June 8th – Time for the Younger Generation
In the media and when talking to many people of my generation we constantly see how today’s young people are portrayed as having no respect for authority and are responsible for all of the ‘anti-social behaviour’ and crime that afflicts the towns and cities across the UK.
How many times do we hear people say “of course when teachers had authority in schools”, or listened to those bores who go on and on about the mythical “local policeman who would give you a thick ear and take you home to your parents, where you inevitably got another good hiding” from your parents.
Who of course only beat us as a demonstration of their love.
The problem is that many who now complain, and OK in a minority of cases with justification, unfortunately bracket all young people as the ‘modern day demons’ responsible for the ruination of society.
But is it true and if so who is to blame?
The first thing people who hold this view seem to forget is that the current crop of 18 to 25 year olds are the product of the 60’s generation – my generation – who having been born between 1945 and 1955 rebelled against our parents and grandparents who themselves had faced the hardships of two World Wars.
We rebelled because we recognised that our parents and grandparents had gone not only through world wide conflicts but also economic austerity that is hard to imagine in the period between the wars and post 1945.
We were the generation who fought to abolish corporal punishment in schools, Gay rights, equality and were responsible for demanding and taking the opportunities for ourselves that had been denied to our parents and which we are now in many ways denying to our children and grandchildren.
Who amongst us wasn’t told off by neighbours wherever we were brought up for ‘hanging around’ in areas where adults couldn’t monitor us.
Were we so scared and respectful of authority and our parents that we never transgressed or got into mischief or trouble?
Of course we weren’t and for those who were then I really sympathise with them, what a very dull and sad life they must have had as a young person.
As we approach that time of year when hundreds of thousands of young 16 to 18 year olds will receive the results of their labours in the form of their GCSE and A Level results we should perhaps start to accept some responsibility for the future we are denying many of them.
For the first time since the 1920’s the number of young people, no matter what qualifications they achieve at school are struggling to find meaningful employment or training.
Access to University has been denied to many through the implementation of draconian tuition fees and student loans that is resulting in those that do go saddled for decades with debt.
Our parents wanted no more that to give us a future in which we had a better life than the one they had and to their eternal credit they did.
Can we really say that we have or are giving the current young 18 – 25 year olds the opportunity to build a better future for themselves and their families than we had?
I very much doubt it.
Yet it is a generation that we are currently exhorting almost to the point of pleading to Vote in the General Election on June 8th.
And of course they should Vote and not because of the constant refrain of respect for those who fought for their democratic rights but for another and perhaps more simply understood reason.
The reason is that in a world dominated by my generation – a selfish what’s in it for me generation – the only way the young generation is going build a decent future for themselves is to Vote and make sure they lead the change.
The reality of modern 21st century Britain is that the 18 – 25’s is a generation whose talents are going to waste, talents that the country need if we are not only going to recover from the economic and political malaise currently inflicting the nation but also to create a better future.
What is needed is for people of my generation and those in Government to stop demonising the young and really commit to provide the education, training and economic investment needed to provide real and meaningful employment opportunities.
The Government of course – and especially this Conservative Government – aren’t in the least bit worried about the 18 – 25’s for the simple reason that they don’t expect and in fact don’t want them to vote which is why they feel secure in taking away their opportunities.
Only when the millions of 18 – 25’s start to fight back through the ballot box will the Government of whatever colour stop demonising and penalising them and start to respect, take notice and even to fear of them.
So the next time you feel like criticising and complaining about young people stop and think about whether it is really justified, and if it is fair enough, but for it to be justified think back to when you were between the ages of 18 and 25…..
For many of us who had a circle of friends I think the least that is recalled is either embarrassment or thanks that things didn’t go wrong or put it another way.
Got away with that –
We should be grateful that we had the opportunity of full-time employment which allowed millions to move from council housing to being able to afford to buy our own homes, to go to University, to receive a ‘free’ education and to benefit from a great National Health Service to look after us, our parents and our children.
Will the young people of today – who many are far to quick to criticise – have the same opportunities and benefits?
I’m an optimist, some say overly optimistic but I really believe that the young people of today given the opportunity will make a better job of building a future in the UK than my generation have, and will do it with a social and environmental conscience that sadly too many have sacrificed in the pursuit of material wealth and self-interest.
Perhaps on June 8th the young generation will turn up in droves and vote for a better future – their future and my optimism may turn out to be well founded.
I sincerely hope so.