THE BLOG

Leave Them Kids Alone!

12/03/2014 11:30 GMT | Updated 11/05/2014 10:59 BST

Another day, and another journalist has laid into the young generation of today, insinuating they are weak and without moral fibre. As Jeremy Paxman put it this week, they are considered: 'materialistic, self-obsessed, hedonistic ... because of the decline of the traditional notion of duty and the influence of social media'.

That's nice of him. Just as we're trying very hard to reengage our young people and show them we do believe in them - every bit as much as previous generations - another high-profile figure, for no reason whatsoever, hurtles in with a full-on frontal assault. Thanks.

Mr Paxman believes that WW1 could and would not be fought by today's generation of young people. Correct.

Because they, we, are now much better informed, more free (as a result of the defence of liberty in WW2), and able to make their own minds up; they therefore realize, with the advantage of hindsight, the pointlessness of WW1. To compare the slaughter of WW1 and in any way attempt to acclaim its murderous intent as some sort of noble quest of manhood, courage, honour, resolve and ability to suffer for long periods of time in rat-infested trenches - is nonsense. It was and remains an appalling waste of our glorious young brave men. An entire generation, lost.

As a working class lad who grew up in the north, fist-fighting and working from the age of 13, joining the army at 16 and serving all over the world, let me put it simply: men do not fight for the Queen and Country that the romanticists of society who know neither violence or war dream of. They do not even fight for the flag; when the red hornets come dancing, when the sweat, adrenaline and urine begins to secrete, the blood flows, a primeval instinct of violent energies surge to the fore - and men fight for the man to their right, and to their left. It is live or die. There is no romantic poetry of the sort Jeremy Paxman references, that shifts the public mood one way or another; just violence, death, misery and bloodshed. Yes, there are noble causes, there are gallant fights to be fought to defend our little sacred isle, to protect the citizens of our country; but not WW1.

Paxman suggests further that some of the war's best-loved poetry, such as that by Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen, was "part of the problem"; he claims many now unfairly see the conflict through a prism of 'prejudices' about inept generals and wasted lives. Err, and this is somehow incorrect? Please, please revisit history, please attempt to understand what makes a fighting man fight, and what the young men in the trenches thought.

I would ask Mr Paxman, a privately educated Cambridge graduate, have you served, and would you have served? If so why have we never seen you in Her Majesty's uniform? Or not even the reserves? He will of course say yes, I would have done my bit, but how do we know? How do we know he wouldn't have cowered in the slurry and stinking mud, begging for his mummy? I have yet to see any of these damn politicians and journalists who keep berating the so-called 'youth of today' in camouflage on the front line.

Paxman concluded that today's generation is more likely to fight for its iPhone than duty; I find this utterly offensive. I wish he knew of the 1.5m hours community service given by 70,000 young people on our National Citizens Service program, or the dozens and dozens of British teenagers who have died serving in Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan. I suppose the 18 and 19 year olds blown to pieces, shot to smithereens, heroically saving their friends from the horrors of war, are different teenagers to the ones who fight for iPhones? The teenagers alive today wearing Military Crosses, Queens Gallantry Medals and Conspicuous Gallantry Crosses, all too concerned with hedonism and materialism I suppose, on £15,000 a year, working 100 hours a week in 100 degree heat getting shot at.

Or perhaps they are one and the same? Just brave young people doing their bit for their mates, whilst also, happening to have and like an iPhone. If anyone tried to take my phone off me, I'd smack them in the jaw.

At a time when we as a country are doing our best to fix the baby-boomers' destruction of civil society following WW2, to tell our young people they are not up to the job, after Paxman's generation of chattering middle-classes and champagne-swillers took the pensions, the free-bus passes, broke the health service, rose to positions of influence and ruined our financial sector - is blasphemy and treason.

To tell our youngsters they should just get on with it is one thing, but at the same time keep chastising them when our country and our Prime Minister (who, incidentally, does care about young people, he told me so himself, and I believe him, I've seen what he does behind the scenes) is trying to raise morale, increase jobs, fix the laziness of baby-boomers' lethargy that has, I concede, in some way infested the young mindset - is plainly wrong and not helping the situation.

Let's just give young people a break, some space and time to pick up the pieces and do what is quintessentially British, to reinvent, to inspire and create. Our nation is 'Great' because we, each generation, always rise up, and adapt, improvise and overcome.

Here is to the 'Great' British Young Generation of tomorrow.