Is Generation Y becoming more right wing and self-obsessed? Radio 4 broadcast a very interesting documentary tonight, Generation Right, on whether my generation is becoming more individualistic — featuring this parish’s Toby Young and Fraser Nelson. Both argued that some of our values might be perceived as right-wing but the trend isn’t that simple. Thanks to greater choice and empowerment of the individual, Generation Y is far less trusting of the state, which one could translate as a form of small-c conservatism.
The Independent’s Yasmin Alibhai-Brown is someone who believes that. She told Radio 4 my generation is selfish and spoilt:
‘…they’re a frightfully spoilt generation. They hate the fact they don’t get their student fees and everything paid for and they also hate the fact other people are getting benefits. So the only thing they want is benefit for themselves’
‘They’ve become very conservative and very selfish. If this carries on, we won’t have a welfare state and actually they may come to rue this, as they get older. We need to be talking much more across the generations’
Research from Demos suggests Generation Y doesn’t want to entirely destroy the welfare state. Instead, we want to make it work better. Nearly two thirds of Generation Y support helping the over 65s, compared to aiding those on out of work benefits.Who does Yasmin think is to blame for this trend? The Iron Lady of course:
‘Margaret Thatcher (bless her) had a project that you had to look after yourself first and then your family and rest just had to make do. That just took hold.’
And for the final insult, Alibhai-Brown lamented how uncaring Generation Y is about politics:
‘They’re so unpolitical so many young people. I was in Leeds on May Day and a May Day march was going through the centre. The entire precinct was full of young people. Did they even look in direction of their march? Too busy with their cappuccinos and nail polish. They’ve got to be more political.’
Although, I’ve personally found younger folks to be more interested in flat whites than cappuccinos, this is a perfect illustration of the divide between our generations. Yasmin is wrong to state that Generation Y isn’t political, it’s just not in the traditional forms. It’s rare to find a young person who cares about party politics or marches through town centres.
As research from Ipsos MORI suggests, young people do hold the views Yasmin argues make us selfish — spend less on welfare, reduced government spending and lower taxes. But it’s not that we don’t care about others, it’s that we don’t trust the government to solve our problems.
While the coalition (and Nick Clegg in particular) might be disliked for abandoning those without white hair, there’s no trust in Labour to provide a solution. Her generation wanted the state to help solve their problems. Mine want the government to leave us alone.
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