Andy Walton looks at whether there is a "Religious Right" emerging in Britain
The Age of Insecurity
24th May 2012
I turn forty this year. I grew up during the Second Cold War. My childhood was dominated by the threat of the ‘Evil Empire’ and songs warning of a nuclear winter.
But the threats which we faced were external to British society. Growing up in the south rather than the north of England, it never occurred to me that I wouldn’t be able to afford to go to University, to find a good job on graduation, or be able to afford to get married or buy a house. I was able to look forward to a life of work, domestic security and then to retirement on a comfortable pension (probably at a level related to my final salary).
The prospects for the next generation look bleak. Those things that I took for granted, which I assumed the government and society would be able to guarantee, not only appear precarious but in many cases out of reach for those who are currently aged 18-30.
University is now expensive, with fees of up to £9,000 a year. On graduation there may be no job available or one that does not require a degree in the first place. In an over-reaction following the excesses before the credit crunch, banks now expect young people to save up a vertiginous proportion of the over-inflated price of a house before granting them a loan. As well as paying off their student loan, feeding and clothing themselves, and saving up for a deposit, young people today are faced with a further challenge: that of making provision for their own pension.
There is a real issue of generational justice here. I grew up under the threat of a nuclear war, but the challenges that the next generation face are not potential but actual. The economic demands being placed on them appear to be impossible to meet. The possibility of establishing a stable and financially viable family seems to be out of reach for many years to come.
Little wonder then that young people today appear overwhelmed by the burdens being placed upon them. Ostrich-like, they live for today, in an attempt to blot out the prospect of tomorrow. Unable to establish their own stable families, they either try to substitute for them by having children in their teens or by working their way through a series of medium-term relationships during their twenties. Among young men, there is often a “failure to launch”.
But before rushing to condemn our twenty-somethings, we need to understand that their reversion to childhood (so-called “kidulthood”) is a response to the age of insecurity in which they live. A society that places near impossible demands on its young people, can hardly be surprised if they seek to postpone their full involvement in it for as long as they can.
David McIlroy is Visiting Senior Lecturer in Banking Law at SOAS and a visiting Theos blogger.