IN 2003 Andrew Collins authored a recollection of his years growing up in Northampton entitled ‘Where did it all go right?’ It was an affectionate hymn to a happy youth, untroubled by problems and worries.
As the Western world seems to have set course on a somewhat concerning social and cultural journey, perhaps the time is ripe for a sequel which could well be titled ‘Where did it all go wrong?’
Of course, there have been profound clashes between the generations since the dawn of time. Older people find it hard to reconcile themselves with the modes and mores that engage younger people. Adolescents seek rebellion and have an urge to do things differently from their elders. The ‘Swinging Sixties’, poking fun at the establishment, punk rock, drugs and outlandish fashions are just some examples. With the benefit of experience, it is easy to see these expressions of rebellion for what they were, namely transient fads that ultimately extinguished themselves.
Today, though, I spy something far more worrying on the horizon. Passing causes of yesteryear’s youth have been replaced by irrational theories, hostile and dysfunctional anger, suffused with overwhelming self-righteousness.
For mature members of society, it feels as though the secure moorings which we once took for granted have been systematically and knowingly cut away, with scant thought about the consequences.
Blame, if it is to be apportioned, cannot easily be laid at the door of ill-educated and unquestioning youngsters. Indoctrination by adults, or ‘the long march through the institutions’, has been happening insidiously for decades. Now, though, it is out in the open, and noisily promulgated by a complicit media. Ideas that only a decade ago would have been howled down are meekly accepted and venerated.
The contentious debate about sexual identity is perhaps the most obvious illustration of this new thinking. Take Norfolk Police’s list of 37 genders and sexual identities. Who will benefit from this in any meaningful sense?
Across the UK though there are institutions large and small, charities, schools and individuals all eagerly parading their virtuousness – but do they ever stop, even for the most fleeting moment, and reflect if this will bring about anything good?
Yes, I know, it will lead to a more harmonious, compassionate society where hatred has been eliminated and everyone will be treated equally – but is that really the case? Or will this intrusive and (for many) baffling mindset, harnessed to ill-thought-through legislation, accomplish the very opposite of what was intended?
The fixation with rewriting history and tearing down statues to long-dead individuals is perplexing. By all means educate and inform students about the rights and wrongs of the past, but erasing contentious historical events and individuals is a dangerous thing to do. ‘Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it’ is a well-known aphorism – and for good reason. Yet, far from embracing learning and exposing students to controversial thoughts and ideas, we now warn them of potentially ‘upsetting’ themes.
The omnipresent spectacle of climate-change activists is one of today’s more dispiriting aspects. Whether they are gluing themselves to roads, blocking refineries or generally inconveniencing the public, they do so with a missionary zeal that channelled in another direction might be beneficial. But do they consider the outcomes if we accepted their illogical demands? No heating for homes, no petrol, no lights, no electricity, meagre food rations and no travel, for starters.
These largely middle-class eco-warriors say such discomforts are a price worth paying to ‘save the world’ and that the magical electricity, spoken of as though it is conjured up from thin air, will solve all problems.
No mention that the UK’s suicide mission to be carbon neutral will be the most economically and socially damaging pointless gesture the world has ever seen. While India, Russia and China carry on producing ‘greenhouse gases’ to secure their industries, plucky Britain will hunker down, swaddled in the warm glow of pious stupidity, whilst we watch as not only pensioners but families freeze in their own homes.
No alternative view is permitted to be expressed. Woe betide anyone who speaks up for fossil fuels and the benefits they have bestowed.
Those who call for a more balanced debate about where we are going are drowned out by shrieking pressure groups determined that they know best how civilisation should be fashioned.
It looks depressingly as though the vociferous and intolerant will get their way, which the more mature of us can see will patently not lead to Nirvana.
Change will happen, but I feel that with advancing years tomorrow’s generation will feel bitter anger that their gullibility and their wretchedly easy manipulation has given them unhappy and unfulfilling lives. The mirage of universal happiness will have long before been exposed for what it was – a hopeless illusion. They might well be revisiting the lyrics of The Who’s classic My Generation with the rueful ‘hope I die before I get old’ taking on a hitherto unforeseen significance.