I start most of my musings from the same place, namely the place of being annoyed at another blog I’ve read. Today is no different.
A piece on HuffPost UK, titled In Defence of An Upper Age Voting Limit, was making the rounds on social media, causing some interesting discussion. My first reaction was that this was a satire piece, perhaps a dig at those so convinced that votes for 16yr olds is a bad idea. But I seem to be mistaken, it seems a genuine belief of quite a few people.
In summary, and I don’t do the piece justice, the argument is that those aged 50+ are preventing society from ‘progressing’. Progression, in this instance, marked by a certain set of liberal beliefs. As well as a vote to ‘remain’ in the referendum.
Now I’m not the world’s most conservative Millennial, so I do wish society would liberalise somewhat. But I’m also not a huge liberal, so I’m certainly keen to hang on to some good ideas and beliefs that we’ve inherited from previous generations.
Wanting the past to move on is certainly no new belief, it’s increasingly common for us young folk to wish that we’d finally get a chance to run the world. But I argue that we should make the most of our elders, before we lose them for good and are thrust in the deep end.
There are a lot of things wrong with the beliefs of previous generations, when measured against today’s standards.
Until recently our nation would chemically castrate and imprison homosexuals. It’s not that long ago that signs saying “No Blacks, No Dogs, No Irish” were accepted as normal in small businesses. Many of our Grandparents remain suspicious of anyone from east of Kent and the idea of a child being born in the UK with the name Mohammed frightens them.
Yet I’d argue that previous generations can teach us more about progression than we can teach them.
I think of how they’ve gone from travelling by steam train, through to Concorde in a generation. Letter writing was replaced by email, replaced by instant messaging. 1 TV channel became thousands. We joined the EU, then left. Decimalised the currency and sold fruit and veg by the Kilo.
Not to forget the changes in societal behaviour.
We like the Irish now, we’re working on treating Blacks properly. Abortion is no longer a taboo subject. We have Same Sex Marriage, Inter-racial marriage and internet dating. Church attendance has dropped through the floor in the ‘established church’ and Islam is on the rise. There are now multiple genders (71 according to Facebook) and every now and then the news throws up someone who is transracial, transspecies or even transabled.
The generations preceding us have seen more change in society then I think I ever will.
As well as the value changes they bring with them a great deal of experience in the ups and downs of life. How many ‘credit crunches’ have I lived through? 1? 2 at most? If we think we have it bad with poverty now, ask someone who used to have a ration book, or who lived through a 3-day working week. Political struggles? They’ve been there. Dealing with dictators? Try someone who lived through Fascist Spain and the Revolution, or the USSR etc. etc. etc.
There are few things that we are going to experience in life that our predecessors haven’t. A lot of the challenges facing Millenials may seem new, but they’re often just old challenges in shiny new branding (or matte branding, depending on the trend).
And what to admire most about those before us?
They waited their turn.
For as long as us clever apes have mulled around on this rock, old people have existed. They’ll continue to exist and we’ll one day be old.
Our parents and our grandparents watched the world change around them at phenomenal pace. They had little control. Perhaps this is why they spent their summers ‘enlightened’ by special herbs whilst laying around to John Lennon’s anti-establishment musings?
When they disagreed with ‘the system’ they marched and protested. Bra’s were burnt, flowers placed in barrels of guns, music made, and the system changed.
Change often takes time and that is one of the most painful experiences of being young. Us Millenials are full of good ideas, passion, energy to fulfil them and often only lacking the power to do so. But we also lack in experience and seem to be struggling to learn from the past.
It’s almost always been the case that young people have different ideals to their elders.
There’s the old saying “if you’re not a Socialist when you’re young, then you have no heart. If you’re not a Conservative when you’re old, then you have no brain”. Sure, this is a little silly, but it’s partly true. We’re idealists when young and sceptical when old.
Discrediting those over 50 isn’t going to solve our problems, it’ll just alienate and punish those who can teach us the most. The lifelong taxpayers, the change-makers of the past, those who’ve gone from Little-Britain to Global Britain are not only entitled to vote and have their opinions, but a vital part of voting.
I’m turning 30 soon. My opinions have changed, I’ve mellowed and perhaps got a tad more conservative. I’ve learnt that some of the dreams I wanted when younger are absurd and harmful. I’ve also come to a place of refusing to judge previous generations by today’s standards.
Sure, I’m impatient for change. But I’m aware of the dangers of revolution.
I’m almost of the opinion that people under 30 have nothing to offer but good ideas. Whilst those over 50 have no ideas to offer but know how to make things happen.
If we can learn from inter-generational respect and admiration, then we can move society forward and liberalise quicker than ever before.
*This blog was first published on David’s personal warbling site digitalgruel.com*