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paul-haslam
28th February 2012

A cheering thought

Has exam stress got you down? Have you returned from your immaculate, well-stocked home over Christmas to find yourself once again afflicted by empty cupboards and housemates whose idea of washing up is to leave it in the sink until you do it? Despair no longer then, because – despite first appearances – this article […]
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Has exam stress got you down? Have you returned from your immaculate, well-stocked home over Christmas to find yourself once again afflicted by empty cupboards and housemates whose idea of washing up is to leave it in the sink until you do it? Despair no longer then, because – despite first appearances – this article bears a message of hope that might sustain you for up to an hour or so of this bright future.

Subtly it’s come about that those to whom I now speak must downgrade their expectations of the future. Our world, or at least the Western half of it, seems to have run suddenly and irrevocably out of gas (not literally, that will come later). Those who came of age in the previous boom-time generations have spent the inheritance on pointless wars and on keeping most of Britain’s banks afloat when they couldn’t do it themselves. The invisible hand of the market is fisting us, and it turns out that diamond rings and things we used to own (like the promise of a future of abundance) do not make very good lubricant.

Those of us who were born with the ability to be sensibly pessimistic will not, perhaps, be surprised. But to the others who, like me, prefer to stay more optimistic, I offer this in consolation: the problems faced by this generation might prove to be its making. The advantages which characterise it have been proven very effective by the Arab Spring, undoubtedly the most momentous world event (or events) of last year. This is a change whose significance will be proven, whether for good or ill – it is the world’s responsibility to push for the former if possible, but the primary meaning of these events is the importance of allowing the people of the Arab world to determine their own future. Counter-intuitively this might mean intervening to help to prevent the rise to power of any usurping tyrant – a scenario that will with luck remain hypothetical.

Anyone left who cares about the future of this country might seek to apply the same principles here. Although those now coming of age lack the great numerical advantage that the baby boomers managed to leverage for effecting change, we have access to technological advantages comparable to the invention of the printing press and television combined, and each person now can connect remotely with others in ways hitherto unimaginable. Given the right motivations and goals these might prove pivotal in updating the straining power structures of this nation and others. As long as we don’t just use this tech to tweet incessantly about the X Factor we might yet save ourselves from global warming and chronic privileging of some over others…

Disagree? Tweet us @mancuniondebate or email [email protected] 

Paul Haslam

Paul Haslam

Former Comment and Debate Editor (2011).

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