So there I was yesterday, approaching the A41 near my home – a particularly busy arterial route - descending the slip road, about to join the carriageway. Keeping a steady, controllable speed (one which would permit me to either slow down or burn rubber as required), I checked my wing mirror and looked over my shoulder to confirm plenty of a gap ahead of the next approaching car, if necessitating a bit of rev, calculating the speed consistency of that vehicle. So I put my foot down and prepared to enter the dual carriageway with plenty of space to spare.
Of course, all of that is exactly what would have happened had the driver of the approaching car not decided to punch the gas too. What had been approaching at 50mph was now suddenly plummeting toward me at closer to 70mph, and by now I myself had built up a good speed.
Realizing the approaching vehicle was neither going to reduce speed or drift into the totally empty offside lane to his right, I had to slam the brakes on.
Small incidents like this happen frequently throughout the day, and probably have since the invention of cars. But, does that mean this was particularly trivial? When I thought about it, it occurred to me: that driver had to do nothing to allow me access from the slip road – literally nothing: not speed up, not slow down, not drift, not a thing - I had already myself calculated his speed and the abundance of stopping distance he would be left with once I entered in front of him. Even after he had sped up, general protocol on a dual carriageway – not a rule, as such, but a universal courtesy – is that if a vehicle wants to enter in front of you and the offside lane is empty you drift.
But, of course, this man didn’t do this because he had intentionally accelerated in order not to permit me access before him. His course of action, on seeing me descending at speed, his decision, was not to allow me courtesy, but to instead plough me into the nearest verge or tree, perhaps destroying my car and maybe even killing me and any passengers I might have had in the process – it dawned on me he would rather do this than do the nothing required to allow me into his right of way.
His “right” – that was all he saw, not the devastating damage or potential fatalities. Fortunately, my brakes are good.
As I came behind him and overtook (easily, because now of course he had resumed his steadier speed), I wanted to take a look at the man, and perhaps show him that he had made me quite cross. I wanted to take a look at the kind of person which would do such a thing. Of course, I already knew.
I knew this would be a man, white-haired, balding, slightly overweight, wearing glasses and a white shirt, aged around the 60 mark, maybe a couple of years older. I already knew this, and lo and behold, I was spot on. Furthermore, I knew the defiance innate in this generation would also be present.
This particular age group is predictable in its characteristics. Although this blog entry is not about bad drivers, this particular characteristic cannot be overlooked in this demographic. They would argue that they are good drivers – by “good” they mean within their “rights”. Unlike many, I do not believe people's personalities change when they get behind the wheel of a car – I believe driving reveals people's true personalities, without the airs and graces.
Rights. Because with this generation, that is what it is all about – right of way, right to buy, right to protest, employee rights. They virtually invented “rights” in the UK. But, as the more educated and vastly more empathetic younger generations know, rights and right are not the same thing at all. There is nothing remotely “right” about blocking a side-road in crawling back-to-back traffic so the entering car cannot go in front of you. Yet when you see that man (or woman) approaching the retirement age behind the wheel, you know, you just know, that is exactly what he/she is about to do. There is nothing “right” about aspiring to drive around in that 15 miles-per-gallon Jag, which it seems they all do, or about wanting to try foie-gras, or about closing down your employers with strikes and picket lines, or about dripping with diamonds, each with a 5 black-kid death count rating, or about investing in a property development in some of the most unspoilt and rurally beautiful parts of Europe, or about extending your property so much that the young family next door have no sun for their paddling pool a few days of the year.
Yet, all of these things are within your “rights” - and this group knows its rights passionately. It invented them.
It is their right to use as much fossil fuel, spend as much money and waste as much water as they want. It is their right to eat eggs, bacon and sausages for every meal, piling on the pounds and the cholesterol, and know that the NHS will pick up the bill – after all, this is the generation which invented morbid obesity in the UK. In fact, this is the generation which, in the 80s, invented excess generally, among other things.
Let's be honest, and this comes from somebody who has had to work and struggle financially throughout his whole life, the retiring generation have had it good – really good. They escaped the horrors of WW2 and were born just in time to enjoy the benefits of rebuilding – benefits which included the NHS, civil rights, home ownership schemes, bonuses for baby boomers; benefits which just seemed to keep coming and coming. Sure, they would argue that the late 70s/early 80s presented a gruelling recession, particularly for those in the north, but I would say (I from a better-educated generation) that the bubble simply burst, as it had to in cyclical fashion, (and we all know how that feels nowadays).
Then, after the riots, the pickets, the hanging effigies of Thatcher that this generation devised, what happened? The very target of their hatred delivered even greater benefits for them – home ownership for all, an open invitation for anybody with a job to buy local authority properties at knocked-down prices (and by knocked down we're talking up to 70%) - properties which they have since sold at full market value. A booming stock market, computer and property industry, and the creation of NHS Foundation Trusts (turning this into the UK's largest employer) – effectively, jobs for all, miniscule mortgages, and unprecedented growth in their equity. And still they hate Thatcher.
Why is that? Is this a particularly selfish generation, a particularly spoilt one, a particularly vacuous one? I would suggest yes, yes and yes. Think about it – how many of us would place our perfectly right-minded parents into a care-home whilst enjoying the benefits of their wealth along with our own, expecting the state to pick up the bill; in state-run care-homes which are synonymous with abuse and minimum-wage quality staffing. I know I wouldn't. Yet will this generation part with any of their parent's hard-earned estate to pay toward decent care for that very same person? No! No! No! Because “free care is their right!” And “inheritance is mine!”
Should we really expect any different from the generation which created football hooligans, picket lines, gang culture, riots, drug dealers, gazumping and vacuous 80s success? The generation which virtually invented the phrases: “Look after number one”, “Charity begins at home”, “Take care of the pennies and the pounds will take care of themselves”, and “Never a lender nor a borrower be”; which still calls black people “coloured”, everybody from West Asia a “Paki”, still thinks employee and employer equates to us and them, and claims of political parties: “They're all as bad as each other” – really? Even the one which gave you everything you have?
And now, how kindly and respectable they look – yet you try getting a cigarette from one of them, or indeed, a little driving courtesy.
The self-absorption of the “me” generation is further compounded by the contempt they feel towards ours. Our younger group is tarred as selfish, inconsiderate and greedy; the irony, not to mention injustice of this, is infinite. Younger generations in the UK have very, very little in comparison – I know very few younger (under 50) with any significant savings, work is very thinly spread, and home ownership is a pipe-dream for most; even having children has become a luxury which many simply cannot afford. To be called “rude” and “selfish” by a generation which has taken everything is, quite frankly, unfair. Our generation is the altruistic one, the philanthropic one; in their time capitalism bred, in ours the third sector has flourished. We have promoted and championed the huge growth in charities, the importance of aid work, ecological and environmental concerns, health issues (at home and in the third world). We have passionately fought for green alternatives, human rights and disarmament; we constantly strive to build racial, religious and cultural bridges. Let's face it – it is the younger generations which now provide the care required (physically and financially) to look after the parents of the retiring generation, while the latter enjoy their cruises, caravan holidays and affluent lifestyles.
This all brings me to my biggest issue with this group. I know many of you will read on and say “Aah – now I see why Matt's so pissed off”. But I assure you this is based on my observations of society and not personal grievance.
While we take care of their very own parents, what is our reward? Respect? No. Financial reward? Certainly not. Not even thanks for our sacrifice. It is no more than the “me” generation's right. We are advised continuously by our ageing parents that the enormous equity, property extensions and savings in their inflated estate will one day be ours – indeed, that it was always for us and the grandkids.
I have an issue with this, being that our generations are struggling NOW. Ageing parents, while you are blowing “our” inheritance on new Volvos and Land Rovers, gleaming motor homes, cruises, garden sprinklers, patio sets, car luggage boxes, Karcher fucking pressure washers and countless other crap from Dunelm Mill at inflated prices, the offspring you are apparently “doing all this for” are struggling to feed and clothe their own kids at Asda. They are in debt, renting property, in real trouble looking after everybody else, including your parents and pensions. What good is their inheritance when you die and they themselves have struggled through their entire work life? What benefit is a windfall if they receive if after they themselves have retired from a wasted life?
Don't get me wrong – I'm not trying to get my hands on your money. I come from a generation which was born with nothing, has made nothing and is used to having nothing, despite being driven by ambitions, goals and ideas bigger than a loft conversion. Dreams which we will not likely have the opportunity to fulfil, because all the money is tied up with you guys; your bubble has burst, and now even the banks won't help us out.
While we aspire to world peace, species conservation, creative progress and technology, you aspire to conversions, extensions and landscaped gardens – what a terrible waste of talent, not to mention financial resources. By the time (if ever) we receive it, our motivation and our energy will, like us, have all but expired.
I'm not asking for the inheritance – I'm just asking you to stop saying that's what it is. Stop falsely calling it ours, because as long as we struggle, and you continue to tell us how much we've got coming, the more offensive I find it. Particularly when it is clear that at the first opportunity, the first sign of a slight, you'd rather leave it all to the grandkids, because they're starting out in life. EXACTLY!
People reading this may say I am bitter, and unreasonable to generalize, so it is only fair that I remain objective and make mention of the positives the “me” generation brings to our society, the good they do.
What's wrong with generalizing? One has to generalize in order to make a point; government policies are built on generalization.
Generalizing groups and subcultures is productive, healthy, normal and vitally important in order to address serious issues, as I think I may expand upon in my next blog entry: “Why do all Jewish men wear glasses?”