You know what, maybe it was. But YOU are the generation who took the promise of the post-WW2 world and fucked it right in the nuts.
This has recently been revived by a column in the New York Times by noted neo-liberal Thomas Friedman. Friedman is the type of liberal who has a massive hard-on for capitalism and globalisation, but really only in a very specific Western sense. He does have a heart, in that he doesn’t believe that the market solves all problems, and he mostly takes the stolid, centrist liberal ground on matters. He has sold millions of books extolling the benefits of our current market system. As Wise Old Men go, he isn’t the worst, but he has calcified and become a part of the Old Boys Network who hates to rock the boat – and can often display a Heathers-like bitchiness to those slightly to the left of him.
Friedman’s column is one of the Oh Woe for the Younger Generation pieces which, frankly piss me off. They are almost always written by men and women in middle to late age who suddenly find themselves left behind. They look at their paunchy belies and thinning hair and get all misty eyed about their own youth. The sixties has been lionised to such an extent by a culture that they themselves have created that their sense of self-satisfaction is constantly being fed. And they look at the younger generations and shake their head with false piety and intone “Where the activism?”.
Perhaps its unfair to pick on Friedman in particular – his is just the latest retread of a piece of conventional wisdom that doubles as a giant circle wank. There is virtually no understanding about how the world has changed and how the scale of difficulties and problems has led to a kind of paralysis amongst people of my generation. How do I affect something like global warming when governments filled with Old White Men can barely agree on what the scale of the issue is? This isn't about forcing a national government to pass civil rights legislation. Its about trying to get China, India and America to cooperate for a higher good than national interest. And we can see how easy that is.
That’s what twentysomethings are for — to light a fire under the country.
But they can’t e-mail it in, and an online petition or a mouse click for carbon
neutrality won’t cut it. They have to get organized in a way that will force
politicians to pay attention rather than just patronize them.
I say bollocks. The last two times that twentysomethings tried to force an issue (in the Globalisation and Iraq War protests of the late nineties and noughties), we were dismissed as out of touch, naive and childish by men exactly like Friedman. People of my generation stood up and said that these issues were vital to how we saw the world and all we got were baton charges and condescension.
Yes, this is a rant, and it is borne out to some degree less by being annoyed at Friedman than it is about a genuine sense of impotence. I volunteer for the gay community here in London. I vote for candidates who seem like they want change. I contribute to causes. But can this actually mean anything when Bush and his ilk still hold ultimate power? Protests amount to nothing. Striking amounts to nothing (not that most people of my generation even have the chance to unionise). So what is left?
Cheers Tom - now how long until you retire? Because your daughter sounds like she has the pulse far better than you!