Let’s not delude ourselves about today’s youngsters

I confess, I am still reluctant to label all those youngsters who voted for Corbyn as IRA-loving Communist anti-semites. The American left like to portray anyone who voted for Donald Trump as an ignorant racist who must clearly hate women because this is easier than trying to understand who voted for him and why. Plenty of decent, ordinary Americans voted for Trump, as they did for Clinton: let’s not pretend that every Hillary vote came from a deranged, blue-haired feminist living in a 20sqm apartment in Brooklyn with seven cats for company.

I am too old, out of touch, and bone idle to actually do any research on this, but I can think of a few reasons why a half-decent twenty-three year old might vote for Corbyn’s Labour. I’m not saying they are right, mind. I’m just saying what they might think.

I believe economics, and the way economics has shaped society in the past 15-20 years, plays a major role. Sure the young Corbyn supporter doesn’t understand economics, but point me towards a demographic that does. Every government in every western country is staring down the barrel of ballooning deficits, a debt which will take millenia to pay off, and not a single major party anywhere wants to even talk about it, let alone do anything about it. A simple reduction in planned expenditure increase is dressed up as a savage cut by damned near everyone: the Tories’ supposed austerity isn’t some fringe issue on the left, it is a widely accepted truth across the whole electorate. The people pointing out that these cuts are anything but are basically a handful of cranks on the internet. Like, erm, me. If any government program is threatened with a cut taking expenditure levels back to what they were in, say, 2010 half the country screams that medieval times are making a comeback and the other half believe them. The knowledge of economics among electorates is woeful, and almost all of them have signed up fully to the belief that all government expenditure is necessary, good, and wise and any cuts are bad. Nobody wants to even think about the size of the deficit and the national debt, it just keeps racking up. So if we’re going to criticise the young Corbynistas for not understanding the consequences of unsustainable economics demanded by ignorant voters, we might perhaps want to first ask where they got such ideas from. It’s too easy to blame Marxist indoctrination in schools when supposedly conservative governments, backed fully by the supposedly conservative middle classes, have been so irresponsible with public finances for several generations. Conservative governments might not be quite as reckless as Corbyn would be, but we’re talking about the difference between disaster and a catastrophe here.

So our youthful Corbynista looks to the generations above him and what does he see? Well, mainly a bunch of people who have gotten moderately rich by not doing very much. I’m going to be honest here: I am no great example of somebody who has done quite well by working very hard. Sure, I did what was necessary and sometimes went beyond that. I dragged myself through a mechanical engineering degree that was bloody difficult, and then I made some decisions (i.e. moving abroad and living in shitholes) which took some effort but I went largely for the adventure. And yes, I’ve laboured on farms and building sites and worked in shitty retail jobs to make some spare cash so I knew how to work when I was younger.

But on the measures by which a youngster will think I’ve “done well”, i.e. career path and wealth accumulation I have done so mainly because somebody has paid me to sit in an office, send emails, shift paper about, take part in meetings, and do what my boss says. This is what everyone in a modern business or public sector job does, even in something as supposedly “real” as oil and gas engineering. Sure, people might do some programming or calculations or some other task with genuine added value, I’m not denying that. But please, could my generation and that above it stop kidding ourselves that we are some kind of Lewis and Clarke pioneers who built log cabins with our hands while fighting off savages and created something to which future generations can aspire? We didn’t strike out for distant shores, risking all and having only our wits to rely on. I know people – mainly first-generation immigrants who are now retired – who really did this. People who moved from Greece to the USA with two toddlers and nothing else, worked like hell in restaurants until they could buy their own – and continued to work like hell because that’s all they knew. Teenagers who fled the Salazar regime in Portugal on foot, came to France and worked as taxi drivers, hospital porters, and the like and never got above that station yet still managed to buy a house and raise a family.

Sorry, but my generation of Brits didn’t do that, nor the one before it. Perhaps my father’s generation did, I don’t know. But what we have now is a system which rewards dithering, compliance, following procedures, arse-licking, and arse-covering. Do you see anyone making bold decisions that bring about radical improvements and taking responsibility if it all goes wrong? No, me neither. It is possible, nay easy, to make yourself rather wealthy in this day and age by sitting in a comfy, air-conditioned office shifting paper and saying “yes sir” when required in the fulfillment of a bureaucratic task that didn’t exist a decade ago. In fact, if you strip down what middle class professionals actually do these days, this accounts for well over half of it. And this applies to both the private and public sectors.

So what impression do you think this makes on the young Corbyn fans? Do they look at their older peers and marvel at what they have created, in the way tourists marvel at the Hoover dam? No, they see people – their parents, for instance – take twenty minutes to describe what they actually do all day and still leave them none the wiser, yet notice they always have the latest iPhone and seem to be doing all right. They see them living a lifestyle largely funded by government debt – free healthcare, free schooling, (often) entitled to an unfunded state pension, endless sops and subsidies which keeps them voting for more of the same instead of dipping their hands in their own pockets – and think why the hell can I not do that? And why not indeed? If it’s unsustainable and provides all the wrong incentives, it’s up to the middle classes to surrender it first, not expect the young to simultaneously pay for it and exclude themselves from the party.

When I think about it, I think it’s probably a good thing that the young don’t understand economics. If they did, heads would roll. It is they, and future generations, who are on the hook for unfunded pension liabilities, interest payments on government borrowing used to bribe the older generations and provide them with cushy jobs, and who are (as I wrote in my previous post) locked out of the housing market by the very same people who have demonstrated all the financial responsibility of a sailor on shore leave. And then they get called selfish because they “want it all” and “don’t know the meaning of work”, this coming from a generation that shoves paper around in an office and voted for more government largesse every time it was offered. I could stomach somebody who dodged machine-gun fire at seventeen saying “you don’t know you were born”, or someone who lived through perestroika and the period that followed. But somebody born in the UK after 1970? Please.

If I were a young person today I’d be voting a lot worse than Corbyn. I’d read the opinions of the metropolitan elite and look at how the middle classes are living and the system they’ve built for themselves and say “fuck that” and vote for whoever will pull the whole rotten system down so that I benefit. Selfish? Yeah, just like everybody else. It seems that today’s young aren’t as keen on Attila the Hun as I am and so they’ve voted for somebody who appears to be promising more of what everyone else has enjoyed for years. What do we expect them to do? Vote for “conservatives” who have proven interested only in feathering their own nests albeit using slightly different language than Labour?

Sorry, but if the middle-aged middle-classes wanted the young to vote responsibly, maybe they ought to have done so themselves. It’s time they stopped kidding themselves that they are something to aspire to, instead of the root cause of the whole fucking mess.

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35 thoughts on “Let’s not delude ourselves about today’s youngsters

  1. I don’t think you need to apologise on behalf of young Labour voters, it happens all of the time and it isn’t something that you or me need to be overly concerned about. Some people voted labour that’s all that has happened here. Life will go on as usual.

  2. And then, once you reach management level, your job is to shunt paper and emails around on behalf of your “team” who clearly can’t even cope with doing that properly.

    No wonder some of us like so much playing “office dad” to the competent!

  3. In my view your analysis misses the spot. It’s not that The Young are radical, though they certainly are prone to hysteria (American influence?); they don’t want to pull the whole system down. They are conservative; they think that the present system is just hunky-dorey but they want to replace their parents as beneficiaries of it. I hope their parents respond by leaving all their wealth to donkey rescue charities.

    P.S. Lewis and Clarke were hardly pioneers. They were copying McKenzie who had crossed the continent at a Canadian latitude, plus Spaniards who’d done it further south. But they were explorers: nobody had covered the ground they covered and then reported the results back to civilisation so that the whole literate world could know. They were also brave.

  4. You raise a number of interesting points, Mr Tim, and the central theme of the young voting this way or that is probably not — in the great scheme of things — all that important. Everyone gets enthusiastic about things when young and we all did it. However that enthusiasm does wain with age (mostly not being arsed to do anything as it too much effort for creaking bones), experience (often shaped by circumstances good and bad and maybe selectively forgotten with time) and self-interest (initially if no one will assist me I better do it myself, or more likely, thank God some people will do something for me.)

    They say youth is wasted on the young, but that is how it works. Many things (like raising children) require energy and effort, which is less available for old gits like me. As for economics, not sure many people of any age understand how it works: you only have to look at the vast number of economists who disagree about their lifelong study to suggest it is at best a dark art and riddled with uncertainties.

    The issue that we have now is not that young people vote this way or that, but it is the divisions that are springing up in society.

    Back when I was young kids left school with a certain education at 15 or 16 and were expected to get a job. Universities and colleges and ‘lifelong learning’ was not for the likes of many of us. There was no ‘social media’ to prop up or incite one’s beliefs and even the diet of pop music we had was strictly rationed (sometimes the best you got was Billy Cotton’s band show on the radio where they would do a cover of something like Helen Shapiro’s ‘Walking Back To Happiness. — and yes, I still remember fancying Helen. And so would you have done!)

    None of this means it was ‘better’ back then. It wasn’t in lots of ways. But there were very clear paths ahead for many of us. We may have thought it would continue and maybe most of us were intrinsically conservative in outlook (conservative with a small c, even if you voted Labour. I still recall turning down going to Harrow School of Art because I thought there were too many beatniks there. You may have to look ‘beatniks’ up.)

    What we have seen I think today is not that the young are giddy about saving the world, but that they have become a force. Marketing and advertising wasn’t much aimed at us when I was a teenager with my scraggy Zapata moustache but if we were teens we were expected to get over it quickly. But now kids have purchasing power, they have ‘voices that must be heard’ and they are regarded as having opinions worth our attention. Ideas, causes and products are sold to the young and even something as designed for the older viewers as say a western must now embody the sort of principles that appeal to the more excitable youth of today. You know, ethnic appreciation, climate change and so on. Along with that is the attempt to make products for older people seem ‘young’ even to the point of making shoes for adults that look like you had in kindergarten. The older are persuaded to be young, the young are told they have a presence in society that matters.

    Above all this the rise in social media has helped polarise opinions. The MSM, which increasingly relies on social media for its information and support for its views, can now openly talk about the older generation (which would be me) as being out of touch, or yearning for a future that doesn’t appeal to the young. I am not sure when I was young we admired older folks, but I am not sure we despised them the way many young people seem to do nowadays if you listen to say, the Brexit argument. The old voted us out and they don’t know, and they don’t care about us youngsters! In my youth we may have called some old gits, etc, but we didn’t think of them as an enemy squashing our fledgeling hopes.

    Maybe you are right Mr Tim and young ambition have been sacrificed on the altar of expensive housing (after all, they are just bricks and mortar) and now can’t get what the old have and who perhaps didn’t really work and slave for it but are sure to want to keep the status quo because the price of fairness is anything but right. Maybe there are countless older people who enjoy it all but who did nothing of note but occupy desks and shuffle papers. Perhaps we willingly and knowingly stopped being warriors and became organisers of diminishing warriors because the mortgage was more manageable.

    The question however then in all this is when do the young become old? At what point does ‘rebellion’ (always a trait of the young, right from being defiant about going to bed) become ‘self-interest?’ At what point does someone stop trying to save the world and start wanting the world to stay just as it is?

    I dunno. It happened to me at some point, but then I was neither convinced by revolutionary zeal nor paranoid about reds under the bed, and hardly ever voted Labour having more or less thought the Tories were the least-worst option. Poor, but not deliberately poor.

    If we have a split in society today — and here I am putting aside mass immigration and integration and all that — the fault lines run across, not vertically. We are told that Tory is one vertical and socialism another. But the gap between them may not be as severe as the gap of the generations. Could be it was always thus, and all we are seeing now is the greater manifestation of it on social media and tinterwebz and so on.

    So yes, the young may feel left out but when do they stop feeling that way?

  5. They – the youth vote – have played us at our own game. My lot were told if we voted for Brexit the world would end … so we gave them the finger and voted for Armageddon. Endorsing Corbyn is merely their way of calling our bluff.

  6. “…dithering, compliance, following procedures, arse-licking, and arse-covering.”

    Someone’s got to do it.

  7. It’s not that The Young are radical, though they certainly are prone to hysteria (American influence?); they don’t want to pull the whole system down. They are conservative; they think that the present system is just hunky-dorey but they want to replace their parents as beneficiaries of it.

    I must be a pretty poor writer because that was my point: they see a vote for Corbyn as a vote for more of the same as what the older generations are enjoying, i.e. plenty of cushy jobs and government largesse.

    nobody had covered the ground they covered and then reported the results back to civilisation so that the whole literate world could know.

    Yes, it was their written account that was so valuable being both thorough and eloquent. They were good leaders too: only one of their number died, from appendicitis.

  8. Back when I was young kids left school with a certain education at 15 or 16 and were expected to get a job. Universities and colleges and ‘lifelong learning’ was not for the likes of many of us.

    Yes, but you’re a generation older again: there is a gap between you and the guys around 30-45 that is much larger than the gap between them and today’s 20-30s lot.

  9. I was all with you until the very last phrase. Do you really think we (born in the early fifties in my case) are the ROOT cause of it all? Srsly? You can say we got lucky, if you want, and it’s hard to disagree; but we were actually the last gasp of the old responsible system, before the State turned into Leviathan, and Bastiat turned out to be right again – ” the State is the great fiction by which everyone tries to live at everyone else’s expense”.

    Personally, I’ve never had a cushy job, and I don’t enjoy any unfunded state benefits, except in so far as they took my (not insubstantial) contributions and pissed it all up against a wall instead of investing it. I did my bit, they changed the rules. Mea non culpa.

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  11. I’m not much impressed by the “you had it easy” argument. I assembled the deposit for my first flat by working at two jobs. I avoided spending on cars by running motorbikes. I paid basic rate tax at (was it?) 34%. By the time I was 40 I’d been so spoiled by circumstances that I’d inherited all of £50, a rifle, some ammunition, a sweater, and two pairs of woollen knee socks. I first went to school in clogs. My schoolboy jobs were rather dirty work around the harbour. Child of privilege, eh?

    I did enjoy my youth, in and out of school, and felt entirely safe and loved. And then I enjoyed my time at university. Perhaps I had a gift for enjoying things: lucky old me. But the idea that it was all financially easy seems to me simply wrong. I think the young must be confusing me with people who inherited houses in London or other substantial wealth, like wot many of them expect to.

  12. “The issue that we have now is not that young people vote this way or that, but it is the divisions that are springing up in society.”

    I think the shit stirrers will be ratcheting it up a few more notches and driving the wedge in against the young Corbyn supporters, the smearing by the MSM and the usual suspects will only worsen in my opinion. They just don’t like him and his kind, and he in his own way will probably continue to turn the other cheek to their violence towards him, maybe he is the new kind of half naked fakir.

    As for the old days the only good thing about them is that they are in the past. Onwards and upwards I say.

    Interesting chart here of Tax Freedom Day in the UK over time.

    http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-WDv4uO_3c0I/VdxCdDUBxMI/AAAAAAAADTg/TCXXpWJKVt0/s1600/TaxFreedomDayUK15.JPG

  13. “I must be a pretty poor writer because that was my point”: more likely that I am very tired.

  14. I’m not much impressed by the “you had it easy” argument.

    You’re a different generation. Go stand over there with Watcher!

  15. There’s a lot to digest up there, but the only things I’ll say are:

    1/ Some people are lucky, lottery winners, the guy banging whatserface off TV, our parents generation. Doesn’t excuse throwing a tantrum that brings the country to it’s knees.

    2/ Why do the Corbynt’s assume it’s the Government’s job to assemble largesse and deliver it to them?

    3/ @Dearieme, I very much enjoyed your version of The Four Yorkshiremen

  16. “You’re a different generation. Go stand over there with Watcher!”

    Thus spake the authoritarian in our Mr Tim 🙂

    Actually it neatly highlights the gap between us despicable oldies and those who inherited all the previous hard work (and infrastructure let it be said) and sought to piss it all away in an orgy of ‘who can we give benefits to now just to make us virtue-chasers feel better?’

    It appears one thing the young are learning is that you can easily add nasty to all the knee-jerk laws and regulations you want to impose. Used to be a distant time when laws were, to a degree, somewhat considered. Indeed, the House of Commons used to convene after working hours because the MPs there were at work in, er, the working day. But so what? They were old and anyway it was in olden times.

    True the oldies who ran things are now out of touch, like I am, but so it goes. Good luck with explaining the flaws in Keynesian economics to da yoof wot votes, innit.

  17. Good article Tim. I believe there is an upheaval coming, the marxists have never missed a beat selling their ideas, and they are attractive when the only thing to contrast them against is an elite driven, corporate/bureaucratic morass of state power and large oligopolies.

    No one, barely a soul anyway, is putting freedom and responsibility on the table as a real way to live.

  18. Do you really think we (born in the early fifties in my case) are the ROOT cause of it all?

    So the same age as Brown, Blair, and the rest of New Labour? Obviously I’m not referring to you personally, but it was your age group that were the architects of much of this.

  19. Doesn’t excuse throwing a tantrum that brings the country to it’s knees.

    I don’t think they see it that way, though. They see the generation(s) above them and think “yes please, I want some of what they’re having”.

    Why do the Corbynt’s assume it’s the Government’s job to assemble largesse and deliver it to them?

    Because their parents and most of the country have assumed just that since at least 1997.

  20. Actually it neatly highlights the gap between us despicable oldies and those who inherited all the previous hard work (and infrastructure let it be said) and sought to piss it all away in an orgy of ‘who can we give benefits to now just to make us virtue-chasers feel better?’

    Possibly. But there is an argument that the Boomer generation busied itself tearing up the institutions it inherited throughout the 1960s, 70s, and 80s and started this mess. See ZMan’s latest post, for example.

  21. No one, barely a soul anyway, is putting freedom and responsibility on the table as a real way to live.

    Exactly. It’s why I don’t vote: show me a candidate that will tell the middle classes to get their noses out of the trough and I might vote for them.

  22. At the risk of seeming a bigoted old bastard the main reason youngsters have it tougher than I did is immigrants pushing wages down and rents up. I only had to compete with other Englishmen, not the world and his wife.

  23. TN

    ‘”Doesn’t excuse throwing a tantrum that brings the country to it’s knees’
    I don’t think they see it that way, though. They see the generation(s) above them and think “yes please, I want some of what they’re having”.”

    Well, they may not see it that way, but they do need to have a think about it, which was kind of my point. Unfaurness is rife, from the people who are born thin and good looking, to those who with the lottery, or have the ability to think clearly.

    Expecting the government to address your specific circumstances, and then alter them (via some magical means) from an office in Whitehall, whilst effectively threatening everyone with destruction if they don’t get their own way (because not a single one of them can have looked at the implications and track record of the policies proposed by Messrs Corbyn and McDonnell), is the behaviour I get from my 3 year old, not people who smugly announce they have seen the light and everyone else is an immoral bastard.

    But fair enough on the young, it’s not just them who think this way.
    A bunch of my 40 something mates voted for annihilation as well.

  24. At the risk of seeming a bigoted old bastard the main reason youngsters have it tougher than I did is immigrants pushing wages down and rents up.

    Indeed, as I said in my earlier post, house prices have absolutely shafted the younger generations.

  25. Yep it doesn’t matter which political party leads, they all get told what to do.

    The boomer rugby ball effect has been known for a long time amongst marketing dudes that positioned themselves in front of it, I think some commentators might just be cottoning on to it now.

    I know quite a few UK Labour voters in all age ranges including early twenties nephews that voted Labour last week, I haven’t noticed any animosity amongst them. I have family that have been sitting state and federal members (down under), met most of their leadership at weddings and the like, my under twenty five year old niece is a leader of the university labour movement, her partner is a fairly senior trade union organizer, they know that my leanings are different, as do my direct family and I haven’t noticed any hatred from them or from the youngsters both outside and within work towards their elders either. When they come round here we eat, drink, talk, laugh and joke have a jibe about global warming and the like. I spoke to mum yesterday and she was in the middle of sending a note to a close friend that is one of the old London Labour guard that held on despite the Blair years, probably quite like Corbyn in Islington, she is quite a principled lady, I have always looked up to her.

    I have also negotiated EBA’s with the main state union representatives as well and know too well their whole shortcomings.

    Anyhow I have a plan to capitalize and exploit the boomers further during their final stages by developing a large block of land that I own into multi-single home dwellings. Somebody somewhere may find this untasteful.

    Oh, and I have two sons and haven’t noticed anything odd about them either. My oldest will probably start at the blue collar level and work his way up, the youngest is a dead set trader alright.

    Nope call me stubborn or one eyed I just ain’t buying into it, there is just as much if not more opportunity available for youngsters these days as ever there was.

  26. They see the generation(s) above them and think “yes please, I want some of what they’re having”.

    Alright, step one: get a job.

    Or actually, step 0A: get out of bed.

  27. Alright, step one: get a job.

    Which means the state creating one for them. Don’t worry, both parties are onto it.

  28. Tim,

    A bit off-topic, I know, but isn’t paper shuffling and a**e licking what much of corporate life has always been about, since forever?

    Corporations usually start small, with a handful of smart, committed people, who know what they’re doing. As the organisation expands, rules and procedures have to be put in place. Gradually, human nature being what it is – empire building and the like – the rules and procedure become the corporation, which ossifies. This is why corporations, no matter how big, seem to have a finite lifespan. Eventually they go out of business, killed by newer more nimble competitors staffed by the smart, committed people mentioned above.

    Perhaps this is why government can be so pernicious. There being no competition government departments can never die. Rather, there are demands for more resources, in the belief this will counteract the increasing ossification and ineffectiveness – a good example of this being the NHS.

  29. A bit off-topic, I know, but isn’t paper shuffling and a**e licking what much of corporate life has always been about, since forever?

    Nope, spot on topic!

    I think what you say is true to some extent, but things have gotten much worse over the past 15-20 years. These non-jobs created by lefty governments were usually process-driven and resulted in more procedures, laws, and regulations being drafted. This in turn has meant corporations need to employ dozens if not hundreds of people in process-driven roles making sure they are up to speed and compliant with the latest and ever-changing thicket of rules and regulations. Incidentally, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this massive expansion of soft-skilled, process-driven roles took place at the same time as the increase in numbers of women going to university. They had to work somewhere, and the government provided jobs, followed by corporations.

    My point is, how many of these non-jobs in corporations are a result of the growth of government regulations? And how many of these positions simply didn’t exist 20 years ago? I am sure corporations love this situation: it means the barriers to entry are higher, meaning small, nimble competitors can’t outflank them because they too will need to employ this colossal overhead just to keep pace with government requirements and regulatory compliance. I think that is what has changed more than anything.

  30. Maybe that’s why some of the snowflakes are agin’ Brexit: they’re fearful of a bonfire of regulations.

  31. Maybe that’s why some of the snowflakes are agin’ Brexit: they’re fearful of a bonfire of regulations.

    Oh, without a doubt I think most of the left is against Brexit because they see the EU as the perfect vehicle with which to impose their “progressive” agenda on a reluctant English populace.

  32. Comrade Corbyn will lead the youth to the sunlit uplands….or something like that.I fought for mine they want theirs on a plate, fuck em.

  33. An interesting perspective and one I have been half nurturing for a while. The ‘Baby Boomer’ generation are indeed the chosen ones. Unheard of prosperity for many. The time a working class lad could go to university for free and carve out a nice middle class existence. My kids see this, with their university tuition debt and their minimum wage existence in the service industry and scowl. Of course it fuels resentment and it is going to get worse. And at the beginning and end of all this is the basic instinct of selfishness- this wont change, but it needs to be managed.

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