Britons are pessimistic about the future, but that doesn’t mean they will be taking to the streets anytime soon
An Ipsos Mori survey released today has found that young adults in rich, western countries are less optimistic about the future than their counterparts in developing countries. While people in Europe, Australia, North America and Japan largely felt that the younger generation were unlikely to be better off than their baby boomer predecessors, those polled in Brazil, Russia, India, Turkey and China said they believe their children’s lives will be better than their own. In Britain, only 20% of the population thinks that young people are likely to have better lives than their parents.
Is this the end of western optimism? There is no denying that things are looking terminally glum for young people in light of how the recession has affected western economies. The results of the research are perhaps unsurprising, yet they go to show that the nosedive in young people’s living conditions has not gone unnoticed.
Sky-high tuition fees and private rents, a shortage of affordable housing, low wages and benefit cuts have combined to make adult life in Britain a daunting prospect. Economic collapse and austerity measures have had a similar impact throughout Europe, not least in France which is bottom of the league table with only 7% of those polled feeling optimistic about young people’s prospects for a better life.
Of course, it’s worth considering what exactly a “better” life means. In this case it appears to be financial security and comfort. Owning a home is the goal which preoccupies my generation but which many have given up on entirely, choosing to spend their money, if they have any, on consumer goods or nights out. Then there are almost a quarter of 16- to 24-year-olds who are unemployed and will be denied housing benefit in the expectation that their parents, if they have any, will provide. Indeed, in modern Britain only the wealthy with their trust funds and house deposits courtesy of their parents have any right to feel good about the future.
Or it might be that you consider a “better” life to be one lived kindly and authentically rather than with comfortable wealth. I largely agree with this, but those who say money can’t buy happiness have probably never been poor. As a generation we have been taught that money, or perhaps more accurately our ability to buy things, is the ultimate goal. Flaunting it has become the norm – we have social media status anxiety as a result – and we have been taught to always want more.
When I was unemployed all I wanted was a job or enough cash for something posh and tasty from Sainsbury’s. When I finally got a job I wanted a better one so I could buy nice clothes and go on holiday. Then I started wanting a house, but despite the fact my boyfriend and I earn decent enough salaries this is unlikely to happen anytime soon. Do I feel thwarted? Yes. Am I angry? Most certainly. Will I be revolting? Probably not.
In response to the research Ángel Gurría, secretary-general of theOrganisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, told the Guardian: “Nothing is more politically explosive, more dangerous and more destabilising than having a whole generation of frustrated young people.” I fear he is wrong. The pessimism unearthed by Ipsos Mori is, in Britain at least, characterised by a kind of apathetic inertia; none of us are taking to the streets. Perhaps this is happening in France or Greece, where some kind of revolutionary spirit remains. In the UK we are being told that the most meaningful revolution we can create is one in which we withdraw participation and refuse to vote.
Sometimes older people, especially on the left, forget that young Britons lack any kind of political education. Yet as a demographic we are woefully ill-informed of even basic political structures, let alone things like socialism or feminism. All we have to back us up is a sad, niggly feeling that we’ve been robbed of something but we’re not quite sure what to do about it. A niggle doesn’t start a riot, but then maybe I’m just a pessimist.
WHAT THE FUCK KIND OF AD IS THIS
A REALLY EFFECTIVE ONE === SAVE THE FROGSSAVE THE GODDAMN FROGS
SAVE ALL THE FUCKING FROGS DAMMIT!
BUILD SWAMPS ON YOUR LAND NOW!
I HATE BUGS
Whoopi’s face is like "I’m glad that lil’ white girl said it cuz you know what would happen if I did…"
this is God’s way of telling you that you have too much fucking money
The number of Americans saying they have no religion has risen alongside internet usage – but there is a simple explanation…
Are 5 million Americans irreligious because they use the internet? Allen Downey, a professor of computer science in Massachusetts has beencrunching the numbers and reckons that the spread of the internet not only coincides with a great drop in American religiosity but partially caused it. He calculates that internet usage is responsible for there being 5 million more Americans without religious affiliation than there would be otherwise.
This sounds plausible, or at least familiar: it connects with two vague and widespread ideas: that religion is defeated by knowledge, and that the internet is a medium of enlightenment.
There certainly is something to explain. The number of Americans describing themselves as having “no religion” rose from 8% to 18% between 2000 and 2010. How much of this was due to the fact that the number of people using the internet regularly rose from negligible proportions to about 80% of the US population? At the beginning of that period, when internet usage was still fairly restricted, it was possible to believe that there was something intrinsically enlightening about the medium. Nowadays of course we all read the web and know it is full of tripe. If 90% of everything is rubbish, according to Sturgeon’s Law, then online, 99.99% of everything is.
The belief that the internet would make us better people was most widespread towards the end of the first dotcom boom: at exactly the time in fact when it was the certain mark of a fool to bet money that the internet would make us smarter. So the rise in American religious disaffiliation corresponded with the discovery that the internet was not a reliable source of enlightenment after all.
Nor has the rise of irreligion coincided with a rise in what you might call rationalism. The self-conscious sceptics, opponents of homeopathy and credulity of all sorts, remain an angry minority. Faith in supernatural beings, however vaguely defined, remains much higher than church attendance. In this country it has hardly fallen at all in the last 20 years.
Downey suggests that the internet might have the effects he wants through two mechanisms: “For people living in homogeneous communities, the internet provides opportunities to find information about people of other religions (and none), and to interact with them personally. Also, for people with religious doubt, the internet provides access to people in similar circumstances all over the world.”
Both of these fit squarely into the American secularist vision of atheism as a liberation from the idiocy of rural life. But they also have obvious counter-examples. Without the internet it would be much harder for clan networks to maintain their grip across continents and after immigration. In many cases the internet has made it possible for fanatics to find each other and to co-operate against the rest of us in ways unthinkable before.
There’s also the more general point that online life has shown the spontaneous development of almost all the things that make organised religion obnoxious: cults of personality, mindless conformity, furious arguments over wholly unimportant trivia. These are on display on self-consciously atheist sites quite as much as anywhere else, and why shouldn’t they be? As soon as you start using theological opinions as a badge of identity, you have stepped into the whirlpool.
But there is one blindingly obvious reason why being online might diminish religious observance and it has nothing to do with ideas. It’s simply that every hour you spend online is an hour spent not doing other things. What keeps religious affiliation alive is practice, or ritualised belief. The strongest religions are the least visible ones, because they are so tightly woven into the symbols of every day life. And someone online is almost by definition not performing collective religious acts. Mobile technology might change this, but it hasn’t yet. It is the social function of religion that weakens. Belief is an epiphenomenon. What kills American religion isn’t argument. It’s Facebook.
….when you are under the word count for an essay
Bloodlines, Betrayal, Battles, and Boobs.