We’re doomed, aren’t we?

I’ve sort of come to the conclusion that I am anyway. I don’t know about you. But at least the Millennials and Generation Z have got the fight still within them – see the Deloitte report here. Given it’s their future, policy-makers should be listening to them much more.

You can go to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s website here, or to any news website to see the apocalyptic headlines which feel little different to ones of recent years. Only the difference now is that we’ve seen the forests around Athens go up in flames. That was shortly after the forests around Antalya, on the south coast of Turkey do the same. And that came after the floods in Germany and Belgium. London too experienced more flash flooding as its Victorian-era sewage systems went beyond capacity, and years of huge bonuses from privatised water companies going to directors and shareholders became visible.

So when the Leader of the Opposition said Labour would deliver action, I thought it was reasonable to ask for specifics. After all, it’s not like the Labour Party and other opposition parties have not had the time to do some serious thinking over this. While I don’t expect anyone to respond in detail to my request, (why should they? I’m just a randomer off the internet!) expect to see some serious policies put forward next month when Party Conference Season begins.

For the big two parties, Labour head down to Brighton for their gathering at the end of September, while the annual protest at the Conservative Party Conference by locals and trade unionists in Manchester takes place a week later. The Liberal Democrats are holding their conference online this year, while the Green Party is having a hybrid event with the face-to-face bit being held in Birmingham.

Why I’m doomed – but the kids are not

I reminded of this article by one of the most talented people I met around the end of my civil service career a decade ago.

“Underneath all of this, of course, is the bubbling narrative of failure. I failed. I let every one down. I was supposed to be kicking ass and instead I was quietly dying, all the systems going off line, giving up, giving in, all the fight sucked out of me by cognitive absence.”

Louise Kidney, 24 Jul 2014, The Guardian.

Because in that paragraph, this is where I find myself now – after a decade of not being in full-time employment. Combined with the impact of the pandemic and the multiple lockdowns where for months at a time we could not speak to anyone outside our households for fear of spreading an airborne virus that for the first year there was no known vaccine, and still no known cure, this is where I am too: a shell of a person with all the fight sucked out of me – in my case with chronic fatigue which got noticeably worse after the second vaccine. (Covid tests so far have come out negative).

With the exception of walking to the supermarket at the end of the road or grabbing a coffee from over the road, I can manage about one trip into town or one cycle-ride per week. The one the Saturday before last, which involved an outdoor workshop with Cllr Hilary Cox Condron (Lab – Arbury, Cambridgeshire County Council) took me three days to recover. Sort of. Actually it may have taken longer than that. It depends on how much effort I put into the blogposts of that week.

Unless my GP, or specialists who I’m due to hear from in the next few weeks can come up with some kind of miracle, I fear that’s it. Exhausted. Like literally I have nothing more to give. A future without live music, without dancing, without community action… paradoxically it fills me with complete…emptiness. Like I cannot even elicit an emotional reaction. It’s an emptiness that simply stops you from doing things – whether they be things you want to do, things you’d like to do, or even stuff that harms you. It just stops you altogether.

I’ve forgotten how to dream and visualise a meaningful future

One of the reasons for that again is lockdown-related, though symptoms of chronic fatigue were kicking in a few months before hand. I simply had not been in an environment where I was working with a friendly, co-operative group of people day-in-day-out. It has been over a decade since I was in such an environment. Even more so when we had a shared purpose and a sense that what we were doing was meaningful for society – and without the threat of cuts and redundancy hanging over us.

I think one of the reasons why I got so much out of the Cambridge Hub’s Social Innovation Programme as a community sponsor (more volunteer organisations and local charities are needed for this autumn’s programme!) was because the team of students from Generation Z had certainly not forgotten – they just needed on my part someone who believed in them and guide them on a learning journey that school and university could not provide for them. Both the teams I sponsored in the last academic year proved a concept that I think local councils and local campaign groups could make use of in future years.

If my generation cannot dream and visualise not just a meaningful future, but of how to solve the very serious challenges we now face, shouldn’t we stand aside?

I remember thinking to myself over a quarter of a century ago that having secured a place at one of the top-exam-scoring sixth form colleges in the country meant that I’d spend the next couple of years working and getting to know people who would go on and achieve national if not worldwide fame in whatever their chosen path was. (Looking back through my manuscript diaries I was excruciatingly deluded on so many things – and worse still, too many of the generation above us encouraged it as a means of getting us to work harder for exams!) It was only later on that I found out how poorly our generation was taught in what was the dying days of John Major’s rotten administration of the mid-1990s. Ours was the Section 28 generation. One old school friend who I met up with a few years ago before she moved to Scotland said that everyone she’s stayed in touch with got to where they were *despite* of the institutions they went through, not because of them. Which makes Richard Beard’s article on why ex-public schoolboys ‘like him’ should not be running the country all the more striking. An even more stronger read is Adam Ramsay’s experience in Scotland.

That’s not to say I’m volunteering to run the government either. Having seen it close up from the inside, I know even if I was functioning 100% I’d make a really bad job of it because 1) I’m too indecisive, and 2) I’m too sensitive. Furthermore, to get anywhere in party politics you’ve got to have rock solid family support, a stable friendship group, and a loyal community and political following before you’re even looking at standing for election as a serious candidate. Which is why I’m still surprised when people who have since gone on to win election campaigns locally or get involved in local democracy said it was Puffles standing in 2014 that smashed the glass ceiling for them.

So it was wonderful to see so many new, younger candidates from more diverse backgrounds getting elected to our local councils in 2021

Even more so because it deprived the Conservatives of leadership of Cambridgeshire County Council for the first time in a quarter of a century. Though the votes on the Greater Cambridge Partnership busways and the controversy of all things Mill Road Bridge did take off some of that shine. And this is where one of the new councillors – Cllr Sam Davies (Ind – Queen Edith’s), says on listening and leading, local government has to do better. In particular on turning the declarations of climate emergency votes into tangible policies and actions. And it’s not just Cllr Davies who is asking the questions.

What the kids are saying – Millennials and Generation Z in 2021

You can read the report slides here.

Note the report states: “Millennials were born between January 1983 and December 1994, and Generation Z respondents were born between January 1995 and December 2003.” Which technically means nearly all of them are not kids anymore. Also, I’m a Xennial -> “Xennials are described as having had an analog childhood and a digital young adulthood.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xennials. (Note these are very Anglo-centric definitions, in the way ‘The Victorian Age’ is very Anglo-centric too. )

Given that these generations are now in the workplace (those born in December 2003 will be 18, come 2022 the next set of 18 year olds will be something like Generation Alpha. Read it on the internet – must be true! (Can someone with a Ph.D in an applicable social science point me to the most authoritative terminology to describe these post-Generation X generations? Thank you!)

“What are these young and not-so-young adults saying?”

[Generation Z and Millennials are] the people most likely to call out racism and sexism, and to shun companies and employers whose actions conflict with their personal values.”

Which explains why taking the knee by the England Squad at Euro 2020 resonated with so many people that it blasted through the political and anti-w o k e tabloid rhetoric. To the extent that the print press and even Cabinet Ministers & the Prime Minister were forced into excruciating U-turns (which they were rightfully called out on) as England reached the final.

Graphic: 60% of all respondents fear business will deprioritise combatting climate change in the aftermath of the pandemic

As we are seeing, it’s not just politicians that are being called out in protests. For the past few decades, environmentalists have been going after multinational corporations and businesses. Xennials and Millennials in Britain are what I call the Blue Peter Generation – the first generation to learn about the importance of the environment through the medium of children’s television. Read the Blue Peter Green Book if you can (you can get it for under a fiver second hand here), and compare what we knew in the late 1980s/early 1990s with what ministers are doing today.

What does the survey conclude?

See the slide on P36 – screengrabbed in the two images below

In a nutshell, 1-5:

  1. Acknowledge the disproportionate impact the pandemic has had on women
  2. Overhaul hiring and retention systems to create a more diverse workforce
  3. Examine how business can support employees in these times of uncertainty (rather than exploiting them for short-term profit)
  4. Keep the environment at the top of your priorities
  5. Prioritise & invest in mental health support – & create a culture that acknowledges and deals with stress.
The Challenge for Politicians?

To come up with policies that deal with these priorities. Because in 25 years time, millennials will be pensioners.

“Still doomed?”

Maybe not as doomed as I was over the weekend when I went through another one of those ***Woe is me!*** moments. But I remain pessimistic – even if it’s only regarding my own ability to deal with the crises that we collectively now face.

If you are interested in the longer term future of Cambridge, and on what happens at the local democracy meetings where decisions are made, feel free to:

%d bloggers like this: