DISCLAIMER: The following article is the opinion of its author and does not represent the views of the People’s Assembly or of any political party. I also do not claim to represent young people.
November 28th 1990: Margret Thatcher resigned as Prime minister of the UK, just over a month later I was born. April 8th 2013: Thatcher popped her clogs in the Ritz hotel London, in the same month I attended my first Peoples Assembly meeting in Newcastle.
Could these events be coincidence or fate? How the political demise and ultimately the death of one person can coincide with the birth and political beginnings of another. Could I be her nemesis? Could I be the Chosen One? (I’m not) But I can safely say that I’m no child of Thatcher.
There are distinct political generations active within the Labour movement and beyond in this country in modern times. These generations are in the context of what individuals experienced growing up and what was happening when they reached political maturity rather than their age.
The first of these are the ‘militants’ who grew up and fought against the Thatcher regime in the 70’s & 80’s. Next come the ‘Blairites’ or the ‘Children of Thatcher’ (not in the context of any allegiance to Tony Blair, I mean people old enough to experience the Labour victory of 1997) who reached maturity in the early/mid 90’s.
The third you could class as the ‘post-Blairites’ who are the current generation involved in politics who started around the turn of the century (2000). And last but certainly not least are the ‘lost generation'(depressing? Yes, but its all I can think of for a name at the moment), young people who have only became active in politics in the last few years (since approx 2007). People born after the milk snatchers reign and those that were born too young to remember those dark times are part of this distinct group, I am in this generation.
I was 17 and in my first year of college when the financial crisis hit; being half way through a media qualification which ultimately lead to a degree in an industry which even before the recession was notoriously difficult to break in to. By the time of the G8 protests in London the following year, myself and most of my classmates were resigned to the fact that we would be incredibly lucky to get anywhere with or without decent qualifications.
I first became ‘active’ when I went down to London to take part in the 2010 student protests (the first one). I was there to get some footage for a ‘Question Time’ type of TV show about the proposed (now real) rises in student tuition fees. But during the day I realised that I had joined a generation of people who for the first time since World War 2 would be worse off than their parents, a less numerous group of people who would have to pick up the tab for successive generations who have never had it so good. I realised that we would have to fight against this current government for every last thing if we are to keep vital public services and benefits, things that our patents and grandparents took for granted.
But, as with any generation, we have advantages over previous groups. We posses and have grown up with increasingly easier ways of connecting with people and accessing knowledge. And because of this we have the unique ability of detailed hindsight, the ability to look into the past without living it and thus being effected and changed by it, the ability to learn from the past in a way that had never been possible before. This is our advantage.
We don’t read newspapers, not only because they are yesterday’s news and a waste of paper, but because we know the vast majority of them are owned by people with an agenda that is against ours. We are the generation of live, rolling news, and I don’t just mean on TV and radio. Social networks like Facebook and especially Twitter afford the man in the street an immediate view and blogs have replaced the traditional print article, we live in the age of instant reaction and comment, not some carefully constructed ideologically fixed opinion of someone who is not involved and who’s job is to effectively create lies depending upon who his paymasters are.
A lot of us are not members of trade unions, we don’t identify ourselves with the culture of solidarity and industrial action. We don’t call each other ‘comrades’ because we don’t live in early 2oth century Russia. The working class that the unions represent has been eroded away along with the number of manual jobs available in the UK.
We are the most tolerant generation yet. We do not see differences in race, gender, sexuality, physical or mental ability as problems or something to be scared of, we see them as equals and can call them our friends and colleagues. A lot of us do not have a religion, but we respect others who do have faith even if we don’t share their beliefs.
Many of us were taking our first steps when Tim Burners-Lee invented the World Wide Web and proclaimed ‘this is for everyone’. We must protect this gift given to our generation and keep the net neutral to all governments and big businesses.
We are for freedom of information and sharing ideas, we do not believe that something creative can be owned and sold as a commodity. Since the financial crisis we know that loaning money is a slippery slope and money itself is a severe limiting factor which is used by those who have a lot and are in charge of the markets to exploit and control the lives of those who don’t.
For all these reasons and more, if some of us choose to enter the field of politics, an ‘industry’ which is measured on experience and contacts, a place where the words ‘young’ and ‘political’ are used increasingly infrequently together. Where people my age are either indoctrinated and used as examples of the next generation of career politicians or failing that continually underestimated as people who can effect change. We must stand up, fight for our future, work with experienced individuals who agree with us and if anyone says we can’t, we will reply with the phrase ‘we will outlast you and we will outlive you!’