Some people are considered hopeless romantics. They go around wishing for silly things to occur like love at first sight, tulips to bloom in winter, music to actually burst through the sky to accompany them on their everyday tasks, and for world peace to blanket the globe. These people are considered romantics because all of these things could probably only happen in an ideal alter reality; they are considered hopeless because this reality may never occur. I am here to tell you, that if ever there was a time for hopeless romantics to grasp on to their otherwise defined as “idealistic notions,” it is now.
Admittedly, I am one of these people. Lately I feel as though it is an appropriate time to explain why my chosen point of view is not hopeless, but HOPEFUL. Yes I am an idealist. Yes I believe that one person can be the catalyst for bigger things to happen. Many times people have told me, “it is so nice to be optimistic all of the time, but you are just one person and one person cannot change anything.” Obviously, these people are not idealists. Obviously, they haven’t read the news lately (Re: Egypt) or met my students in Kabul. Let me elaborate.
First off, hopeless romanticism (reckless idealism?) has just caused one of the longest standing Arab regimes to fall. If you hadn’t noticed, President Mubarak of Egypt just stepped down because of mass protest by the people of Egypt. I’d like to wager a bet that all of those people didn’t show up in Tahrir square 18 days ago because of a coincidence. No, I would presume that one person started a discussion with another person a few years back about how much they were dissatisfied with the oppressive regime. This discussion spread to many other people and, what do you know…a regime has now fallen.
Second, I get to work with the youth of Afghanistan, teachers in training, everyday. Amidst all of the governmental corruption, poverty, and war, my students show me daily how brightness can emerge from these desolate times. Not only do they discuss a future devoid of war and violence, but they do something about it. They are teaching their students how to be better people; they are eradicating the most destructive weapon in all of this country, illiteracy. All of my students know that they can’t change the state of their country immediately. But what they do know is that by educating the people, one by one, they are building a better nation.
So what do the Egyptian people and my students have in common?
Not only do they both weave idealism into their world view, they know that one person can change things. This is how it happens, one person has a hopelessly romantic dream of a different reality, then they tell another person. The other person passes this idea on and then it moves through a population in this fashion. Pretty soon, a bunch of people believe in this once hopeless idea and it becomes a reality. It is that easy.
Last week, before I knew that the regime in Egypt would fall, I learned an Afghan proverb; it immediately became my favorite. It goes like this:
“Qatra, qatra darya mesha.”
Drop by drop, a river is made.
Of course, this applies to both Egypt and Afghanistan. Twenty days ago nobody would have thought that President Mubarak would be out of office within the month. Now, because the people, who are all just drops in a huge river of humanity, have come together to protest his unforgiving regime, he is out.
Just like the Egyptian people, my students are drops in the river too. Little by little they are creating a mass movement; an educated populace that will eventually refuse to be ruled by warlords and a corrupt government. This educated populace will understand that religious fanaticism is not part of the Koran, and that Afghanistan can be both an Islamic and Democratic state. They will also realize that they are all Afghans, and that creating division among different nationalities is futile while trying to unite a people and build a stable country.
As I mentioned before, some people are considered hopeless romantics. They go around spreading their idealism like it is the cure for any ailment; a corrupt government, widespread poverty, war, insolence, and tulips not blooming in winter. The irony in this label is that these people are the drops in the river of change. They are romantic yes. As for hopeless, this is a misnomer placed on them by people who do not believe in the power of dreams. Because they (the unromantic) are hopeless.
We, on the other hand, believe that drop by drop, a river is made. So, the hopeless romantics carry on putting drops in the river wishing one day, that seemingly insignificant trickle may become a raging and powerful force to be reckoned with.