Stop the Generation War

Now that the election has come and gone, we can see the large swell in the youth vote. Much of it went to Corbyn. Once seen as puffed up lazy millennials, now the young are naïve, inexperienced and brainwashed [1], toasting Bobby Sands in their hipster pubs [2]. For now, they’ve made their mark on British politics and the center-right is worried.

Of course, the young have been of interest to center-right newspapers for some time and little of it positive. There’ve been plenty of articles showcasing struggling millennials that pursued creative jobs with low pay [3] so they may have a social life. If the press are to be believed, most seem to go traveling [4] without a care for their future finances.

You might be expecting me to go on a diatribe about how these people represent a lazy and worthless generation, mollycoddled by doting parents and have turned into unproductive spoiled tykes. You might be expecting me to make references to how this future-electorate should “work hard,” learn about real economics, and put off gratification.

You would be wrong.

Perhaps it’s the young choirmaster I know that lifted their family out of penury through sheer hard work. Perhaps it’s the academic that studied hard for seven grueling years before moving to a large city and achieving their dream of lecturing for a prominent university.

It might be the twenty-three year old that despises state-dependency and who thinks students should only go to University after spending some years working in the real world. Or perhaps it’s the manager of a charity shop, who gained their position after working long hours in the basement of a major shoe supplier. Her one extravagance? Collecting teapots.

In short, these people don’t have time to embarrass themselves in the newspapers. Their only public footprint is as a point on a statistics chart. They don’t attend rallies or write long articles about becoming an author. All of them voted for a variety of parties- Labour, Tory, Lib Dem (some even voted UKIP). They work long hours for little pay, saving up and up before they get their reward. Some are now married, and raising families.

They don’t hear the talk of “snowflakes” or “little emperors,” and if they do they don’t respond to put the picture straight. They certainly don’t harbor resentment at their parents and Generation X. They are too busy earning money.

They are part of a group that is increasingly being left out of British politics — the little people that have neither the time nor the willingness to defend themselves against the charges of an offended older generation. A few idiots are receiving the lion’s share of coverage, dragging down an entire demographic.

Of course certain generalizations have merit. By way of example, we can point to the previously low turnout among young voters. It’s perfectly understandable to see low levels of young voters turning out for the EU referendum [5] as showing that millennials carelessly forgot to register, so absorbed were they in their iPhones or starship enterprise communicators or whatever.

Sadly, even this isn’t the whole story. When the Telegraph referred to “busy professionals” that might not have bothered to vote [6], there was no thought that these older people were “lazy” for even considering that they might not get to the polling booth.

An electoral system designed to make voting the most expedient process possible could not tempt them out of their offices, on one of the most important issues of our time. Perhaps a large group of young people were answerable to the charge of laziness — but it’s hard not to feel a little contempt for those “busy” professionals in turn.

Add to this the rather spectacular youth turnout this month, and one might think that treating both groups more even-handedly would be a good idea. Even the vote for Corbyn can’t entirely be explained as an act of damaging naivety. If someone offers you something during a time of economic hardship, would you vote against it? How desperate are you?

When I put it to one of my young friends that money doesn’t grow on trees, she agreed and merely hoped for a slight reduction in tuition fees. Furthermore, she was full of ideas for improving employment chances that didn’t rely on a magic money tree, be it expanding apprenticeship schemes or getting benefits seekers to do important volunteering work for businesses.

Of course, these ideas weren’t “costed,” and may have contained flaws that rendered them impractical. Nonetheless, they all involved how best to get people in meaningful work without increasing the deficit. She was creative and idealistic, yes, but she wanted to work hard, and wasn’t completely cut off from reality.

Nor was she starry eyed about Corbyn. For her, his post-election confidence gave the impression that he was becoming deluded by his modest electoral success.

There are many well-grounded young people like her. People that work hard — just as there are older people that aren’t cackling over high house prices or winter fuel payments [7]. Almost everyone is trying to get up the ladder of life as best we can, and most aren’t interested in sniping at anyone. It should not be impossible to appeal to such people with sensible policies.

Perhaps if we all accepted that, then we would get a better kind of politics.

Notes

[1] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/06/10/election-brought-ideology-roaring-back-public-life-tories-must/

[2] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/06/10/mays-successor-must-heed-price-paid-not-communicator/

[3] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/men/thinking-man/crybaby-millennials-need-to-stop-whinging-and-work-hard-like-the/

[4] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/money/consumer-affairs/meet-young-people-whod-rather-go-travelling-save-house/

[5] http://blogs.ft.com/ftdata/2016/06/24/brexit-demographic-divide-eu-referendum-results/

[6] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/eureferendum/12164486/Do-British-voters-actually-want-to-leave-the-EU.html

[7] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/life/why-millennials-have-got-baby-boomers-all-wrong/

Geoffrey Hicking

Geoffrey Hicking is a librarian and freelance writer.

Latest posts by Geoffrey Hicking (see all)

If you enjoy our articles, be a part of our growth and help us produce more writing for you:
Advertisements
Geoffrey Hicking

Geoffrey Hicking is a librarian and freelance writer.

What are your thoughts?