By Ella Green
At the height of the Vietnam War, FBI Director Edgar J. Hoover noted that “our very system of government” was imperilled by the intensity of campus unrest against US military intervention. It was an era typified, particularly in the United States, by protest and anarchy that observed a mass burgeoning of social change. For the first time in history, throughout the 1960s and 70s, the youth distinguished themselves as an isolated force for change and progression.
Ever since, young people have continued to be a symbol of political, cultural, and social evolution. Yet, I sit here as a young person, asking exactly how long it is before my generation is soured, like those before us, by the likes of party politics, if it hasn’t yet already? Worse still, I fear that the nature of counterculture in 2023, lies not in pacifism or sexual liberation as it arguably did for young people in the 1970s, but rather in an altogether darker and more venomous place.
A whole cohort of Andrew Tate followers ruin the hope I have that, maybe, my generation, through our boundless access to information online could start to make universal breakthroughs in understanding issues like climate change. Instead, I find myself wading through the stories of young men in particular, consumed by this wormhole of misogyny and violence. Schooled by the aggressive malignance of Tate, this appears to be their own cancerous edition of counterculture.
From what I’ve observed as a young person, a majority of people my age remain progressive and well-informed by a plethora of resources on social media. University is generally a pretty left-wing environment. However, I still can’t shift this nagging feeling that on the flip side there lies an academy of budding chauvinists.
Tate isn’t the only individual involved in this mass mobilisation of hatred. In America, young and frighteningly popular far-right commentator, 24 year-old Nick Fuentes, similarly distributes messages of antisemitism and white supremacy. And yes, you did read that right, he’s 24, 24 years young, or 24 years old if you account for his positively medieval worldview.
And these are just the people who already in their youth lace the world with their hatred and bitterness, like pouring arsenic into a pot of camomile tea. Startlingly, I haven’t even begun to account for the ones that will grow more selfish and ignorant with age.
‘My Generation’ by The Who usually springs to mind when thinking about this particular brand of eejit. Written as a homage to youth and its rebellious nature at the height of the punk rock movement, it feels pretty ironic that the group’s now pro-Brexit, ~MeToo denouncing lead singer Roger Daltrey once blared the lyric “I hope I die before I get old”.
To largely contradict all of the outstanding evidence, it’s easy to be swept up by this cyclone of negativity, particularly with the lamentable state of the current government. A worrying proportion of politicians have more recently reached a new level of reptilian sociopath, hiding from scrutiny in their parliamentary lair. Amongst the young however, there are rising political stars and activists that perpetuate this arguably naïve hope that I personally hold onto. In fact, I urge everybody else to hold onto it as well.
MPs heralded by young people on social media such as Zarah Sultana represent a rare faction of personable and progressive politicians. Sultana goes against the grain in rejecting Starmer’s often cordial opposition of the Conservatives given the never-ending string of Tory blunders. Others include Nadia Whitthome, the Labour MP for Nottingham East, who was elected to her role aged only 23 and recently wrote a piece for The Independent arguing for the decriminalisation of sex work.
Then of course you have young activists like most notably, Greta Thunberg, who much to my amusement recently took the liberty of publicly humiliating Tate on Twitter.
None of this is to say that once you hit 50, you’re going to wind up blaming your delayed hip replacement surgery on the Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic community or setting up an offshore account in the Virgin Islands. Generally speaking, society makes the habitual mistake of pigeonholing people into restrictive and often wildly inaccurate stereotypes. It’s pretty easy for me to label baby boomers conservative. But then again, it’s easy for them to label me a naïve liberal snowflake.
What I do urge the older generation against, however, is growing complacent. The problem with reliance on the pretence that the youth will clear up any mess with progressive vigour is that we are left to our own devices. Members of the older generation more or less leave us with the vague ‘you have the power to change things’ and a metaphorical consolatory pat on the back. Sometimes I feel like reminding them I hardly know how to change a lightbulb, let alone how to stop the release of environment destroying gases from entering the atmosphere.
Despite all of the mounting evidence that this culture war between the left and the right shall continue into Generation-Z, I continue to believe that there is room for progress. We have all the resources available to us to be better educated, more freethinking, and more accepting as a consequence. What needs to be stunted, however, is a loss of faith in our political and social systems, and that, I’m afraid, remains the responsibility of our elders.
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