The message being delivered by the elder half of the idealist
seems to no longer be "you don't understand the world", it seems to be "Ok, you've figured a lot out, you've caught on to a lot of things you're not supposed to know, *but*, you don't understand how hard it will be for you to make a difference."
Their generations made terrible decisions when they were in their "idealist phase". Followers of Timothy Leary or Ken Kesey or any other popular head might have found some enlightenment in LSD, but even when LSD helped an individual it was hard to spread the message without more LSD. When you understand that "god is love" or "we are all one" while tripping it is not the easiest thing to convey that message to someone else, seeing as how there was no real logic involved. Great for the individual, not so great for the masses. LSD was not the way of the future.
The back to Africa movement, as admirable as it may have been just left people disinterested in improving life in the USA. Vatican II failed to make Catholicism more accessible, it turned out people aren't that interested in their religion whether you get it in Latin or your native language.
Movements that our parents generations might have been a part of didn't work. That's the end of that story. It just didn't work. Little things worked. The 80's brought us recycling programs and such. Admirable, but also not a solution for the future.
So now what does our generation have? Replace Leary with Chomsky and you might actually have something. Add the internet and we have more of a chance. Add fairly new ideas like veganism and straight-edge and we might live long enough to make a difference. But then what does the message we receive from the elders become? "Fine, you see that the system is flawed, you see
*how* the system is flawed, you might even have some new ideas, but what you'll only understand after you're broken kid, is that the system is strong. Stronger than you."
And in a lot of ways they are exactly right. To make a difference our generation might have to abandon decadence earlier than we might like to. To make a difference we might have to educate ourselves instead of narcotizing ourselves. We might have to get jobs we don't like and *not* let them break our wills. We might have to suffer the pain of having empathy for people suffering and dying because of our habits. We might have to break those habits. And yes, the elders are right, it's infinitely easier to enjoy decadence and to have a simple life within the system. When you start feeling as though you haven't made enough of a difference, when you start to feel your idealism slip away into something you would have termed 'conformity' in your youth, you can always spawn. Nothing makes you feel good about the future like creating a little part of it, nevermind what happens to them.
Even those of us in our generation who haven't had to grow up fast have grown up faster than our parents did.
What are we going to do?