Sunday, June 26, 2016

They'll be alright

Art Kane’s photo for the 1979 album by The Who ‘The Kids Are Alright’ came to mind as I listened to BBC World Service interviews with young voters who see the Brexit decision as the theft of their future. Jack Weinberg, born as I was in 1940, is the person who coined the saying “Don't trust anyone over thirty” in November 1964, although origination of the saying has been wrongly attributed to Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, the Beatles. With our tongues often in our cheeks those of us who were not yet thirty years old during that decade recited the mantra at the drop of a hat.

I like to think that the kids will be alright, because they have the energy to find alternatives to the pseudo-democratic post-factual politics of the established elites. The kids (and the diminutive must be allowed, given the age of my daughter!) see clearly that the decision of the British voters was the caprice of an older generation, perhaps less well-educated, more easily manipulated and in the thrall of a nostalgia for a past which never really existed. Those over sixty-five will on average only have to live with the consequences for an average of sixteen years. Those in the eighteen to twenty-four age category will have to live with decision for an average of sixty-nine years. The promise is of a future the younger don’t want. Their demand is for a perspective offering hope; a fight against societal and economic inequality, bold initiatives to combat global climate catastrophe, a modern and liberal agenda.

These aspirations are not uniquely those of young Britons. Across the Atlantic at the beginning of the twenty-first century the hipster subculture, easily lampooned for its superficial attributes, found its voice. Today, as the Los Angeles Times notes, radical liberalism has in the context of the current presidential campaign a surprising advocate.

“Bernie Sanders has been an unlikely recipient of the affections of the young. They have treated the rumpled veteran politician with a head of unruly white hair as the epitome of hip. But politics are more than skin-deep, and his liberal political views dovetail nicely with the desires of younger voters. Voters younger than thirty in California were almost twice as likely as those sixty-five and older to reside on the left end of the political spectrum. Two in five California voters younger than thirty described themselves as liberal.” 

Their quest for new lifestyle solutions does not lack energy or idealism, starting with assumptions about how to deal with the challenges of finding affordable LebensraumAs Shareable’s Jessica Reeder put it, “Living alone may allow us to focus on our own goals without distraction, but it robs us of the type of communication that only happens when people are relaxed and at home together. Co-living hacks this trend, infusing the blurring boundaries of work and leisure with new opportunities for inspiration, learning, and social innovation. Here, 'home' is reinvented with a new purpose. It’s a community, an ethos, a series of opportunities for collaboration.”

Co-operative living is one kind of alternative lifestyle. It represents an option different in significant ways from the traditional model of independent living in which single individuals or couples live alone, each in a fully self-contained dwelling unit. One of the primary motives prompting like-minded people to explore the co-op living alternative is the perceived loneliness, isolation and disconnection from others experienced in the nuclear family and by many who live alone. By creating a family of choice and sharing a residential unit individuals and couples hope to develop a home base of support and social security.

For some time I have followed the story of Katherine Patterson, who is working hard on a drastically solitary solution, the mobile opposite of co-living.

“Even if I was to spend the huge majority of my salary on rent, I knew I would likely still be in a grim living situation, resenting every penny I handed over that could have gone towards paying back my student loans. And as a software engineer, I’m one of the lucky ones! Imagine those who aren’t lucky enough to be on the tech payroll. Anyway, three weeks ago I took the equivalent of three months’ rent and bought an old red bus. It’s a 1969 VW camper van with a hole in the floor but with the help of Ikea and an army of cleaning supplies I was able to get the bus into liveable condition.

Yes, the kids will be alright.

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