Friday, February 10, 2017
For The Citizens of the Future
There are other ways of describing them. An inexact 'millennial', approximating the year they were born in; a condescending 'young'; a technologically determined 'Digital Native'; or some other consumer label such as 'Gen Y'.
But we did not try to invent a political identity for them. Partly because we don't want them involved in politics. We want them to be career-focused. If they want to disrupt anything, let them be entrepreneurs. The lessons learnt in 1968 was that they should be kept out of politics and we are following that playbook.
As a result of keeping younger people out of politics, we see the emergence of a new politics of the past. The proto-imperialists in Britain, who believes that they can walk out of European Union and gain their glory back in India or Nigeria, are channelling the angers of the past to shape politics. A cynical billionaire, borrowing from Adolf Hitler's phrasebook, is taking America back to a past that never was, bringing out the Alabama bigots out of the closet. All this is possible because the young feel that iPhones are cooler than immigrants to talk about and wonder why Coretta Scott King may be a bigger deal than Ivanka Trump.
In politics of today, we speak of contests of other kinds: Of religions, of nations, of classes. All politics today is therefore contests of ideas of the past. It does nowhere speak about the contests between the generations, though its generational impact has been the maximum. This impact, I shall claim, has made the politics of the previous kind quite irrelevant: British Labour Party or the Conservatives are great examples (as are Republicans and the Democrats), which are looking to stick to politics as usual and falling on the wrong side of the politics of the generations, wholesale.
This may now mean we would see a new politics of generations, and emergence of a new political identity, Citizens of the Future. This has to be about the young, who have just entered the political process and will be entering soon. This is about a new political consciousness - over and above the test scores, technology brands and career prospects - that would seek to redefine the rules of the game. Rise of the French politician, Emmanuel Macron, with courage of optimism and a cosmopolitan commitment, may be one case in point. He may indeed burn out - or become the usual reed-in-the-wind politician - but one would hope that he is not an exception but a pointer to shape of things to come: A politics that is wholly committed to the ideas of the future!
I write this, admittedly, at a moment of despair. At this very moment, the politics of the left has collapsed in the morass of pointlessness: Watching the Labour politicians voting for an unqualified bill to give the most right-wing Government in Britain the most extensive powers to shape this country's future without constraint or scrutiny was, for me anyway, a new low. The caricature of an Administration in the White House, where the first family is engaging in a breathless race to make money out of their new-found fame, is in fact less depressing than discovering that how pointless the politics of opposition has actually become. And, in this despair, my only hope that this new politics of 'Unite for the Future' become at least as potent as the so-called 'Nationalist International' of Trump, May, Putin, Erdoğan, Modi, Le Pen and the rest.
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How To Live
"Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the grey twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat."
- Theodore Roosevelt
- Theodore Roosevelt
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
- T S Eliot
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