Sunday 31 October, 12.30pm until 1.30pm, Student Union Lunchtime Debates
As the generation who ‘never had it so good’ the Baby Boomers came to define youthful idealism, from the sexual revolution and teen rebellion to the civil rights movement and the spirit of ’68. Yet as the boomers swap sex, drugs and rock’n’roll for tea, slippers and private pensions, they face their own battle with today’s revolting youth. With Britain bracing itself for austerity and savage government cuts, nostalgia is turning to envy for the gilded lifestyle of the boomers – and how they wasted it. Having benefitted from universal free education and healthcare, they are charged with ‘bankrupting Britain’s youth’ through a combination of greedy overconsumption and stingy public expenditure, whilst increasing life expectancy and demographic size allows them to exert a stranglehold on politics.
It is time, says Conservative minister David Willetts in The Pinch, for his own generation to face up to their failures, and accept they have to bear the greatest burden of the recession. Yet while some young writers and thinkers agree that ‘it’s all their fault’ and proclaim themselves the ‘jilted generation’, others contend that ‘Generation Me’ should grow up. Instead of seeing themselves as victims of greedy grandparents, they should do what every young generation has done: stand on its own two feet, stop whinging and start thinking how to change the world. After all, ‘kids today’ take for granted a world of home ownership, university education and rising living standards; something few of the Boomers could have expected at a similar age.
Do Generation Y have a point in claiming they’ve been denied the same opportunities as previous generations, and have inherited a world of dwindling resources and debt-driven austerity? Or are we all being overly pessimistic in assuming that the dynamism of the post-war economic boom is something we’ll never have so good again? Are they acting like stroppy teenagers by playing the blame game rather than thinking boldly about how to solve future problems, or do the Boomers have to honestly face up to their failures before we can move on? Is generational consciousness the class conflict of the twenty first century?
Listen to session audio:
associate fellow, Academy of Ideas; culture writer
associate editor, Spectator; co-author, Jilted Generation: how Britain has bankrupted its youth
CEO, Clerkswell; author, The UK After The Recession
freelance investigative journalist; co-author, Jilted Generation: how Britain has bankrupted its youth; contributor, Prospect
Dr Shirley Dent
communications specialist (currently working with the British Veterinary Association media team); editor, tlfw.co.uk; author, Radical Blake
Instead of creating a new world, their actions really fostered a nation riddled with inequality, elitism and political corruption. "Jilted Generation" sets out how the next generation might succeed where this one failed.
Ed Howker & Shiv Malik, Icon Books Ltd, 2 September 2010
A survey for the National Housing Federation highlights the bleak scale of Britain's financial crisisJamie Doward, Guardian, 29 August 2010
Political short-termism has failed the young. Yet attacking the elderly and sick instead of inequality will only help OsborneMadeleine Bunting, Guardian, 22 August 2010
A recent graduate slams his peers for their constant whining about how the baby boomers ruined their lives.Craig Purshouse, spiked, 18 August 2010
The greatest crime of the boomers who benefitted from the 60s was their role in destroying the freedoms of those who did notFrancis Beckett, Guardian, 9 August 2010
The Boomers have taken the role of lackadaisical old sot, while us Generation Y-ers scurry round, trying to prop up the creaking timbers of their regime for fear that it will fall on our own heads.Harriet Walker, Independent, 30 July 2010
With a gerontocracy that locks the young out of its economy and politics, Italy may be a canary in the mine for other nationsEdoardo Campanella, Guardian, 14 July 2010
The Baby Boomers could risk rebellion. Not so, Generation Y.Laurie Penny, New Statesman Blogs, 13 July 2010
In What did the Baby Boomers ever do for us? Francis Beckett argues that the children of the 60s betrayed the gernations that came before and after, and that the true legacy of the swinging decade is ashes.Francis Beckett, Biteback, 9 July 2010
David Willets, Atlantic Books, 1 February 2010
Consuming children - Sarah Ebner
"Of all the political and cultural festivals, none beats the Battle of Ideas for its eclecticism and willingness to invite controversial and absorbing debate."
John Kampfner, Chief executive, Index on Censorship; former editor, New Statesman