An article appeared in the Guardian today, written by freelance writer Abi Wilkinson, in which she attacked the Conservative Party’s attempts to enhance their “street cred” amongst younger people. It is not often that I find myself nodding in agreement with any work printed by the bastion of liberalism itself, but in this instance I read diligently and with great interest.
Why was I so impressed with an article produced by a sworn and steadfast enemy?
The reasons are twofold: firstly and, somewhat superficially, the skill with which this piece was executed is definitely worthy of praise. Too often the Guardian gives airtime to so-called writers who lack the basic understanding of structural prose, and who present their pseudo-theories in the most disjointed fashion to the extent they invoke what can only be described as a mental “cringe”. But Wilkinson clearly has the rare ability to present her thoughts in a simultaneously detailed yet concise and legible manner, that is capable of transfixing even a hostile audience.
Secondly and much more importantly than one’s ability to inspire awe with their literary ability, is the simple fact that she has a point! Her measured but sustained assault on free-market capitalism beautifully summarised a problem with our generation – I say “our” because I believe the author and myself are of the same era, the so-called millennial.
The way in which the harmony of civil society and the environment at large are being harmed in the wake of the neo-liberal obsession with an accelerating cycle of mass production and mass consumption is plainly evident, both to the author and myself and, I believe, many of our contemporaries regardless of political affiliation.
Furthermore, the economic insecurity of our generation, the seemingly unavoidable trap of debt and instability, is a societal stain in itself. As Wilkinson rightly points out, the young of today are not likely to be attracted to a Conservative Party preaching the virtues of the free market, when that very same market has made their own lives a relative misery, whilst further entrenching economic inequality by enriching the corporate classes – it is no mere coincidence that these corporate classes are the strongest advocates (and donors) of the free-market Conservative message.
However, I take issue with Wilkinson‘s analysis of the primary causes behind a wider collective insecurity felt by civil society as a whole, which she almost alludes to in discussing the increased anxieties of young people, particularly on the issue of marriage and starting a family. She asserts that, like the generations who lived under the great cloud of the second world war, or the generation acutely aware of a fragile Cold War that could have gone nuclear at any time, so too our generation faces uncertainty on a similar scale – potential societal collapse, is her precise assessment of things.
Again, her accuracy cannot be faulted, at least upon surface level analysis. We are indeed living in precarious times, times which could wreak death and destruction on a scale never before seen in human history. But her presupposition that the driving force behind this growing potential for societal collapse is climate change is rather disaffiliated with the reality of things.
Whilst nobody can accuse this position of being out of touch in the sense that it is indeed the driving fear behind the insecurity of the millennial generation, it is based on strain of public thought infused with delusion and a misunderstanding of a situation. That is to say that her assertions are not out of touch in themselves, but rather she is acting as the mouthpiece of an out of touch generation!
It is undoubtedly axiomatic to state that unadulterated free-market capitalism is destroying the natural environment. Capitalism, if its excesses are not properly checked and controlled, will destroy more life on earth – both plant and animal – than the great asteroid which wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, its proportionate destruction rivalled only by the big bang itself.
However, it is another pivotal aspect of capitalism that is creating the tensions and specifically social insecurity felt by my generation. We are the generation, to paraphrase the declaration of Generation Identitaire, who are liable to be shown a blade when asking for a light. We are the generation who feel no greater affinity to their immediate community than they do for the plankton at the depths of the great oceans. We are the generation who have become so atomised, so ultra-individualistic, that we have lost the very sense of what it means “to be”.
Whilst regaining a sense of affinity to the natural environment would do marvellous wonders for the mental health of a generation, it’s the loss of affinity to one another that is the real tragedy of our age and, unequivocally, is the real catalyst for societal collapse that Wilkinson astutely predicts.
This has been brought about by liberal capitalism’s obsession with the individual. It has endeavoured to “free” the individual from all societal constraints, including any affiliation to group identities. Reject the church, reject the community, reject even your own family, are the cries of those who wish us to pursue this path toward supposed liberation. They assert that consumption of material objects alone is the route to happiness, with the previously held sources of collective fulfilment consigned to the dustbin of history, as “old fashioned” and benign social constructs.
When Nietzsche proclaimed the death of God, it was not in exultant jubilation. Despite his atheism, he feared what would fill the void left by faith as it evaporated from the consciousness of society. This void has been filled by materialism and consumerism, complete with radical individualism, which would have been the great philosopher’s worst fear if presented with such a hypothesis.
However, as the millennial generation, we are in effect proving ourselves wrong. We were the greatest champions of the individual; the individual’s right to reject the church, to reject the family, even to reject our natural born gender and race. Yet now we have realised, as the psychotropic prescriptions mount up, and as the blackened emptiness fills our hearts, that despite being unburdened by the wars and nuclear posturing of previous generations, we are increasingly and chronically unhappy.
This in itself is enough to create a sense of impending doom within a society. But what is further compounding this course to a disastrous crescendo is capital’s other necessity: immigration. In its quest for cheap labour, big capital has brought to our already fractured and decaying societies peoples who actively despise us. Not without foundation, many imports from the Islamic world abhor our societies as decadent and degenerated, leading them to foster a radical hatred of our “way of life” to the point that many will act violently against it.
As if a passive carelessness to one another wasn’t enough, we have entire ghettos of peoples living in our cities and towns who have an active, deep-rooted, vociferous hatred towards us burning inside them. The events in Rotherham or the terror attacks in London and Manchester are, unfortunately, just the tips of some tumultuous icebergs festering beneath the surface.
Of course, the author of the original article I’ve written this with reference to would deny that these problems exist. Yet they are problems directly caused by the very same big capital that we have a shared disdain for, and to mention environmentalism without multiculturalism – or visa versa – in the context of impending societal doom is to imagine the malleability of facts that cannot be moulded – the transparency of such a process is what offers us a genuine insight into the political motivations of the commentariat.
Yet I do have an inclination to believe that Abi Wilkinson is well intentioned in her honest evaluation of a great issue with modern society, even if the bigger picture is left to the imaginations sparked by thought provoking (almond-activating) prose. Thus we have established that there is common cause between the broadly left and the radical right of the political spectrum, whether the former, or latter for that matter, care to admit it or not.
We both recognise that society as it stands is gravely unjust and terminally sick and, as hundreds and thousands and millions more begin to awaken to the same realisation, change can no longer be too far away.