I’ve written many debates on the EU referendum, the pros and cons of trade agreements, what EU has done for us etc but one thing that’s really struck me in the past couple of months is the clear divide between the younger and older generation.
Whilst I got on the 5a bus yesterday I was greeted by 10 international students at the back of the bus, this meant nothing to me. Students, just like myself. I looked around the bus and I saw a old woman staring at them, she snorted to herself then turned to an elderly man and said “why are they screaming?” in annoyance. I was confused, they weren’t screaming, they were talking another language. I studied the older woman further, she was the woman that went weekly to get her hair blow-dried, in her 80’s, red lipstick, scarf wrapped around herself although we’re in the hot June months and her left hand rested on her fabric trolley filled with her weeks worth of shopping. In my head my initial reaction was “She’s voting leave next week.” I didn’t want to judge but how could I not? If there’s one thing I’ve learnt from the EU referendum it’s that a majority of the older generation are, in fact, a little bit racist. I’m not saying it’s there fault, it’s a generational issue.
Myself, at twenty one years old, have been brought into a fast changing world where diversity happened so quickly that I simply grew into it naturally. A multi-cultural society to me is a dream, not a nightmare. But what about the older generation?
This generation wasn’t brought up with the Internet, or the over crowding and ever deeming populating streets of London. They were brought up on rations, ironing the men’s uniform whilst singing British war songs such as “Kiss me goodnight, sergeant major” and “Pack up your troubles in your old kit bag” to boost their morale. They were born into a British society. Whilst the younger generation have merely adapted to ever growing changes- the older generation have struggled.
If you talk to your grandparents about the EU referendum you’ll probably get a snort and a bitter line of “Out! We want our country back!” We turn to our siblings and roll our eyes in an action of annoyance, because to us, that line may seem illiberal or anti-Semitic but what if, to them, it’s just nostalgia? We are quick to shut down the older generation when they repeat the sour words of “Give me my country back! I want my country back!” Because to us being wholly “British” seems like another lifetime ago, we question the statement with – “Back from what? Back from where?”
The subject of wanting the country back is a constant mantra of all those who are for leaving the EU- It’s Farage’s brand identity. We know what they mean, they mean back from Johnny Foreigner, back to the country lanes, back to the church, back to picnics on the grass sipping on ginger beer, back to the sweet taste of Victoria sponge made by mother. Back to croquet in the garden with the siblings, back to long high-waisted grey shorts with white socks up to the knees. Back to sucking on bits of toffee whilst going on a jolly holiday to Cornwall. Back to a yard and not a meter, back to a time where nothing was broken or wasted, but simply mended. Back to a time of no television, a sparse amount of media and much propaganda and back to time where England sat in silence, patronising foreigners with their pity.
That’s where I find the issue and reasoning of the older generation, they’re nostalgic. They envision old England – that everything was better back then. There was no over population or crime- everything was idyllic. No buildings will be as lovely as Georgian houses, no art will be as memorable as a Turner and no poem as admirable as Dickens or Shakespeare. There will be no better politician as Churchill, no plants will grow as wonderful as the plants grew in the summers of 1940, there will be no better image of the rolling hills devoured in a smooth emerald carpet.
The dream of the Brexit is often clashed with each generation. The younger want a new, brighter and more energetic tomorrow. There is no yesterday for the younger generation- they don’t walk back but simply move forward. The older want the magnificence of yesteryear, the best they can hope for is to boot all the foreigners “back from where they came from” and become the cleaners, the caretakers, the shop workers to our own past in this self-congratulatory island of moaning and pomposity.
That’s the reason for the generational divide of opinion on the EU referendum -that most people who want to leave are old and most that want to stay are young. The young aren’t infected with this nostalgia, in fact most of the things mentioned above they probably don’t even recognise. The young have grown up, hand in hand with the EU.
The younger generation have grown up with Tinder, Apple, the ever loving and acceptance of gay marriage, transgender, neutral gender toilets, the option of cheap or expensive food, recycling, and cosmetic surgery. I mean it’s just preposterous isn’t it?! What happened to Saturday morning jollies by the lakes? Tennis and lemonade in the summer? Knowing both of your next-door neighbours and everyone on your street? And don’t get me started on the foreign call centres for life insurance or the many assortment of take-aways available. What’s wrong with English food?
You see, I’ve noticed that many EU arguments for and against have been bombarded with the trade agreements, the total amount for membership in the EU. But the EU referendum shouldn’t all be about the numbers, the constant analysing of reliability of sources. In fact, to put it blunt, exiting the EU is like divorcing your husband but still meeting up for a quick shag every so often to satisfy “those” needs. We’ll be breaking up from the EU but we’ll still need them. We’ll need a lot of things from them that we can’t quite provide ourselves. So what’s the plan? Are we going to wade into Brussels give them “the look” a cheeky English grin, wave our flag about for a bit and say “Orate, fancy a bit of this?”
But then you remember, this is a divorce, not just business. Divorces are often tricky, a long process and nobody really gets what they want do they? Like all divorces, they will drain us, make us feel insecure and will lead to a great deal of brutal behaviour.
You won’t wake up on the 24th June and think,oh my god it’s a miracle, my cancer is magically cured! My boobs I wanted bigger suddenly grew two cup sizes over night! And my wonky nose I hate? That straightened itself out whilst I slept! If we vote out, it’s not going to change over night.. your back thoughts on immigration? That’s always going to be a back thought, even if you vote out immigration never will. Immigration isn’t a problem, it’s the future.
I look in the mirror at myself; I take a good hard look. My rosy cheeks, my pale glow from the coldness outside.. yeah, I’m definitely “British”. Except I’m not, I don’t consider myself British. I wasn’t born British, I was born European. I’m part of the European culture, the hours spent in the Louvre in Paris, the knowledge I gained in Berlin of their history, the lump in my throat I gained at the Anne Frank museum in Amsterdam. I can walk into any place around Europe and understand their images and history. These are my people. There’s a reason why the Asia is filled with fake Italian handbags and the Italians aren’t making fake Asian ones. The European culture is one of the most profound, inventive, powerful and beautiful societies to be in and it belongs to us.
Culture works and grows through the constant deform and weft of creators, producers, consumers, intellectuals and instinctive lovers. You can’t dictate or legislate for it, you can just make a place that encourages it and you can truncate it. You can make it harder and more grudging, you can put up barriers and you can build walls, but why on earth would you? This collective culture, this golden civilisation grown on this continent over thousands of years, has made everything we have and everything we are, why would you not want to be part of it?
I understand that if we leave we don’t have to hand back our library ticket for European civilisation, but why would we even think about it? In fact, the only ones who would are those old, philistine scared gits. Look at them, too frightened to join in.