Before I start, I want to warn you that this is to be a slightly different style of blog. Rather than a “problem, solution, result” type of post which is my usual thing, it’s to be an “observation of opinion/behaviour, explanation of the affect and a plea for change”. Heck, it’s 2019 so why not step outside the box?!
One of the many hats I wear is that of community activist in my town, Northampton, which is in central England. The town, like many others in “Austerity Britain” is facing a number of complex issues. Our county council is bankrupt, our public services are suffering, there is a rise in homelessness, the streets are dirty, shops are closing, people are struggling financially, the list goes on. Basically, it’s a bit of a shit time for the town and the people who live here.
Because I’ve been vocal about fighting against the negative narrative and looking at ways to help improve the situation, I’ve been invited by the local media to talk on the subject. I’ve met lots of people with lots of different opinions and whilst everyone is different, I’m starting to see a theme occurring which I wanted to highlight.
DISCLAIMER: Before I go on, I want to make it VERY clear that my observations are just that. They don’t apply to every single person. I’m not tarring everyone with the same brush. I’m simply bringing to the forefront something that is being ignored in the hope that the minority of people that it applies to, might make a change that will benefit everyone.
Ok, so let’s get to it. I’m 35 and the people who I meet who are the most vocal about the problems in the town tend to be older than me, generally 45+. When commenting on the problems we’re facing, I have noticed that SOME people make a number of the same arguments. These are views I’ve heard from politicians, business owners, residents, the public sector and charities:
The Demonisation of “Young People”
For example, the argument is that the streets are dirty because they are over populated with houses of multiple occupancy who are all inhabited by students (who are seen as a menace). Another argument is that older people don’t feel safe because of the “youth of today” (which I think includes anyone under the age of 25) who are all described as disrespectful and dangerous. Young people allegedly don’t care about anyone or anything. They are lazy and selfish and likely to join gangs and stab people. BUT they are also used as pawns to win political arguments because the other side is that they aren’t supported and have nothing to do so “no wonder they turn to crime etc etc.”
So this is where I call bullshit. Young people aren’t the problem. Some teenage boy in a hoodie didn’t fuck the planet up in the 16 years he’s been alive. The problems have been creeping in for decades and are as a direct result of the decisions that have been made by those who are accusing the “youth” in the first place. Sure, there are some young people who cause problems but they are the minority who give the rest a bad name. I remember people moaning about my generation 20 years ago and feeling pissed off about it. In fact, generation X were all seen as a bunch of drug taking radicalists when they were young, so surely they should recognise this demonisation isn’t new. Come on! Let’s stop this nonsense. It’s a rhetoric that is lazy at best and does nothing to get to the real root of social issues.
The Internet Broke Society
Look, I’m not a social media fan, I’ve made that quite clear. I see that there are some real mental health problems that are caused by the pressure the digital age provides. BUT, the internet and social media are again, not to blame for the world’s problems. The internet allows 82 year old Doris to skype call her grandson in Australia. It helped Amy find out about gender identity and sexuality, it helped me change my lifestyle and go self-employed as a writer.
We are able to share information and educate ourselves at the click of a button. The ‘internet, phones and social media’ argument is also used to reinforce the demonisation of youth. (Because apparently only young people use computers). HELLO? We all use the internet every day. The internet isn’t the problem. It’s the society that WE HAVE ALL CREATED that we’re not happy with and it’s our responsibility to change our actions and take some fucking responsibility.
“They” Should Sort it Out!
If I had a pound for every time I’d heard someone say that, I definitely would have paid tax last year. (FYI I’m not dodging the tax man. Regular readers would have internally chuckled at that one…. see New Year, New Measurement). Anyhoo, my point is who the fuck are “they”? I think people mean the government, the council, the big institutions. Basically anyone but them.
Ok, so institutions definitely hold money and power to make shit happen. But who do you think gives them that power? What people need to do, is wake the fuck up and realise the power they have as individuals. Every single day, you are making choices that are changing the world you live in. Where you buy your coffee, the paper you read, the job you have, the car you drive, the TV programme you watch. Every action is a vote that helps create the world we live in. If you don’t like it, change it.
If you’re annoyed that the local Marks and Spencer closed down, maybe you should have gone into town and spent money in that shop. If you’re fed up of seeing homeless people on the streets, maybe you speak to a homeless person and find out what actually caused them to get into that situation. Once you know, DO SOMETHING to help the problem. If you’re angry that the streets are dirty, pick up the litter. This attitude of “Why should I when I pay my council tax?!” or “Why should I when I didn’t put the rubbish there?!” is very noble and in an ideal world you shouldn’t have to. THAT’S NOT THE WORLD WE HAVE CREATED.
If you’ve read this blog and think I’m talking crap. Fine, don’t change anything. But don’t expect anything to change. “They” aren’t going to fix the world. Oh, and if you say you don’t have the time or money I refer you again to New Year, New Measurement.
If you’re offended, good! Get angry. Use that anger to DO SOMETHING. If you’re nodding in agreement with what I’ve written, great, but you don’t get out of it either. DO SOMETHING. You have power, you have control, you have agency. If you don’t believe me, maybe you’ll believe the Dalai Lama:
“If you think you’re too small to make a difference….try sleeping with a mosquito.”