“Woke generation know nothing about the world – their ignorance is dangerous and fuelled by TikTok and Instagram lies,” screams Sun columnist Douglas Murray. In the Telegraph, Eric Kauffman declares, “A clear majority of British schoolchildren are being indoctrinated with cultural socialist ideas.” Conservative MP David Davies claims that he would “much rather children be taught maths A‑Level than that there are 72 genders, thank you very much”.
When it comes to the younger generations, right-wing discourse has found a new message. When running for Tory Party leader, Rishi Sunak said he wanted to tackle “lefty woke culture”. He then appointed a ‘free speech tsar’ as part of his ‘war on woke’, with the powers to ‘protect freedom of speech from being stifling on university campuses’. In June an education minister said that there was “an insidious censorship bubbling away under the surface” at UK universities.
The implication is that the UK’s young people are being indoctrinated by sinister forces, to the bafflement and rage of older segments of the population.
It feels like everywhere younger people are being pitted against older. And it’s easy to see why the younger generations feel embattled. This government has made it compulsory to show ID in order to vote in elections – but while travel passes for older people are accepted as photo ID, young people’s travel cards don’t count. Since the turn of the millennium, house prices have gone up by 224%, while wages have only increased 94%, locking younger people out of secure homes and confining them to the insecure private rented sector.
“When it comes to the younger generations, right-wing discourse has found a new message.”
We’ve got an election on the horizon, yet another recession nipping at our heels, and the tail-end of a pandemic dragging on. Young people have been dubbed ‘Generation Covid’, having to learn through screens, spend uni locked in their halls, and graduate into soaring inflation and high rents. Meanwhile, millennials have been unable to reach those traditional markers of adulthood – buying a home and starting a family – because of the failures of how our economy has been designed.
When it comes to older generations, it’s a common refrain that they’ve had it easy – but that overlooks the very real problems older people face. The retirement age creeps ever out of reach, loneliness is an epidemic and people can no longer rely on our health and social care systems to keep them well.
From zoomers doing TikTok dances to millennials buying avocados and boomers sitting pretty in their expensive houses, there’s an abundance of stereotypes about different generations. But are they actually true? The right-wing is creating culture wars which drive a wedge between ‘sensible’ older people and ‘woke’ younger people – but are we really so divided? Does focusing on the generational divide obscure more important factors like class and race? If there’s more that unifies the different generations than divides us, how can everyone, come together to demand a new economy?
“… there’s an abundance of stereotypes about different generations. But are they actually true?
We’re very excited to present to you the sixth issue of the New Economics Zine, which attempts to dig into some of these big questions. From pregnancy to our ageing population, childcare to inheritance tax, we look at how a generational divide can be transformed into generational solidarity. Keir Milburn kicks us off with a piece setting out the growing political divide between the old and young, and how it is being weaponised by right wing politicians looking to push a culture war agenda.
Veronica Deutsch writes about how our broken childcare system impacts not just children, but also their parents and grandparents. Children’s outcomes are also affected when their mothers are forced to give birth in prison, as Janey Starling shows when she shares the words of incarcerated mothers. Milo Summers writes about how, caught in a three-way crush between high rent, insufficient maintenance loans, and inflation, hundreds of students at the University of Manchester saw no other option than to go on a rent strike.
Emma Dowling contributes our long read, which sets out the big picture of the UK’s care crisis: from childcare to elder care, generations are being played off against each other in order to strip away vital resources. But cross-generational solidarity could hold the key to a solution. Dan Goss from Demos writes about how money and property passed down through inheritances could create one of the most significant financial divides of the next decade – and how a new conversation around inheritance tax could help.
And while different generations are impacted differently by our broken economy, broad generational brush strokes can also obscure some significant divergences within generations. Hannah Frances from the Runnymede Trust explains how ‘adultification’ means young people of colour aren’t afforded the same childhood innocence as white children. And Mikey Erhardt from Disability Rights UK shares how the common narrative of the housing crisis affecting young and old differently doesn’t pan out when you consider disabled people.
Ultimately, so much that needs to change in our economy can only be solved through people of different generations coming together to demand something better. Rev Mark Coleman, who was jailed for five weeks earlier this year for sitting in the road during an Insulate Britain protest, talks about being a retiree fighting to preserve a liveable planet for future generations, and how the climate movement can bring together people of all ages. And we reprint a piece from Roman Krznaric on how future generations are disenfranchised because they have no voice when it comes to the decisions made today which will affect them in the future. Roman sets out ways that we can redesign democracy to account for this.
We hope you find this issue of the New Economics Zine thought provoking, stimulating and hopeful. Special thanks to Sofie Jenkinson, who founded the New Economics Zine, and who has now handed its custody to us.