There are certain times of the year which lend themselves to optimism and spring for me is one of them. The nights are light and while we may not be basking in sunshine the potential is there. Don’t get me wrong, by the time September comes around I’ll be gazing longingly towards autumn but, for now, it feels like we’ve got it all to play for.
My excitement is heightened even further by the up-coming general election, although I feel hopeful and terrified in equal measures. I genuinely believe that this could be our last chance to create a fairer society. I have no control over the future however and am preparing myself for a major disappointment.
On the whole I’m quite a positive person who likes to think well of my fellow humans but whenever there’s a general election I often feel completely alienated from what seems to be the mood of the nation. I recognise that a lot of this is down to media manipulation and the Tory bias means that there’s a focus on people whose views are at odds with my own. This time around however there seems to be a generational split like never before.
Apparently I belong to the Generation X, preceded by the Baby Boomers and in turn preceding the Millennium Generation. This is all news to me but the divide between these generations is becoming all too real. The media at the moment is giving the greatest voice to the so-called Baby Boomers, probably because this is where much of Theresa May’s support lies. If I hear one more silver haired pensioner talking about ‘girl power’ I swear I’ll put the television screen through.
The fact is the Baby Boomers like to claim that they have worked hard and deserve their long retirements and pensions and I agree with them but why can’t they afford the people coming up behind them the same opportunities. After all they are not the only people who have worked hard, young people are staring down the barrel of working until they’re 70, never being able to afford their own homes no matter how hard they work and paying off student loans well into middle-age. Let’s not forget that those of us who studied pre-1990 not only got our education for free but received maintenance grants as well.
What to do then if the Tories get the landslide win that the media is predicting? Short of emigrating or throwing myself into the nearest river I’m going to need a strategy to get me past the realisation that I’m living in a country surrounded by people that I don’t understand. I once read somewhere that the best way to achieve something is to behave as if you already have it so I’m going to have to behave as if I’m living in a society where community matters and people care about each other, even if the evidence suggests otherwise.
I believe passionately in education as the antidote to poverty and, as we edge ever closer to the return of educating only those who can afford it, I think those of us who benefitted from an education owe a debt to all young people. I’m fortunate enough to work with both children and adults who are striving to learn and hopefully realise their ambitions. Not everyone succeeds the first time around and I don’t want to be part of a system that closes the door on people after just one chance. It’s becoming harder and harder for adult learners who want to return to education because of cuts in funding and that’s where the voluntary sector comes in. If we don’t like what’s happening within education we can always volunteer our time to counteract the attacks on life-long inclusive learning.
Likewise with poverty, which is surely the most corrosive problem a society can have. Food banks have become a lifeline for record numbers of people and Sheffield can’t be the only city that seems to have returned to the levels of homelessness last seen in the 80s. We should all be ashamed of the fact that 30% of our children are now classed as living in poverty and 254,000 people were registered as homeless in England in 2016. Rather than ranting about the unfairness of it all maybe it’s time that those of us who do feel shame at the way our country is shaping up became proactive. Food banks are crying out for donations and volunteers as are homeless charities. There is a way of countering everything that we feel angry or upset about, it just requires that we put ourselves out and consider other people’s needs. This is the kind of society I want to live in, where kindness is valued more than affluence or status.
Taking my cue then from all the new beginnings that abound in spring, instead of worrying about the things I can’t control, I’m going to surround myself with people who I admire. People who value everyone regardless of their situation and understand that lending someone a helping hand benefits everyone in the long run.