On Friday 24 June, many of us woke up to a nation that we did not know. This new nation had decided to turn its back on a world that we hold dear and truly believe in. It appears as though the baby boomers wanted one last hurrah at the expense of our future. One anonymous public servant sums up how most of us feel:
“This is the last ‘f—k you’ from the baby boomers. They took the secure corporate and government jobs with the guaranteed pay rises and final salary pension schemes and benefitted from property they bought cheap and sold dear. They burnt the bridges behind them by colluding with the dismantling of the very things that had brought them prosperity. Their last act will be to burn the economy before they die.”
Not everyone from Generation X voted out, nor did all the baby boomers.
When I heard the outcome of the referendum, at first anger and dismay shot through me. I struggled to come to terms with the fact that our parent’s generations could betray us for a nationalistic sepia toned image of the past that to me clearly didn’t exist. Their generation, with one big sweep, had pushed the evidence off the table and chosen to burn the few remaining bridges that they had left for our generation.
It appears to be a grotesque sense of entitlement to stick one’s fingers up at our beliefs and then place all of our lives on one tile before spinning the roulette wheel. Yet this isn’t even the first time others have ‘f—ked our futures’. None of us caused the financial crisis, but we have to deal with the consequences of a debt-fuelled binge our parents’ generations went on. It is us who have to saddle the burden of austerity, us who have become Generation Rent because they couldn’t build enough homes and us who have to pay a higher tax burden and receive less so we can fund their overindulgences.
Yet, maybe we should stop and think before we refuse to give up our seat on public transport. Like many, I spent the weeks running up to the EU referendum campaigning for remain and I stood shoulder to shoulder with every generation. Not everyone from Generation X voted out, nor did all the baby boomers. I met so many who passionately fought alongside us for our futures, millions who share our beliefs in a Great Britain that is open to the world, who aren’t scared by immigration and believe in global cooperation. They did not buy the lies that so many did and we should not brand their whole generations as such.
Nor should we be angry with the older generations that voted to leave. I believe that the majority of people who voted for leave truly did believe it was the best thing for their children. Real wages, for so many, have more or less stagnated over the last few decades. Older generations entered a world of nearly full employment and over their lifetimes unemployment has risen to unprecedented levels. To many, the British way of life was under threat, and they were told that it was migrants and the EU that was the cause of the woes that have grown over their lifetimes.
With posters of thousands of people lining up to enter the UK, leaflets that exploited concerns over Middle Eastern terrorism and a massive bus which said if we voted leave we would get to spend £350 million more a week on our NHS, who in their right mind would vote to remain? We could go back to the world they were born into, the one where Britannia ruled the world, and still have tonnes of cash to splash on the nation’s most precious institution, the NHS. Yet instead of this, on Friday, they woke up to the very same politicians who had promised this wonderland turning around and declaring that actually they had not promised any of this.
Now, for a huge amount of those who voted to leave, the reality is starting to sink in.
It is clear that democracy did not triumph on 23 June. Instead the majority of the British public were lied to, and now, for a huge amount of those who voted to leave, the reality is starting to sink in. If you tuned into James O’Brien you would have heard Susan, on the verge of tears as she came to terms with the fact she had been lied to and pleaded for a second referendum. She is not the only one who feels lied to. Across the country reports have been coming in that Electoral Services have received calls from distraught members of the public asking to change their votes – even more discomforting is the fact that there were surges in searches such as ‘what is the EU?’ the day after the vote. It is also deeply troubling to me that 16-year-olds, who can join the armed forces and fight for this nation’s democratic values, were denied the right to participate in its democracy.
So I say this to you my rightfully angry friends and fellow students: your anger shouldn’t be with the generations that voted out. Instead, we should direct it at the politicians who exploited the fears of our fellow country’s men and women. We should be angry that informed democracy didn’t triumph and instead lies prevailed over experts. It is possible that we have chosen the right path but we have chosen it for all the wrong reasons, and that is why we should be outraged.