Battle of the Ages in the Election
So there’s an election on Thursday. You might have heard of it. You probably have your own opinions one way or another. Maybe you don’t care. But either way, you have to admit, it is kind of a big deal.
The story so far: professional Cruella de Ville impersonator and unconvincing robot Theresa May surprised everyone by calling a snap election in March, mostly to shore up her majority. She ran a campaign on a cult of personality, despite having none. This and her endless slogans repeated like a skipping CD meant she plummeted in the polls. Jeremy Corbyn on the other hand actually fought the election on a human level and became massively more popular than previously expected. Will it translate to a win? Who knows!
So that’s the story weaved by the media and the polls. But ever since the whole Brexit debacle, I have been wary of the story spun by these fortune tellers. They have been wrong before, there is no reason they cannot be wrong again. They are essentially poking at entrails while gawping into a crystal ball, hoping for a clear prediction. So I take everything they are saying with an ocean full of salt these days.
I see all my friends support Labour. I support Labour as well. Obviously, this leads me to be optimistic. Great, that’s a Labour win then. Easy. Of course, I am only seeing this because, like everyone, I live in a bubble. So I hope Labour will gain power on Thursday but at the same time, I am cautious because I have been burnt many times before.
One narrative thread this election has been built on is the battle between youth and age. The older generation tends to vote Conservative whereas the younger generation tends to vote for Labour. A huge amount of young people voting on Thursday could see a huge swing towards Labour. (Maybe. Go on). I was wondering why there is such a Grand Canyon division. The media seeks to portray young people as hopelessly idealistic, with little idea of how the real world works, but I reject this idea. As a sort of young person myself I don’t think it fits with the highly intelligent people I see who know how the world works.
One explanation for the age divide could be this; young people are more progressive because they are going to be living in a new world and thus can help create it. Whereas the older generation is facing the looming spectre of mortality, so they prefer to regress to their youth, when things were ‘better’. I think this is fundamentally the difference between left wing politics and right wing politics. The right wing sees the world as broken and yearns to go back to a golden age whereas the left sees the old world as broken and wants to progress towards a better future. Or to put it another way, Conservatives want an ice cream from their youth that had way more cream than the modern stuff, but Labour wants a whole new type of ice cream that hasn’t been invented yet.
Another explanation is this: young people have grown up to be more tolerant and more inclusive than their parents. Whereas the previous generation had to adjust their attitudes to race, gender and sexuality as they went along, the current generation grew up in a world where being decent to one another was already the norm. As such, when bigotry rears one of its hydra heads, young people are more easily able to identify it because it is no longer the existing story. It’s different and scary. It’s a snake in plain sight, rather than in a viper pit.
It is likely that none of these are true, I’m just trying to outline some potential alternative theories that I don’t think we hear that much in the debate at the moment. Everything is a story after all, but some stories dominate the conversation more than others.
Here’s the story I want to believe in. Young people like myself are more progressive not because of age or wide-eyed optimism, but because we can see it makes sense for the country and for the people as a whole. The next generation wants to live in a world where the state supports its citizens, where benefits for disabled people are not taken away, where the NHS remains free and accessible to all. I certainly want to live in a country that is open and inclusive, not closed and suspicious. We want these things not because we will gain from them, but because we reject the dominant narrative that says every person is out for themselves. It is better for a society to remove as many injustices as it can that stand in the way of its citizens because then we can all move forward into the future.
This is not the story the Conservatives are trying to spin. They are trying to pull up the drawbridge, ransack everyone for money so the richer and the poor get poorer. They are trying to go against humanity’s natural instinct and force people to become more insular and more selfish. They are not offering a vision for the future. They barely have a plan for Brexit and that might be a kind of big deal. They are up for whatever they can get. Theresa May just wants more power because power is addictive. She also wants a coat made of one hundred and one dalmatians (not really). It’s a selfish ideology and I hope it is rejected.
I mentioned earlier I’ve had my fingers burnt in the past. It’s entirely possible I might get them burnt again and again until my fingerprints are gone and I can’t point to anything with my ashen stumps. But I always want to believe in a better world, a new vision of the future. Once you give up on that, you give up on hope and the possibility of change. Then what else is there but to turn inward and vote Tory? So keep that spark alive. If Labour loses this election, keep fighting for a better future. Don’t allow this world to wear you down. This generation is more progressive and inclusive than any other and that is a strength, not a weakness. We need to keep that alive and built a better world.