Bleak Fortunes

One of the defining characteristics of western civilization — and arguably the human race in at least some capacity — is the desire of each successive generation to leave behind a better world for their children than the one that was gifted to them by their own ancestors.

Those currently at the helm, however, seem to have swerved sharply towards self-preservation, whilst at the same time fostering an ethos of despair and materialism, coupled with truly baffling notions of Broken Society.

Sound like the typical regurgitated opinion of a modern youth? It probably is. Yet the arguments behind it have a good reason for being regurgitated: they’re far too numerous and downright indisputable to be overlooked or dismissed, even by the most skilled spin-doctor.

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The future may look bleak for some: anybody with intentions of going into banking for the next century or so is set to fall from grace in the eyes of family and friends; basic bills are soon to rise as fossil fuels become depleted; blue-collar workers are facing increasing unemployment as the digital age dawns; standard of living has remained static, and in some cases declined; and inequality is once again on the increase.

But never fear. Reams of politicians, agencies and bodies of authority are working tirelessly, day and night, to remedy the world’s ills and bring us all a better tomorrow. Policies and treaties are being signed left, right and centre to ensure that our way of life continues, and that the future remains bright.

The problem is that the overriding attitude of current governments and policy-makers seems to be geared to making things better in the immediate future, with no thought given to long-term effects in years to come. In fact, it almost seems that all current world-issues are being tackled in such a way that the current generation can live out their lives in the same fashion as they have grown used to without bother, siphoning the fallout off to somewhere half a century from now — to such proportions that these issues constitute a devastating time-bomb, set to detonate as soon as today’s youth is old enough to take the fall.

And how are today’s youth being prepared for dealing with this coming catastrophe? Yes, that’s right: poor job prospects, and degrees that put them £50,000 in the hole before they’ve even started in life. Forget a mortgage, forget a car, forget investments, stocks, clothes or holidays; £50,000 in debt, right off the bat, in return for an education that is desperately needed to fill the growing gaps in the skilled worker market.

The parents and grandparents of the current working population endured two devastating world wars — both of which decimated entire generations of young men and alienated any survivors — and a depression that makes the current world recession look like a few pennies missing from an old lady’s coin purse; yet they found a way to provide free education for their children, and bred an attitude of hope and optimism into their offspring. A veritable smorgasbord of opportunities were served up to all who sought knowledge, enlightenment, and bright career prospects.

When it comes around to the current youth’s turn to dine at the table of knowledge, however, we’re served a bowl of tepid, watered-down soup and told to get in line for the nearest bank’s loan application officer. Our time, our moment, it seems, is to be squandered by our forefathers on the myriad tasks involved in fixing their mistakes. No sorrow, no heartfelt apology, no lamenting the fall of society’s greatest levelers of inequality and bigotry; just a quick, ‘Sorry, there’s no money left; we spent it all on stuff’.

Then, of course, there are the other factors in the debacle to consider:

The birth-rate has fallen, life expectancy has increased, and the retirement age is still hovering somewhere in the now-sprightly age of mid-to-late-sixties. This means that those at the helm — including those who have bought so heartily into consumerism and materialism, sacrificed the pursuit of enlightenment in return for a new Beamer, and thrown the world’s economy so far off kilter that it may not recover for many decades — will retire whilst still relatively young on a full pension and do as they please for several decades, supported entirely by a much smaller working population made up of their children; the already-in-debt, futureless goons upon whom the fate of the planet has been hung.

All of that perhaps wouldn’t be quite so bad if that very generation wasn’t so constantly besieged by accusations of being misguided, without moral-compass, stupid, uneducated, almost feral; when, in fact, today’s youth constitute the most prodigious, informed, accomplished, ambitious and intelligent in human history.

One can only feel sorry for those currently driving the ways of the world. They seem almost determined to see the worst of the worst in every scenario. I can only hope that the early twenty-first century will see an improvement — that the western world will pick itself up, dust itself off, and get on with making amends.

Despite the grim prospects of we youngsters, however, I’m not worried. Not one bit.

If my generation is expected to shoulder the consequences of its ancestors’ foibles, then it can certainly be expected to change its own destiny. Perhaps, if we aim high enough, we can restore balance; and though the going may be uphill all the way for us, we just might be able to leave something better behind for our children.

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