I wasn’t always right-wing. My parents and grandparents voted Tory but as an idealistic teenager I found some of their views a little tough. My paternal grandfather in particular struck me at times to be lacking sympathy for those less fortunate. As a first year Sociology student studying the welfare reforms ignited by the chocolate factory owners I found theory to explain my feelings that perhaps we were other than the result of the effort we put in. I also found a vocabulary for my fear that my academic achievement was more about my intelligent and articulate family that bought me books and took me to museums than it was my own efforts. These ‘demons’ as they were brought into my life someone who clung to the notion that our successes and failures could be explained by external factors and for a while I bought into that persons politics.
Yet whilst the idea that poor circumstances might not be our responsibility had its appeal, it never rang true. I was a capitalist and I simply didn’t believe it to be the case. My heart said that we were each masters of our own destiny and that my potential success lay in my hands alone. It was out there waiting to be seized but it absolutely was not waiting for me; it was merely there for whoever cared to do the seizing. I increasingly struggled to understand those that seemed to have an innate sense of entitlement.
At the weekend I read an article in the Observer* Magazine entitled The Lost Generation. In it Andrew Hankinson (29, unemployed) argues that ‘Baby boomers took all the good jobs, the free education and the cheap housing, and left their kids with nothing but the credit crunch and the bill for their pensions’ and that was just the front cover! It was in a word, shocking. Hankinson believes the world owes him a living. Actually no, he believes the world owes him a living doing something that he finds interesting and for good money.
Hankinson’s problem is that he wholly underestimates the value of the jobs he dismisses. I currently do a job I love in an industry I hope to make my own but just a few weeks ago I was a retail monkey on my feet all day doing work that didn’t particularly stimulate me and which paid the most nominal of amounts over minimum wage. In the interview for my current role I was asked about a time I’d been part of a team. Not only did I say that the environment at Jessops had required us to stick together (official line is that Jessops is now safe but we seemed to get an endless tirade of customers asking whether we were going under) but that it had been one of the friendliest environments I’d ever worked in. I basically said I had fun in retail and they hired me. I’m resilient, I’m positive, oh and I’m also enough of an adult that I recognise that it is down to me to pay the bills. Someone willing to do a job, any job, to fund their path to their future (in my case, while I wrote up my PhD) is a more attractive candidate than someone unwilling to sully their CV with something ‘menial’ or ‘beneath them’.
Hankinson wants to write. That’s what I want to do as well actually. I’d like to do research and write about that. Take photographs, cook and travel and write about those things as well. What I did was I find a job that pays me to write press releases among other things and I feel grateful for that. I go to a creative writing class once a fortnight and I write this column into the night after a day at work. I’m a writer. I may not have complete autonomy over what I write and I may not make much money but I’m doing it, living it and I’m not complaining about it (except to the boyfriend, Patron Saint of Ginger Mentalists).
Life isn’t black and white. Sometimes the writer, painter, photographer needs another job while they realise their dream. Not everyone is cut out for their dream job (I can’t see Kathryn Flett calling any time soon to suggest that a column charting Random Market Town replaces hers charting Random on Sea) as a full time career. It’s a bit sad but that is the way of things. Hankinson falls into the trap of imagining a golden time of the previous generation but acknowledges that his father once delivered Thompson Directories. I’d say that any time is as golden as you make it and the fact that we’re in a recession is simply the challenge we face today.
I don’t write this from the cushioned position of a permanent job. I’m a week into a three month internship (I’m lucky that there is a stipend). So I am job seeking. But unlike Hankinson, I’m not angry at the lack of jobs out there. I’m too busy writing the column which has pushed my day’s work into the tenth hour. Hankinson’s message is childish and petulant and that is why I know I am right wing.
* I like a little aggro on a Sunday afternoon. Reading the Times is relaxing and unobtrusive; the Observer gets me really worked up.