Saturday, 1 December 2007

Angry young man

Some cheeky 26 year old* has written to the London Independent blaming us oldies for all the social backward steps that are now blighting young people's lives.

Like tuition fees at universities. Like the reduced value of pensions. Like cuts in welfare benefits. Like fewer rights for employees.

Well, excuse me, but I never agreed with any of the changes and I had nothing to do with their introduction. I'm not one of those people who enjoy my privileges and then pull up the drawbridge so the next generation don't get them.

So please don't tar us all with the same brush. A lot of spineless, selfish individuals lined up behind Mrs Thatcher and said nothing as she chipped away at the welfare benefits hard won by centuries of trade union and political militancy. But I wasn't one of them. Not in my name, as they say.

I think it's outrageous that young graduates are saddled with huge debts they'll spend years repaying. All education should be free as it's the essential tool to create a better society and a higher quality of life.

But I could ask what exactly these angry twenty somethings are doing to reverse the measures they object to? I don't see many of them marching on the streets or joining political parties or trade unions - as so many of us oldies did in our youth. Don't complain to me, complain to the government ministers who have the power to restore more enlightened policies.

And it's not just your pensions that are going down the Swanee, it's mine as well. Believe me, I feel your pain. So if you want to protest, I'm right behind you. Just name the day....

* Sebastian Crankshaw. With a name like that, he just has to be an upper-class twit....


  1. Nick
    I can't believe that we have ten+ years of Labour and that they have done nothing to reverse the inequalities that Thatcher's government established and the mechanisms that perpetuate these. It seems that these inequalities are now also inter- generational. The question is can they be reversed (given the need to catch the votes of middle England to get into power?) or is it a lack of political will power?

  2. My sentiments entirely, TH. Funny sort of Labour government - but then Labour governments have usually been disappointing in terms of erasing inequalities. I'm sure many people are very keen to see a more equal society - in fact many voters are well to the left of the government, as Tony Benn pointed out. Lack of political will power is exactly the problem - politicians are so cowardly and craven and terrified of offending big business.

  3. Nick! Just to say (more like warning that) I am back, will be lurking around here and catch up with reading and commenting ;)

  4. Nice to see you again, Gaye. I'm sure you'll have something perceptive to say, as always.

  5. It's such a complex issue, Nick. Our generation has plundered the planet, let's face it, with our careless living just for today and our horrific laissez faire towards its slender resources now grinding to a halt. I haven't been mindful in the past either as to where my investments/future funds were invested. More than likely the big business that is now running most governments.
    I know I accept responsibility for my inattention. I can put myself on a sliding scale and know I fare well in my protesting marches over the years, in my refusal to buy the MacMansions that most of my friends inhabit along with the SUVs panting beside them in the MacDriveways, in my refusal to buy big box, in my voting Green.
    But there is an army of our generation out there, not bad people, who could have joined me in some of my efforts and made a difference. And were too busy.
    *sigh* it is very complex isn't it? - the fact that we handed over our lives to the heaviest, cash sucking polluters in the planet without thought of the care of the future generations.

  6. Yes, www, I didn't even mention the environment! Actually, that's something the young do seem to be concerned about and active in protecting. If only they would give the same attention to all the welfare benefits that are being gradually eroded. If the rot carries on at the present rate, I shudder to think what their old age will be like. I'm sure you've done everything you can personally to resist welfare cutbacks, but as you say, there's an army of people out there who've just stood on the sidelines and shrugged their shoulders. The price of freedom is eternal vigilance, as someone said.

  7. more like the apathy of youth than anything else.....what a tosser...Do you think the youth of France would have put up with uni fees and all that? I think not....

  8. Like you and Manuel I am stunned that young British people simply whine about injustices rather than take to the streets. If they don't want to be walked all over they should stop acting like they do.

  9. lmao @ that name. i looooooove british names like all those people named jemima in british chick lit. in america, i have a feeling i'll be paying off my 16k in student loans for the rest of my life. and i'm preparing for retirement now b/c i know social security, as laughable as it is now, will be non-existent by the time i'm 60. (35 years from now)

  10. Manuel - yes, apathy has a lot to do with it, though if young people really care about something (like the environment) then they get their arses in gear. They're very selective about their protests.

    Red - You're right, too much whining and not enough confronting. As Manuel says, the French are a lot more militant and demanding. The Italians too, as the current general strike shows.

    Jameil - Hi there in Pittsburgh! Exactly, plenty of people like you with £16k loans to pay off and the prospect of a poverty-stricken old age. And Americans are no more militant than the British, I gather.

  11. I think many young people feel helpless in the face of the problems that currently exist and those on the way. But how many vote and are active in efforts to make change?

    Here in the States, people are counting on young folks not turning out to vote. It's one thing to support a candidate on Facebook, quite another to show up and cast a ballot. Even beyond that, indeed, apathy is just as much an enemy because folks can get involved and volunteer!

  12. Yes, Liz, it's easy to feel helpless when we're surrounded by so many dreadful problems, but doing nothing won't butter no parsnips, as they say. We all have a responsibility to ourselves and society to get off our backsides and do what we can to improve things. Or we just sink further into a swamp of inhumanity and decadence.

  13. Damn right Nick. I'm so sick of the people who just moan and never do anything about what they are unhappy about. As The Frames sang 'I don't understand these people, saying the hills too steep, well they talk and talk forever, but they just never climb'

  14. Nice sentiment that, Con, sums it up neatly - if the hill's steep, the only way to get to the top is to climb. And yes, so many people think the answer is to yak yak yak yak. The number of hours I must have wasted in meetings listening to futile windbags.

  15. Nick, I think you have a good point here. I have a tendency to just the kind of mindless political apathy you are posting about. Yet I consider myself to be an intelligent woman.

    This has always puzzled me, because I am far from apathetic in other areas of my life. Perhaps I will go and lie in bed and ponder the subject for a while ;).

  16. Well, at least you're owning up to it! But all that apathy is partly due to the politicians, who're more and more two-faced and unable to keep any promise for longer than a fortnight. Is it surprising so many people just turn off and ignore the lot of them? Yes, good idea to sleep on it - I recommend three pillows, a nice thick duvet and a big box of chocs.

  17. Phew, I thought you were going to have a well deserved pop at my listlessness!

    And here you are encouraging me to throw myself upon the mercy of my ethically sourced duvet, with fluffy eco friendly pillows and delectable organic chocolates. You are a hard taskmaster lol.

    Something tells me I will have the answer to my dilemma by first light tomorrow.

  18. Oh yes I forgot to say, tomorrow morning I expect you to be up at dawn organising that mass march against the government's welfare cutbacks. So no excuses about the cat being sick.

  19. Couldn't it just as easily be a Cockney name? Consider Eliza Dolittle.

    This is happening big-time in America, too, as our evil administration helps itself to every bit of cash it can drain from social programs to pay for rocket launchers.

    Education should be free or nearly-free because as it stands, only the very wealthy will be able to afford it before long, and that's just wrong. Brains and the desire to improve the world were not handed out only to the children of rich parents.

    There is something terribly wrong when destroying other cultures is more important than educating our young and sheltering our elderly.

  20. You put that perfectly - brains and the desire to improve the world are found in all children everywhere and all that latent talent should be properly cultivated. Yes indeed, look after the young and the old (and the sick and the disabled) instead of bombing the hell out of somewhere else.

  21. Hi Nick, it's Sebastian here. Glad you read my letter!

    Please don't take it the wrong way though. By and large, I have massive respect for older people, and indeed for the generation I was talking about. However, my letter must be seen in the context of the article I was responding too, in which Janet Street porter, self styled poster girl for the baby-boomers, was taking great delight in new statistics showing people her age are now spending all their money, largely on luxuries, leaving their children with no inheritance.

    Please note, I don't care at all about inheritance personally, but doesn't that strike you as a selfish attitude?

    Then, taking it further, you will find that the 'baby boomer' generation represents a very significant population spike, that has also, very arguably, had things to their advantage while growing up.

    60s - greater civil liberties, new freedoms won as baby boomers are teens to 20s.

    70s - Trade unions powerful, big strikes as baby boomers all in jobs.

    80s - Privatisation and tax breaks as baby boomers have all been promoted.

    Yes, this generation has done massive good, but it has also done great harm. Good for you in not being one of the 'bad' ones, but it also doesn't change the fact that the people I see ruining the world now, the Bushes and Blairs, are also of that generation.

    I love and respect older people, but they also made the world what it is. I'm afraid my lot have not had the chance yet, but one thing I do know is that we'll be working until 70 in order to pay for your longer lives and (relative to what we'll get) decent pensions.

    My generation is doing plenty too. Maybe not joining the main political parties, but the young greens, for example, have a huge and active membership, as do all sorts of other charities and groups. The massive anti war march - the biggest demo ever in this country's histoty - was packed with people from my generation.

    The internet revolution is being built by people my age, and there are huge numbers of younger people working in old people's homes, in mental health care, nursing, and many similar jobs.

    You accuse us of being picky in which causes we support. How so? The environment is the biggest issue facing us all today! We should be concentrating on it!

    As a final point, thank you for making an unecessary personal attack on me based on my name. I'm proud to have an unusual, interesting name, and I am proud of the family history that goes with it - on both sides (my mother's maiden name is Heiler, and her mother's Polangoli, should you care to check. One of my ancestors on that side helped build the cathedral spire in Linz, having left Italy desperate to find work).

    However, I am certainly neither upper class nor a twit. My background on my father's side is arguably upper class, but also unarguably extremely talented. That side has earned it's wealth - not inherited it. Coming to think of it, my father himself agreed with many of these criticisms of his generation. As a significant figure in 80's advertising, he felt great guilt at having helped rip apart much of what he used to love about England.

    As for my mother's side, well she grew up virtually destitute in post war Austria.

    I consider myself middle class, and lucky and privileged because of that, but I was educated in a state school, did not gert given huge money or advantages through my parents, and have also suffered my own share of hardships.

    P.S. See these typing hands? Steady as a rock mate. Not much anger here! I like it that you respond to your bloggers though, debate is nearly always healthy.

  22. Sebastian - Thanks very much for commenting. How embarrassing when the person I'm glibly writing about actually stumbles on the post! I hope you weren't too offended by my heated outburst. And I do apologise for my wild assumptions about your name - clearly I did you an injustice there.

    I still don't think the older generation can be blamed for all the problems you refer to. It's not just us oldies who're running all these organisations, there are plenty of younger people also giving the nod to all these backward policies. And certainly there are many oldies like me who don't agree with any of them.

    I also take your point that many young people are joining the political opposition in one form or another and doing what they can to change things. I hope they will eventually have some impact and bring a bit more radicalism to our reactionary government.

    If it's okay with you, I'd like to revisit this very interesting topic in a new post and incorporate your comments on the original one.

    All the best, Nick

  23. Hey Nick, no worries at all. To be honest, I was quite flattered that someone picked up on my letter at all.

    I'd be happy for you to use my comments in a future blog - it is an interesting and good debate that should be heard.

    Just to re-iterate, I would never hold any specific older person responsible for the mess we're in now, and some of my political heroes are very much older (Tony Benn, John Pilger), and I know there are plenty of young toads among the powers that be too, but as I say my letter was also a reaction to an original article that I found to be somewhat offensive and irresponsible.

    All the best for future blogs, and remember Sebastian = middle class, Tarquin = upper class. (Sorry in advance to any middle/working class Tarquins out there!)