This blog originated with the Sunday Times and my reading of it’s magazine a few weeks ago. I was gratified to see their cover story was about “Millenials” and their struggle to find a solid footing in the adult world. How familiar. I expected to find a sympathetic piece, at last, an article that would draw us in to perspective and out of obscurity and makes plain the various frustrations and disappointments we’ve experienced since ‘adulthood’. Why I expected this kind of treatment I really do not know considering this is The Times after all and is a Murdoch run publication and effectively right leaning, even if it veils it’s agenda cleverly. I suppose I’m not alone in having a certain amount of reverence and trust for that regal looking newspaper but of late this trust has gone past the stages of erosion and has been obliterated.
From the naive perspective of childhood it seemed to embody great infallibility. I remember my GCSE English teacher telling us we’d never get into Oxford or Cambridge if we didn’t read The Times or at least one other broadsheet once a week. What she neglected to tell us or to have the prescience to understand was that we wouldn’t get into “Oxbridge” because we were working class and went to a comprehensive school not because we didn’t spend all our money from our weekend jobs on buying those expensive newspapers.
I was one of the lucky ones because I worked in a newsagents on the weekend and I had been reading the Sunday Times magazine since I was thirteen years old. Yes I was thirteen and working but I assure you it was the 21st Century and I loved it even if I spent time in between serving customers by reading Sunday newspapers and articles surreptitiously behind the counter to stave off boredom. What I discovered however was a great source of fascination and a portal to other places far removed from my own in that pokey little shop. I discovered many enduring interests through my reading of those articles: my love of Daphne DuMaurier, a fascination with The Chelsea Hotel in New York, Patricia Highsmith among other things. So as a result of this I have always held a fondness and warmth for this weekend edition of the newspaper and in more recent years have been picking it up once again to engage in that same feeling of discovery I felt as my teenage self. Unfortunately, I’ve been continuously disappointed and I can’t place my finger on what has changed, yes, it could very well be me that has changed because I am now well over a decade older than I was then but the magazine has also changed, it no longer draws me in as it used to and I can’t ignore the whiff of elitism from it’s glossy pages.
In Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels there was something that particularly resonated with me when she described how as a poor girl from Naples she believed literary people, newspapers, journalists, politicians etc to be a touchstone for truth, honesty and intelligence. It would never have occurred to Lenu that any of them could possibly be trying to deceive you or could have an agenda lurking behind a well-meaning facade. I had that same perspective as well, us proles aren’t supposed to understand double-speak and verbal and written manipulation. We’re not supposed to see multiple layers of meaning behind the construction of words. We are supposed to be the manipulated. But…like most comprehensive school fodder like myself that grew up in the 90s and early 00s: here we are educated, exposed to ideas, culture, politics, debate and philosophy. We understand the world and how it works but our fathers and mothers weren’t professors or bankers or politicians…they are lorry drivers, steel workers, carers, shop workers. What a terrifying thought for a ruling elite: an educated proletariat. This is what we are. This is what us “Millenials” as you like to call us are. That should be a threatening prospect but luckily for you we’re sated with credit cards, bank loans and accumulating debt. We behave, we conform, we stick with our jobs, we don’t take risks through fear of having it all taken away from us because ‘thanks’ to credit we can live comfortably but we will always owe something to someone…usually a high street bank. The late great Tony Benn of course hits the nail on the head with this point.
So because of this, very often our power to effect change lies dormant or just slumbering. Our anger however, is always present, always surfacing. If you’re not clear on what that anger is about: it’s the anger of being cheated. As The Times so helpfully put it in their article: we’ve been sold a lie. However, even if the article sympathises with us for swallowing that lie it does not suggest that it believes we are owed what was promised to us. In fact, it urges us to ‘rethink’ what growing up means for future generations and to acclimitise ourselves to the fact that we will be living with our parents until we’re thirty five and possibly beyond. All we have to do is resign and re-educate ourselves and then everything will be just fine. Yes, it won’t be difficult at all to be a 30 year old adult living with Mam and Dad in the close confines of an ex-council house, sleeping in the bed we’ve slept in since we were 8 years old. It won’t be difficult at all, even though we crave independence and simultaneously struggle through the work place, some of us on zero hour contracts, some of us working for free in the hope it will get us to where we aspire to be in the future. It won’t be difficult to witness the destruction of the National Health Service and wonder how in hell we would be able to afford private healthcare premiums every month and face the real prospect that one day we may be forced to choose death over debt for healthcare bills unless we have the knowledge to cook crystal meth and become Heisenburgian drug lords.
I live in a country that has the fifth largest economy in the world. Why should I consider housing a luxury or even a privilege? Why should I consider a 1% pay rise per year a privilege when there are bankers out there who have earned more in two days that I’ll earn in two years?
The article ended with a flippant little quiz to judge how ‘millenial’ you are. If you had mainly C’s or whatever ie you don’t register to vote, you don’t want to settle down with a family you just want to sleep around, you stream your music instead of using CD’s then you are most likely a Millenial… LMFAO.
The audacity of The Times and all their ilk to suggest what they do is startling and I’m tired of being misrepresented and maligned. It’s important that we raise our voices a little louder to be heard and don’t allow these snide publications, these elites to disseminate their derogatory view of us.