People try to put us d-down
Just because we get around
Things they do look awful c-c-cold
I hope I die before I get old
This is my generation, baby
Sing along with The Who: here
One of the striking features of those on the streets, activating in the aftermath of the George Floyd murder, has been the age disproportionality of the protesters. This, of course, reflects their age-related COVID immunity. However, this is to ignore another important key fundamental. The younger generation appears to be motivated by high-level ideals rather than specifics. I have posed the question, within this blog and elsewhere, as to why his children and their generation appear so detached from the key national political decisions of our time. Barring Brexit, their voice has been barely a whimper. Yes, we hear and see them when it comes to issues such as the environment, women’s’ rights and currently racial equality; but their voice has largely been a non-factor in the practical national politics of current times. I am not in any way denigrating the issues that exercise the young; they are indeed important & vital. Nevertheless, important as they are as agenda setters, the younger generation’s lack of involvement in the down-and-dirty everyday stuff is allowing today’s politicians to get away with lip service and grants them, more-or-less, a free pass on the matters that impact on our everyday existence.
My, so-called, Sixties Generation famously regaled against the social conservatism and inequalities that we felt impinged on our lives, but we also rallied around political matters such as The Vietnam War & Civil Rights. In France, in May 1968, the protests brought about an actual change of government and in the USA ultimately led to the ending of The Vietnam War. In the UK, we demanded a lowering of the voting age, and got it in 1969, and sought unilateral disarmament, albeit unsuccessfully. In all this, The Sixties Generation ultimately had a joker up its sleeve: we were the Baby Bulge – a numerical voting force that the politicians had to reckon with and one that the political bean counters could not ignore. And, perversely most of us are still around, currently over-influencing government pandemic policies!
A Window of Opportunity is currently open for today’s younger generations. It’s also a Moment of Truth. (Go easy on the aphorisms – Ed). With the government coming under ever-increasing demands to re-start the economy, the younger generation needs to make a stand; not only for the values of the world that they want to live in but for the practical policies needed to achieve them. The question arises then, how can we get the younger generation not just to protest on the basis of principles but to demand practical policies – or even the reigns of power for themselves
There comes a moment in the annual Passover Seder, when a parent is asked to be a prophet in his own home, via the answering of questions from the youngest member of the family. The question is then posed as to how these questions should be answered for 4 types of children: the wise one, the rebellious one, the one who doesn’t know which question to ask and the one who is too young to ask any questions at all. One modern commentary on all this, suggests:
The purpose of categorizing different understandings of the world from the point-of-view of a child into Four Sons is to ensure that whichever understanding of the world the child possesses, his father will be able to teach him the tradition and commandment of commemorating and celebrating Passover or Pesach according to his understanding of the world. This will enable the child to carry on this tradition into adulthood and then pass this tradition and commandment down to his children by, in turn, teaching them according to their understanding of the world, and so on through the generations. [Chabad-Lubavitch]
The morning after the General Election, one at which she had put in many hours canvassing for The Labour Party, I happened to don the chauffeur’s cap and drive my daughter to work Besides being very motivated by the Green agenda – she works for Greenpeace – the Corbyn agenda had held some sort of neo-socialist appeal for her. She was very disappointed but to be fair to her she said that she wouldn’t abandon the cause. I told her how proud of her I was and suggested that possibly she might adjust her thinking to include not only what she wished for but also to support policies that would attract votes. The look she gave me could have accompanied my having expressed a thought that she should flush her goldfish down the loo! Thinking further about this exchange, I have come to realise that my daughter’s reaction was as much a statement of impotence as of objection. Her generation may have kept a relative (sic!) silence, but it also has been drowned out by the wilful self-centred opinions of the older generations, who are happy to offer token support to their right for self-expression when it comes to other life pursuits but is generally disinclined to enfranchise them within the political firmament.
The times require those who are to inherit the world to claim their inheritance. And passed-on inheritances require an act of giving. Surely, we also wish for the sorts of things that our children are demanding for in principle; which when taken, as a whole, boils down to a fairer and healthier future. For this to happen there has to be both give and take. We, the older folk, have to start engaging in some active inheritance-planning. We need to divest ourselves of positions, physical and political, that are not future-centred. And the younger generation now needs to step up and demand not only to be heard but also for policies that meet their ambitions for the world. If not now, then when?