My grandfather was 25 when he woke up to hear that Britain and France had declared war on Germany in 1939. He was 32 when Churchill called for "a kind of United States of Europe" in 1946, as the dust settled and the first EU seeds were sown towards integration. During those years people fought and feared, suffered and succeeded together. They united. His generation lived through years of danger, instability, and loss. Their experiences shaped how they lived, who they were and what kind of world they wanted. They became more European.
In my sleep deprived state I feel like I can relate to some of that today. It feels sad, worrying, shocking and devastating that Britain has voted to leave. But of course I can't relate to his generation's horrific formative experiences, and I'd need to have a word with myself if I caught myself thinking that way. Especially since the world is going through a seismic shock for the opposite reason of that in 1946, towards disintegration. We'll become less European.
For the millions of young Londoners and others around the country who feel genuine loss, fear and anger at the result, it's unclear what's next and what we can do. We don't know what to do with our belief in alternative reality.
Our campaign didn't succeed, our fears were dismissed and we feel cheated for it. Londoners in their 20s and 30s have been outvoted by older people across the country, yet have arguably more invested in how our future unravels. We're grieving, heartbroken and feeling isolated from the rest of the country. The vitriol about older voters may feel cathartic but it's divisive.
My working borough, Lambeth, had the highest remain vote in the country after Gibraltar. It's a destination for young working age people, and in 2014 44% of Lambeth were aged 20 to 39 in contrast to our ageing population. For better or worse, London is a bubble.
So what does young London do next? Will it still be the centre of our economy, the most popular tourist destination, home of innovation, creativity and diversity? You bet. We're not giving up when there's so much to love.
And one of the things I love the most is my job. As part of the small team at South London Cares, I connect young professionals to their older neighbours for friendship, fun and meaningful shared experience. Despite all the great things that London is, it's also one of the most isolating and lonely cities in the world. Maybe it's difficult to imagine right now, but it's true that people in their 90s and people in their 20s and 30s have a lot in common, and a lot to gain in understanding each other better. They can help each other to navigate a constantly changing capital, which is needed more than ever.
So even though it's unclear when the dust will settle and what good can come of this, it's an obvious but important thing to do is to calmly continue to work hard in what we believe in. We should reach out to our neighbours, listen to those who feel differently, speak up to be heard, be kind and compassionate, and strive for union wherever we are.
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