overrule the objective experience.
Young people freely choose the messages they seek. Often the negative can be more indulging. And we can wonder why. One need only look at the explicit moralizing going on about us as evidenced in the drug debate and in the rigidity of structures that rely heavily on economic and political factors. It is as though something must be seen to be done, seen to work, seen to be good. This in turn, must all be marketed in such a way that the profit motive is the one true reality.
Adolescents are told what to wear, what to believe, what to say etc. We should be concerned about this. They are taught and so easily seduced by the glitter and prize of acquisitiveness. They have yet to realize that a big cost will be exacted. In their hearts they know that all is not well and that sooner or later they will become the disposable ones in our society. They will be tempted to turn to nihilism, drugs, hopelessness and at times despair.
The trashing of youth’s idealism and sense of genuine worth is both sad and very dangerous, especially when it is refurbished by the model of a pinstriped superficial and malign decency leading nowhere. Our youth need to be disenfranchised from the constituency of shallowness and greed. There are those who seek to suck dry the udder of our world. It is the idealist who can stand back to give everyone the equal share of the world.
There is a creation of man that can easily turn against him. It is when we observe our world and the plight of our youth we need to be aware of the danger. For when we give the idea more importance than the experience we run a tremendous risk. Freedom is a concept. It is an abstraction. We cannot see it. All we can see are free men and women who are able to act freely. And such freedom is not the power of infinite choice but the power of definite commitment. It has its limits as much as it has its obligations. It need not be a curse or a burden despite the fact that that we are ultimately responsible for all that we do.
There is a part of us that must stand alone. We cannot disclaim or negate responsibility for our actions. Ironically this is where our greatness comes from. It is this that we want for our youth, that they do not slip into the anonymity of the masses but are able to live the experience of being truly human in their goodness, loyalties, bravery and reflection.