Generation Blame

Where do we draw the line under our right to disruptive protest?


The Baby Boomer

Cosmo Landesman


 

Jamie, you have some very serious anti-Boomer issues that we need to talk about. (I feel your pain! I’m here for you!) But first, let’s take a look at your argument about disruptive protests and alleged Boomer antipathy to them.

You assume that while your generation brave Covid to get out there and protest for justice and freedom, we “smug”, affluent Baby Boomers just sit in our very nice homes – all two of them! – on our old sagging buttocks, counting our heaps of furlough cash, and moaning about the disruption and inconvenience caused by your brave efforts to save the world.

Isn’t that the sort of lazy stereotyping your generation hates when it happens to you? I think you’ll find there were people of all ages at many of the current protest movements and pre-Covid rallies. As the Guardian noted about the Extinction Rebellion protests back in 2019, “Hundreds in their 70s and some in their 90s – a seasoned 1960s generation – have been arrested all over the world in these climate-emergency demonstrations.”

Now for the bad news: I’m not against disruptive protests per se. It’s just I don’t think they’re an effective means of social change. Look back over the history of protests here and the USA and it’s clear, on balance, that demonstrations – while drawing attention to urgent social issues – do not lead to social change.

Now for the bad news: I’m not against disruptive protests per se. It’s just I don’t think they’re an effective means of social change.

If you’re going to disrupt people’s lives and livelihoods in the cause of justice and saving the planet, you have to chain yourself to their hearts and take them with you.

But that would take too long and be too tedious for you Zoomers, who want everything instantly. It’s the Amazonification of politics: you want it – justice, freedom, change – it gets delivered tomorrow.

You give the game away when you talk about protests as a way for young people to “let off steam” through having a “good rant” and carrying a banner. For you, demos are a form of self-expression, a type of therapy to express your fears and frustrations. The cause itself is irrelevant; you want to give your little, lonely, atomistic life a connection with something bigger. We all do.

So what is it that you hate about us Baby Boomers? Our “smugness” our good jobs, our nice houses, our carefree affluent lives – all the above? If I were a Millennial or a Zoomer I’d probably hate us too. We Boomers tend to think that we had the best of everything – the best music, best films, best fashions, best sex and even best protests! The truth is: we did! So, suck it up Zoomer and move on.

How’s that for smug?


The Millennial

Jamie Colvin


 

Boomers like you, Cosmo, always take credit for the social changes of the 1960s, which is funny because most of you were barely old enough to remember. Everyone influential in those protest-days was born before the war and understood uncertainty. You Boomers are a smug lot, on a one-way street towards prosperity. OK, you’ve lived through a couple of recessions, but nothing that’s stopped most of you from having a good job and a nice house, or two.

You’re also the most obsessed by your risk from Covid – eager to “self-isolate”, claim furlough, and blog about protesters breaking the rules. So, it’s no surprise you’re happy to stand by now, as the Government ushers in a police state.

We Millennials and Z-Geners are least at risk from the virus, but most at risk from its impacts. Our chances of meaningful employment diminish by the day, while the prospect of having our own home to see out the next pandemic is pretty much non-existent. Couple this to the parlous state of the environment and it all spells uncertainty. Protesting is our moral responsibility. Besides, we’re young and need to let off steam – what better way than a good rant, a healthy dose of swearing and a banner?

We’ll keep protesting until things change, be it for the environment, the safety of women, racial equality or the right to protest itself

I’m sure you’ll agree protest is a fundamental right. But few of you ever get up and join us. And that’s fine. In 30 years, we’ll be as jaded as you by the corruption of this “democracy”, so let us do the heavy lifting.

This country has a proud history of protest, from the Peasants’ Revolt to the Poll Tax riots, with the Suffragettes in between. Protesting is a Good Thing. It lets us dissent. It’s the pattern of orderly protests soured by heavy-handed police action that’s the problem.

It’s not just the Sarah Everard vigil. Extinction Rebellion has pushed the boundaries: delaying printing presses, flying a drone over Heathrow and blocking the Tube. Of course, you Boomers complain about hindering the “free press”, economic cost, and commuters delayed. No lives were risked, and such hindrances put the climate emergency on the front pages where it should be. What’s the point of protesting if police snuff it out and life carries on as normal? “Normal” is leading the world to extinction. I’m not preaching violence – just saying that without disruptive protest, the urgent change needed won’t happen.

Anyway, what did we get in return for the Sarah Everard vigil? The “anti-protest” bill (Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill), which gives police more powers to crack down. Those who mourned Everard weren’t even at a protest – the clue’s in the name.

We’ll keep protesting until things change, be it for the environment, the safety of women, racial equality or the right to protest itself. We must, to show what we believe in; we can’t always wait for elections. The old way of protesting no longer works, so we improvise with disruption.

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