This is my second attempt, as my wife thought the first was a little harsh. So lets try again!
It was interesting to see a recent study showing people believe life in the ‘past’ was better than it is now. Those baby boomers who are forever looking back to their childhood are just disappointed with what they have today. This bitterness hit its ultimate peak when a large majority voted for Brexit.
So, has the generation that ‘never had it so good’, lost it and live in a worse time? I have to say times were simpler in the past. You knew where you were, who you were and what your life would be like, just by knowing where you were born.
The industrial north, from where I originate, allowed a good 20% to attend grammar schools and the rest would work in the factories, mines or mills. You were working class and women stayed at home and the empire ruled. Those certainties in life and the patriotism of the generations of two world wars was a constant reminder of what Britain stood for. For a lot of people these certainties were not barriers but comforts for their lives.
The baby boomers grew up with these certainties. They also grew up with what Britain had achieved in the two wars and an arrogance about the British empire, what it achieved and what it meant to be British in the world. The evil of fascism had been defeated and liberalism was giving freedom and choice to people in this country and abroad. As we became more prosperous, immigrants came in to do the jobs we did not want to do and Women were emancipated.
This is scary for people who do not understand or can influence their surroundings. They feel lost in a country they don’t recognise. This insecurity has been nurtured, manipulated and helped create an atmosphere where we now call Europe our enemy. Where public bodies are the decried and identity politics has meant all reason for some has gone.
This is a political failure of our liberal establishments, who have ignored the poor in this country for too long. They scoffed at the thought we would ever leave the EU and so did not engage and inform on Europe. The Baby boomers who always saw Britain as independent still think we can pick up where we left off. What they fail to remember is that we joined the EEC because we were the sick man of Europe. We were struggling, going to the IMF for loans and although other issues were at play in those times, the EEC was the security we wanted and needed. The conservative manifestos for thirty years all wanted more integrated business relationships (Single Market and CU). Yet all we have focussed on is the negatives and an undemocratic push for greater integration. Our reticence has been right, staying out of the Euro and Schengen, so we can control our borders and finances, but a lack of opportunity to vote on the Lisbon treaty in the UK and a fiddle of the votes on the continent, has meant a suspicion about who controls Europe. Again, this has been exaggerated and democracy is being strengthened within the EU institutions. Like any new democracy, it is not perfect, but arriving at the right place.
The baby boomers, who have seen no war in western Europe, believe they have witnessed a decline in the UK status. No longer a strong independent country, but now just part of a club. Not a single strong voice, but one lost in the voices of the EU. Yet, we were losing this voice anyway and this is the best way to bring peace and prosperity to a wider region and the world.
What we have failed to do is look after the communities that have changed so much and sat back expecting thanks for the changes. Although they are wealthier and living in better housing, the poorest do not see the benefits of the global world. Health and education has improved immeasurable, but they are less likely to take advantage of this as the poorest tend to be the least educated and have the poorest health. They perceive a sneering ruling class looking down on the way they live and reject its advice. This is a failure of the government and the fascists in the UK and US have seized this opportunity. It is easier to blame immigrants and the EU, than tell people if they don’t work hard at school they won’t get the same opportunities. This though is not the EU or immigrants fault, but personal responsibility, to better their life and their children’s. “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country” JFK (and yourself). Wise words which need saying now, too many in this country expect it all to be done for them.
The Baby boomers are in the twilight of their lives. They have free health. They are richer than any demographic group in the country and they live in a country that has been safe, secure and prosperous within the EU. The uncertainties and freedoms they fought for, could soon be lost as fascism rises and Brexit reduces our ability to have the freedoms the EU has given us. The peoples vote for a second referendum would be an opportunity for this generation to step up and allow future generations to have a better future, with choices. At the moment, they will be passing on a poorer, less tolerant and insular country. Everything past generations fought against.