Sunday, 27 November 2011

Lost generation

Nick Clegg: £1bn youth jobs fund to prevent lost generation

A generation lost in despair at youth unemployment soars

This new housing strategy won't save the 'lost generation'

I have heard more this month about being lost than I do from my SatNav. My whole generation, they would have you believe, is floundering about in the dark and nothing will save us from a life of bad privately rented houses, under-employment and a lack of moral fibre.

This is possibly true. I am, after all, a Disorientated Graduate. My very name indicates that I am, well, lost. I'm lost in a way that indicates I'm directionless through, rather than having been misplaced behind the sofa cushions of recession. The way I see it is that our generation is lost, some behind the sofa but mostly just lacking a clear direction.

It was easier in the past. A hundred years ago, the path would have been clear for me. If I was born into my class as a girl, I would have been expected to go into a local factory, or possibly service. After getting married, I would push out babies and raise them until I fell down through exhaustion or poor housing conditions.

Even fifty years ago, I might have done the same thing if I failed my 11+. Chances are I would have done; both my parents did, after all. I may have survived a little longer, and at least I would have had contraception, but that would have been it. The path would still be reasonably clear.

If I passed my 11+, there were suddenly more paths. Hurrah! Not that many, mind you; teacher training college, perhaps, or nursing. Then it was, yet again, work until the babies.

Thirty years ago, maybe even twenty, it all starts getting a little muddy. I could have gone to university and I would have had a wide choice of jobs. Maybe I could marry, maybe I didn't have to any more; I didn't have to have children. My choices were my own but as long as I worked hard then I would be free to make whatever choice I liked, because the freedom was there.

This was the narrative my generation and I grew up with. Work hard and you too can enter any industry you want, buy a house, have it all. So we worked hard. All of us Disorientated Graduates, and the Disorientated College-Leavers, we worked to the best of our abilities, believing the narrative that all paths were open to us if we just tried. We picked our path, and by god we flew at it.

We're getting lost because the paths have been closed, or become too crowded, or filled with our predecessors. We need a new narrative, a new story to aspire too because the one we grew up with just isn't working any more. I'm not sure what that story should be, but I do know that just telling us that we're lost and building some cheap houses to try and fill the aspiration gap won't help. And going back to the models of fixed places in society is even worse.

I don't think that my future is lost behind the sofa cushions of recession. It's a big sofa, and someone has flytipped it in the way of my path of life (this is becoming a stretched metaphor) but I truly believe that my path is still there and that I am going to find it again once I work my way around the current difficulties. That's all.

1 comment:

  1. We all believed the narrative, because it was how our future was sold to us - not in 'ifs' but 'whens'. Turns out to be as realistic as Disney, along with the singing companion animals. I wonder what kind of narrative we'll sell our kids?