Something different for this most historic of days:
The true measure of a nation’s standing is how well it attends to its children – their health and safety, their material security, their education and socialization, and their sense of being loved, valued, and included in the families and societies into which they are born.
UNICEF – Child Poverty in Perspective: An Overview of Child Well-Being in Rich Countries.
Last year the United Nation’s Children’s Fund released their report on child well-being in industrialised nations (pdf). For the UK and US it was quite a sobering read: the countries were ranked last and second to last respectively, and both found themselves in the bottom third of the rankings for five of the six dimensions reviewed. Neal Lawson of Compass—New Labour’s think-tank—said:
The reason our children’s lives are the worst among economically advanced countries is because we are a poor version of the USA, so the USA comes second from bottom and we follow behind. The age of neo-liberalism […] cannot stem the tide of the social recession capitalism creates.
The best commentary on this report I’ve read was by Maria Hampton in the unashamedly anti-consumerist Adbusters. Looking past the sensationalism and the blatant opposition to economic materialism, Generation F*cked: How Britain is Eating its Young is actually a very solid article on the state of our countries and the future of the generation now entering the workforce with earnest.
The first stirrings of major intergenerational conflict are already being noted. The basic rights of the recent past – a safe job, free education and healthcare, secure homes to raise a family, a modest but comfortable old age – have slipped quietly away, all to be replaced by a myriad of vapid lifestyle choices and glittery consumer trinkets. Excluded from a national social housing scheme sold off by their parents, unwilling to give birth in the UK’s draconian new system of rental accommodation, [and] unable to afford homes of their own in 85 percent of the country, today’s iPod generation is stunted: trapped halfway between childhood and adulthood. It now takes them until 34, on average, before they can afford a house, let alone have a family of their own. Little surprise that they are such woeful models of grown-up responsibility for their younger siblings to emulate. Mom and Dad aren’t much better. By blowing their children’s inheritance on 80 percent of the UK’s luxury good purchases […] Britain’s baby-boomers seem hell bent on ensuring that, even without the coming resource shortages, […] their offspring will be the first generation in living memory to have a lowered standard of living.
As Richard Esguerra fears, this article lays out a blueprint that our countries seem to be drawing for Generation Y: a narrowing of our cultural experiences coupled with the by-products of ‘neocapitalism’, such as “overpowering consumerism, [the] decline of public value (like public spaces or the public domain)”, and the status of worker-consumers overtaking that of ‘full-time’ parents.
Maybe, nay, hopefully this “new dawn of American leadership” is the catalyst the developed world will need to reverse these changes: financial and social. We can but hope.
Note: Déjà vu? The majority of this is a reworked version of a post that originally appeared on LloydMorgan.co.uk last year.