“For decades, political activism has been the territory of the young; whenever it is upheld for public scrutiny in the media, the methods of the young are frequently up for inspection.” Let’s change the wording of that statement. “Political activism is often held up for public scrutiny in the mainstream media; the so-called ‘establishment’ is in need of fodder to demonise various parts of society, starting with the young.” I wonder – have I now outed myself as a rabid millennial, foaming at the mouth for social justice, just by changing up my terminology in that sentence? I’ve got no doubt that I have. (And yes, you’re playing into my hands by believing that.)
In a recent discussion video by Novara Media, an independent media organisation, the topic of Jeremy Corbyn’s suggestion to provide free school meals in all primary schools came up. A journalist on the panel, Maya Goodfellow, launched in with the typical response of the most educated yet poorly paid generation in years; the opposition to free school meals for all, in both the state and private sector, is apparently indicative of the encroaching power of the ‘establishment’ and an opposition to ‘universalism’. Her typical collegiate response in immediately pointing this out is accurate enough, and is no doubt to her credit. But is this constant linking back to the -isms of politics a good tactic, or is it making any progress at all? I guarantee you that the average person, upon hearing the news that Jeremy Corbyn plans to provide free school meals across the board for primary school children, would want to know his reasons for doing so, rather than a swift analysis of how this action is a subtle attack against the pervasive ‘establishment’.
Many of our current young, dynamic left-leaning representatives reside in this academic bubble of obscurity, uploading videos of their latest hallowed discussions to edify us mere mortals. Now, I grant that not all the digital content produced by the young left is so sharply separate from non-academic political discussion. But with so many young graduates in humanities subjects receiving a thorough grounding on the unimaginable horrors of colonialism throughout history, what else can you expect? In another episode of the same series, they admit seeing that viewing the Westminster attack in the hours after its announcement in the context of politics or religion does provide the perpetrators with more power, and often allows for no increase in public approval for either the left or the right. Therefore, I wonder at their continued desire, particularly post-Brexit, to advise that Labour launch a pro-migrant campaign for the 2017 General Election, and their insistence to approach a major political event with a vision specific to their own personal beliefs and causes, when it is abundantly clear that the rest of the country does not have the same socio-political leanings that they do.
I know I cannot speak on behalf of minorities as a whole; so I don’t. I use social media to advocate for various causes that affect me in moderation. I do not intend to presume that the average person cares little for atrocities against minority communities in our society – the 2016 Orlando attack was publicly denounced as inhumane – simply because they did not tweet the required amount of times under the specified hashtags. However, dragging minorities into the limelight in the name of intersectionality is hurting our cause more than it is helping it. Those who have been privileged enough to get a university education have no right to look down their noses from their pedestal of years of being immured in an academic bubble, safely sheltered from the realities of life, shaking their heads at those of us who dare to question their rhetoric. ‘But I’m doing a Masters in Anthropological Research Methods and Migration, Diaspora Studies and Intersectionality! You have to listen to me!’
No, we don’t, I’m afraid. Let it be known that I’m not making a critique as a fellow left-leaning student, shaking my head at the actions of those who are unfortunately within my cohort. I’m not here to discuss whether or not the liberal left’s understanding of the people/the welfare state/the economy has degenerated. Neither do I presume to police what people choose to campaign for. The average person, who either votes or chooses not to, either works or studies (or does both) and by all accounts conducts themselves as a respectable citizen should not be subjected to the scrutiny and censure of those who consider their opinion and rhetoric to be the only one worthy of following. These individuals are unfortunately the representatives of the social justice movement that sweeps our social media, and that is giving an entire generation a bad name.
But, with all this notwithstanding, this inability of the young to construe their discourse for all areas of society, not just the ones that they care about, is one of the primary factors that is affecting the outreach potential of young members of the ‘Left’. As a young person myself, I am used to consuming digital content. And I’m fully in support of all these new, digital media driven outposts that are cropping up, such as Media Diversified, Novara Media, AJ+ and Democracy Now. Nonetheless, they are in serious need of ensuring that they adapt to the demands of an entire country of voters, who are open-minded enough to seek out decision-making material online and want to see digital content that targets them – not just young people. The young are already a guaranteed audience; being constantly exposed to social media and digital content, they will never fail to catch the latest YouTube video on a topic that they care about. After all, every 22 minutes YouTube provides more content than Hollywood does in a year.
Even terms such as ‘bringing down inequality and increasing social mobility’ – what do those actually mean in the eyes of the average working class family? It makes those who have the luxury to sit down and discuss political issues seem even more isolated and separatist from the average person than ever. They want to know how universalist policies will affect their daily lives, not how well it works after being heavily analysed in a theoretical environment. If none of these proposals have been tried and tested, ‘statistically and scientifically’ means nothing before it is applied in real life. I by no means am implying that the average person is too ‘dim’ to understand terms such as ‘pluralism’ or ‘counter-hegenomy’. if you assume so, then you’ve misunderstood the entire premise of my article. I am merely stating that their time is over now; they’ve brought us here, but we must work to take ourselves further. The young should – and are – harnessing technology to disseminate information, but this must be used to appeal to the entire electorate, not just a few select age groups. If we do not do this, we will be in the same place 5 years from now, with age related political divisions in our society remaining firmly in place.
Examining human nature outside of the veneer of academia does occur, believe it or not. Many voting statistics can be explained simply, without any reference to ‘the establishment’. Perhaps another young person votes against what these young, left-leaning campaigners for social justice believe is the norm. Their local MP might have done them a favour, or written back to them over an issue they care about. If they are too young to be cynical, they may simply think he or she is a nice, decent person and they wouldn’t want to be responsible for them being kicked out of their job. Only recently I spoke to a young woman who is planning to vote Conservative in the 2017 General Election, as she wishes for her local MP to remain in office. I wonder how she may have felt regarding that same MP’s stance on voting in favour of the Human Rights Amendment, or in regards to the Marris Assisted Suicide Bill. But if no one ever asks, then how can they further understand her reasons, or convince her to change her mind for the ‘greater good’ of society?
The constant mandate of left-leaning campaigners is to ‘serve the needs of the majority, not the minority’. Now, how do you go about making the eligible voters of this country – en masse – understand your perspective and pledge to support you if your public rhetoric is entirely driven by minority concerns? To appeal to people regardless of divisions is a colossal undertaking. Many people are filled with animosity towards migration because they see it as a threat, which is understandable, even if it can be disproved in the academic sphere. If the young left wish to neglect this, and perpetuate their purely academic rhetoric to the masses, then I struggle to see how any real, rapid progress can be made as the General Election becomes more imminent.
If this continues, then I may easily say that the young left are just as sheeplike as the members of our society that they choose to deride.