Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Shiny Happy Conservatives

OK, so I'm no longer (as of today!) under-34, but God this article by John Harris in the Guardian is in equal parts heartening and hilarious. Having always felt somewhat peculiar for being both socially liberal and economically conservative, it now turns out that I'm on-trend!
A large share of Generation Y seems to build its opinions around a liberalism that is both social and, crucially, economic. This, conveniently, also forms the core of the modern Toryism espoused by David Cameron and George Osborne.
The sooner we can get the Tory Party away from the instinctively authoritarian instincts typified by that alarming alternative manifesto the better. Who's with me? Quite a few people apparently.

But, oh, the wailing and the gnashing of teeth in the Guardian about this! Having decided that the true voices of the angry radical yoof were those of Laurie Penny (Wadham College, Oxford) and Owen Jones (University College, Oxford) the shock that not everyone under 35 (OK, dammit, 34) is a placard-waving Trot is palpable.
At the upper end of the Gen Y age range, consider also the infamous views of Frank Turner, the 31-year-old old-Etonian singer who apparently thinks that when it comes to the relationship between government and the individual, there should be an emphasis on "minimising the impact on ordinary people's lives … allow[ing] them to get on with their lives and not be bothered by the state. Then you've suddenly got a range of things to talk about that are achievable. Like everything from not having ID cards and trying to dismantle the surveillance system we've put together in this country on the one hand, trying to remove government from people's lives, social services. Letting people be freer, health and safety, whatever it might be."
I adore the stunned disbelief that anyone can hold such "infamous" views. Let the people be free? What an appalling notion! Harris eventually meets a 27 year old from Warrington who really ought to be more grateful to the welfare state, but has instead gone and got himself a job, the swine.
There, I met a 27-year-old man who had just managed to re-enter the world of work, though the only thing he could find was a temporary contract delivering sofas. Around us were shelves peppered with self-help books; the people in charge assured me that even if work seemed thin on the ground, the people they supervised could always look for "hidden jobs". So I wondered: did he think that the fact he was unemployed was his fault?

His reply was just this side of heartbreaking. "Yeah," he said. "I do. I think I should have applied for more. I should have picked myself up in the morning, got out, come to a place like this – tried more. When you're feeling down, you start blaming the world for your mistakes – you feel the world owes you. And it doesn't. You owe the world: you have to motivate yourself, and get out there, and try."
I'm trying to understand the thought process that sees someone get out of unemployment and find work, who understands that while there are people who will help him, the ultimate responsibility is not the Government's, not society's but his, and finds that heartbreaking. I see it as a crucial step in growing up, and thoroughly heartwarming.

The shortest answer to John Harris's anguished cri de coeur "Oh, Generation Y. Why?" is to be found in 1 Corinthians 13:11. Harris's generation had the luxury of putting off growing up more or less indefinitely (hence a 43 year old pop music journalist). We (oh, alright fine, they) don't have that option.