Young people are sick of being pushed around
There is a story retold by historian, Robert Darnton, about a series of ritualistic murders of cats in the printers’ district of pre-revolutionary Paris that shocked and horrified its residents. It turned out that the cats were killed by the apprentices as revenge for the ill treatment, low pay and little chance of career advancement at the hands of their masters and their masters’ wives.
Now, whilst it is unlikely that the modern young will descend into such craven acts of animal cruelty en masse, the frustrations of the young in Paris in the eighteenth century are similar to those of their twenty-first century counterparts.
David Cameron has once again highlighted the proposal to cut housing benefits to the under 25s, the Coalition government’s repeated protestations that the austerity measures were designed so that the nation’s ‘children’ would not have to pay for the mistakes of the adults in the financial crisis looks increasingly weak. What their patronising attitudes disregard is the fact that we are already paying for the crisis now.
One of the justifications trotted for raising tuition fees is that it should increase competition and thus standards in UK universities. However, along with their additional fall in spending and universities cutting corners by laying off lectures, reducing contact hours and cutting less high demand courses, this excuse has fallen flat on its face. Similarly, the idea that young people will not be put off going to university fails to account for the idea that young graduates are now expected to work for free for six months or more after building up all that debt or in the case of workfare, simply to keep the meagre £56.25 a week they are given in benefits seemingly in order to help Tesco keep their wage cost down.
Now that Cameron is proposing building on SAR, the Shared Accommodation Rate, which was introduced in 1996 and restricts childless under 35s to only claim help with renting a room in shared accommodation, homeless charity Shelter predicts that more young people will at risk of being made homeless. In 2011, 10,000 young people were thrown onto their streets by parents that did not want them at home anymore. Without being able to claim housing benefit and unable to find a job without a permanent address, these young people would be destitute. Similarly, of those lucky enough to have loving, supportive parents with very little money, are effectively priced out of the graduate job market being too geographically undesirable and poor to work unpaid. Even those willing to work unpaid full-time during the week and doing any low paid work they can at the weekends, will find there are simply not enough hours in the day to support themselves.
Furthermore, unlike Cameron’s millionaire, tax avoiding parents, many parents cannot afford to have their adult children move in with them. Therefore if you take room and board out of a young person’s dole money, there is not a lot left to save up to break out on their own.
The government has created a Catch 22 employment situation, where you are expected to move to find employment (in this case normally the south east) and yet are not supposed to move out of the house. Anyone with half a brain would see that was unworkable and unfair.
I do not believe this is a giant conspiracy against young people or even poor people. I think that the government, and to a certain extent the establishment in general, just do not care. The under 25s are the least likely to vote in any election so our opinions do not matter.
Why participate when you get no return? Who would we vote for? Labour, who got us into this mess? Conservatives, who are making it worse? Or maybe the Liberal Democrats who sold us down the river for the keys to the kingdom? No wonder we keep occupying things. As a result we get protests like the storming of the Millbank centre in 2010 and the subsequent protests; young people are sick of being pushed around, told what to do and being expected to ‘respect’ it.
While the so called ‘adults’ are busy wrecking the economy and denouncing us as unruly mass that needs to be kept out of sight until they get a mortgage, they stopped even pretending to listen to what we say. When the criticism for this article comes (which inevitably it will), I will no doubt be seen as whiny. It is true that there are many out there that are sympathetic to young people and the gap between education and paid work that we seemed to have fallen through. But to truly understand why we are so angry you have to understand our frustration.
Why not vent your anger with disobedience and rebellion? The brutality of the printing apprentices in 18th century Paris is understandable if not excusable in the context of the way they were treated by their masters. Similarly smashing up the Millbank centre or swinging on a war memorial may not be the most sensible way to get your point across but it is indicative of the anger amongst young people today. We’re not inherently ‘feral’ as some right-wing papers would have you believe, we’re just mighty pissed off.
We will respect our elders when they respect us.Tagged in: austerity, class, cuts, david cameron, graduate, housing benefits, placement, SAR, unemployment, university, workfare, youth
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