Last night, the elders of Britain failed their children. The United Kingdom’s vote to leave the European Union is already depressing their economy and caused the resignation of Prime Minister David Cameron who, while not an especially forward-thinking politician, stands to be replaced by someone worse. Scotland is considering a second referendum for independence. I’m heading to Scotland in just over two weeks for my first ever vacation, so I may even get to see some of the slide toward a V for Vendetta style shitty future first hand.
I say the elders of Britain failed because they did. The referendum vote was easily split along lines of age. It’s easy to point fingers at youth for not voting in a system that routinely disenfranchises them, or to point out that age and experience can lead people to vote differently than youth. But if we want to trade on the wisdom and commitment of elders, then it’s necessary to acknowledge the responsibility of those elders to know better and vote in measures that will make the future better, not worse. To acknowledge that we live in the fastest century humankind has ever had, and that there may be issues that youth are more in touch with. That again and again we mortgage their futures to pay for our present, borrowing against generations that don’t exist.
At 33, I am not going to inherit the earth. I have already done so. I’m a grownup, and I have nieces and nephews and cousins and people who are small and need looking after in my life. They are going to live longer, and live faster, and they are going to inherit all of the shit that I left behind because I couldn’t be bothered to deal with it. Systemic oppression? That’s on me. Climate change? That too. Economy? Yep. The part I play in shaping the world around me shapes the world that they’re going to receive, and I have a responsibility to do everything I can to make it safer, prosperous, and more inclusive. If I want them to flourish, I need to commit to a world that gives them opportunities to flourish. I’m super bad at this, because I like chips and things, but the exit referendum gives me pause. A pencil mark in the wrong place, and we damn youths to a future they’ll have to spend time fixing instead of flourishing in.
It reminds me that when we say “All of this will be yours,” it’s not just a promise, it’s an apology.