I’m at that funny age where I’m most definitely an adult, but I often still feel like a child. I’m twenty seven and I live in a country ruled by an octogenarian. The Prime Minister is a 46 year old, and the average age of a Member of Parliament is 50. The people in charge are, effectively, my parents’ generation. They are the ‘Baby Boomers’, the children of the 60s and 70s, who benefited from university grants, and a more stable economy, allowing them to buy houses whilst the mortgages were cheap, and they’re now looking forward to retirement on a comfortable pension. Ok, things weren’t easy for them. Life is never easy. But the time has come for them to take a step back.
You’ve got a generation raised on the welfare state, Enjoyed all its benefits and did just great, But as soon as they were settled as the richest of the rich, They kicked away the ladder, told the rest of us that life’s a bitch.
– Frank Turner
We are Generation X and Generation Y. We are the MTV Generation, the 9/11 Generation. We are Generation Me, and we seem to be seen by the Baby Boomers as greedy and narcissistic. Modern technology has shaped our lives; communication has never been easier – I can Skype someone on the other side of the world with ease. Information is readily available – the world’s news is readily browsable and often reported and updated in real time. So much knowledge, coupled with increases in the quality of education means we are growing up faster, reaching psychological maturity earlier. As teenagers we have the ability to form strong, informed opinions about the world we live in. And we have no power to change it, or a least we feel we have no power to change it. England is an old nation with old customs and old laws which are slowly, slowly being converted into modernised thinking. But at the end of the day we are still answering to the older, privately-educated white man. In the interests of keeping this brief, I’m going to place race- and gender-inequality to one side for now, otherwise we would be here for a long time. This one’s for the kids.
Because we do have something. We have a voice. We have all this modern technology. We have our blogs and vlogs, we have youtube. We have an international platform through which we can unite with like-minded individuals. We, more than any generation before us, can rest assured that we are not alone. We have social networking sites and message boards as our stage, and we have such an amazing and varied peergroup who are just the other side of this computer screen.
Yes, it is difficult being young today, even in the priviledged Western world. More difficult than I fully understand. I’m one of the lucky ones. I have a job, I have managed to make the break from living with parents, and more than that have scraped together enough to scramble onto the property ladder. I have been lucky. I’ve also worked bloody hard, but at times have simply been the right person in the right place. Not everyone has the same breaks. There are people my age living with their parents, unable to find work in this over-populated country where people are continuing to work after retirement age because they can’t afford not to. The high street is slowly crumbling, and jobs are scarce, careers even more so. Tempers are rising, patience is wearing thin and those in charge are not listening, and so we’re feeling forced into action. Problem is, when it gets to the squeezing point, the course of action taken is often the wrong one.
In the beginning of August 2011 many cities in Britain were attacked by rioters. A peaceful protest spiralled hideously out of control, resulting in 3 nights of rioting, looting and vandalisation. The streets were overrun by the disenfranchised, who were soon joined by the opportunistic. I personally think the actions of the rioters were reprehensible, and there is no excuse for that sort of behaviour. There’s making your voice heard, and there’s wanton violence, and the difference between the two is crucial.
If we don’t kill ourselves we’ll be the leaders of a messed-up generationIf we don’t kid ourselves will they believe us if we tell them the reasons why
So what’s the answer? We have opinions, we want to be taken seriously, we want to change the world we’re living in, but we’re losing faith in the established leadership. It’s a tricky one, and to be perfectly honest with you, I don’t have any bright ideas or quick fixes. All I know is that we have to make the most of the tools we have at our disposal. We have our voices, and we have this wonderful thing called the internet. Seriously, I love the internet. Hate it too, at times, but I think it has so much to offer. On the internet you have the possibility of reaching people and sharing your opinions in a way no one has ever truly had before. Conversation and debate are easily initiated and without much effort you can find yourself discussing ethics with people you have never met. Challenge yourself by considering alternative viewpoints, and you might find new options to consider, or renew your support for your original opinion.
For me, the internet is also about knowledge. I’ve long subscribed to the idea that ignorance is no excuse. We have everything we could ever wish to know at the tips of our fingers. Knowledge is power, it truly is. Many a time I’ve had to take a step back from a conversation to quickly search for a statistic, or the meaning of a word, or the history behind an event. The information is there, and with a pinch of applied common sense you can learn so much.
My point? We’re not going to change the established government any time soon. Even something as simple as a law to ensure all dogs are microchipped is going to take 3 years to come into being. But we can prepare ourselves; use these tools to find our voice, to find like-minded individuals and to raise awareness and support for the causes we feel are important. Find out what it is you stand for, and you will find ways to take action; whether it’s signing a petition, writing to your MP, or attending a staged protest. There are ways of getting your voice heard; it’s up to you to speak out.
In order to build a better future, we have to decide today what it is we want from the world, and we have to take appropriate action to make the necessary changes. Gavel!