Generation Y. Snowflakes. Millennials. Call them what you want. Our generation is quickly becoming the largest focus of debate and analysis in contemporary discussion since the Free Love generation of the 60s. Self-oriented, selfie-obsessed, and self-conscious, earning us the label Generation Me. Accusations of puritanism, hypersensitivity, and even militantism have been levelled at our generation by those born before us. This represents the frightening political chasm which threatens to tear society apart at the seam.
Matt Ridley, journalist and arch-Conservative, wrote an article in The Times, in which he compared censorious millennials to pre-enlightenment puritans. Gone are the days, he alleges, when a ‘meat-eating, heterosexual…who thinks communism was evil, and that gender is partly biological’ is allowed to have his opinion heard and commended in public. The sound of a tiny violin playing is drowned out only by the massive irony of his ownership of a column in one of the UK’s biggest papers, or perhaps his seat in the House of Lords. But let’s get back to the content. His suggestion is that millennials, through their passionate defense of feminism, LGBTQIAP+ rights, and the BME community, among others, are reminiscent of strict Victorian schoolmistresses. Free speech has been replaced by censorship. Opinion has been replaced by offence. Or worse still, the sexy girls at the Darts have been replaced by, wait for it, actual darts players.
Ridley suggests the red-blooded chauvinist generation has been marginalised and that is significant. It is significant when considering the age demographic outcomes in the 2016 EU referendum and the 2017 UK general election. The people in power, and those who make the decisions, are still very much the people of yesterday. Not the youth of tomorrow. The former very much continues to set the agenda for the debate. Case and point is the treatment of Momentum, the socialist pressure group whom Jeremy Corbyn has much to thank for his electoral improvement (can’t say ‘success’ yet). The group has been framed as everything from a group of aggressive lefties to Lenin’s political vanguard. Mainstream politicians, who have done little to entice the youth vote, don’t commend the ground swell of grassroots pressure in the left-leaning youth – they fear it.
What is more frightening, however, is that progress, and the defense of marginalised groups, is often framed as censorship. That progress, in attempting to empower the voices of those who haven’t had the opportunity to speak until now, is holding the tongues of the elite few who have never had their tongues held before.
So let’s come back to the word ‘millennial’. At face value, the word means those born at the turn of the millennium. Yet the bitterness with which it is uttered is alarming, and symbolic of the distance we have to come until modern progressive ideals can become the norm. It’s not about censorship or sensitivity. It’s about gentle progress, empowerment, and reclaiming the agenda. Now don’t get me started on ‘snowflake’.
Simon Lovick is an aspiring journalist, activist, and politics graduate in London. To read more, go to www.handfulofsaltblog.wordpress.com