Ring the Changes

A friend of mine from Kenya told me about how there is a concept of one generation intentionally handing over to the next, an ancient ceremony in which the leaders become the elders and let those coming through to take their place.

Looking at events in the US and the UK – not just Corbyn and Sanders but also the reaction to “no platforming” in universities and the #RhodesMustFall and other decolonising movements (not so much in SA but definitely the UK arm) I can’t help thinking that we’re in the midst of an upheaval.

The overriding response, in particular from the media, is derision – a bit like Madeleine Albright’s admonition of younger women who vote for Sanders (echoed by Gloria Steinem, who said these young women just wanted to be near “boys”). Over here, the ridicule of movements like #RhodesMustFall and the (often ham-fisted) efforts of student bodies to explore issues around censorship and safe spaces has been deafening. I don’t agree with all the incidents or stances taken by the students in all the different cases but the scorn has a hysterical edge to it. There’s no discussion, no exploration. It’s almost as if they are stupid for questioning, even if sometimes some students get it wrong. They are supposed to shut up and do what they’re told.

Millenials are sick of being told. As the Guardian discovered when they asked Sanders voters (not all of whom are millenials) why they support him, there’s a lot of rage and a lot of yearning for change.* There’s a bleak realisation that the status quo isn’t working. Well, it isn’t.

I keep saying this but post-2008, we’re looking another financial crisis in the eye but this morning it was reported that Osborne is trying to sweep away even those meagre post-2008 reforms to the banking industry. Oh, and HSBC has decided to stay in the UK. Again. They really need to space these ultimatums out. I’m sure they’ll be speculating again as we approach the Europe vote. The fact is, they don’t need to do this public tantrum. They clearly have more of a hold over Treasury than any citizen in this country so it’s rather amusing that they bother with the political theatre.

If no one has been held to account for the crash, the group that has had their future mortgaged to pay for it are the young. Education, employment, housing – basically every rite of passage is blocked or marred. The guarantees are broken. You can get your degree but we can’t guarantee the job, the house, or even – if you don’t get a degree – a decent wage with human-friendly hours. The safety net is shredded and the NHS is threadbare. In the face of all this, when young people reach for change they are ridiculed. I would argue that the system has worked fine for those doing the ridiculing – they have their houses, jobs and pensions – pensions that the rest of us will be paying for. So would it not be a little charitable to give young people space to have discussions, to think about changing the world, to try to craft something new out of the mess you’ve left them? (even if it’s a work in progress?)

*I have to give credit to the Guardian – though they have been among the sneering when reporting on Corbyn voters, they did, as with Sanders voters, actually stop to actually ask people why they vote for them. Quite why they report the results with such deep surprise and wonder, given the state of the world, is beyond me.

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