Youth, as everyone knows who has passed through it some time ago, is the age not of idealism but of self-importance, uncertainty masked by certitude and moral grandiosity untouched by experience of life — or, of course, the age of total insouciance.
Dalrymple is musing on the dangerous mixture of youth and ideology in Muslim extremists, especially the British ones; the whole piece is at National Review Online. This is the opening sentence, and it really struck me. It certainly describes me as a young man, and fits many of the people I knew then. I've been saying for a long time that what was called idealism in the youth culture of the 1960s was generally not that at all, but I've never managed to say what it actually was as well as Dalrymple does here.
A few months ago I read an article about the heavy bias toward youth in the technology industry, where even being as old as forty is a marked disadvantage if you're looking for a job. Some entrepreneur still in his twenties admitted that he didn't even consider hiring anyone much older than himself, and said, "Let's face it: young people are smarter. That's just a fact."
I snorted at that and thought No, young people are stupid. But that's not right, either. Young people in general do have quicker minds, can more readily learn new things, and do complicated tasks more rapidly, and those are qualities very desirable in a programmer or engineer. But what often strikes me about young people is that they tend to be foolish. I don't know that as a group they're any more foolish than the youth of any time, but very foolish many of them are, and ignorant as well. Moreover, they tend to be arrogant in their foolishness. Youth possesses many gifts, but that wisdom is not often one of them is part of the wisdom of the ages, and of age, that it doesn't yet grasp.