Monday, September 13, 2004

The iGeneration ?

The Times produces yet another survey about yoof, provoking a remarkably idiotic comment by Paul Whitely of Essex University.

He 'said that the interviewees’ opposition to taking up arms for their country reflected the emergence of a new post-materialist value system, in which quality of life assumed a greater value than material goods.'

What ? Has he listened to the chat in any playground, where brand names - cars, clothes, phones, trainers, soccer boots - are obsessively compared ? Has he walked the streets of Essex towns, and noticed that the chances of having your head kicked in a given area is inversely proportional to the number of Sky dishes and £100 trainers ? Obviously not. I'm reminded of Joan Didion, in 'Slouching Towards Bethlehem', commenting on a newspaper report (the year is 1967) which says 'Hippies despise money - they call it 'bread''. This observation, she said, was proof that the wires between the generations were completely down.

I think what Whitely hasn't grasped is that for many young people the quality of your life is defined and determined by the brands in it.

The Guardian has a different report - surprise surprise, our children aren't happy bunnies. Madeleine is worried.

"Put this research into the hands of the Daily Mail and it would be ample grist for those peddling tales of Britain's moral decline: kids don't know right from wrong; they lie, they steal, they're disobedient. Or another favourite: the breakdown of the family is making our teenagers miserable, and working mums should bear the most blame as the rise in maternal employment virtually parallels the increases in emotional and behavioural problems. "

What a brilliant caricature of the Mail. Whereas as Madeleine reports, the reality is very different.

"The chances that 15-year-olds will have behavioural problems such as lying, stealing and being disobedient, have more than doubled."

See ? The Mail babble about right and wrong - but it's a behavioural problem, not a moral one.

Don't worry - I'm sure it's got nothing to do with the fact that (as the Times reports) 74% of children now have working mothers. Moral panic ! Moral panic !

I think what we're seeing here is parenting by people with no 'cultural narrative'. The kids in the 74 study were born in 59 - to parents who were themselves brought up in the old culture. By 1999 we're talking about kids born in 84 - to parents brought up in the changing 1960s and 70s. But we're only just starting to experience a generation brought up by parents with no memory of antediluvian Britain.

Just you wait until the 84 generation start having kids.

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