Millennials take the wheel: politics for the GIF generation
The term ‘millennial’ is bandied around on a daily basis, having started with the media, before finding its way into our vocabulary. Synonymous with twenty-somethings, millennials are the cohort who grew up on the cusp of the digital era but who were privy to a life of landline and broadband dial ups, aerial TV and Sega mega drives. Crash Bandicoot was always a personal favourite of mine.
We were born post revolution, but still amongst bigotry and engendered classism. Public school boys still go on to lead our nation, unaware of what life is like for the majority of the population. Democracy is a work in progress, and the political process has led to more than enough strides in the wrong direction. The result of all of this chaos is an unstable future. The recent hung parliament suggests a divided society is at large, however it is worth noting that there was a surge in young voters, with an increase of over a million, registering to vote since the election was called. (via gov.uk)
The perpetuated rhetoric that millennials are rootless may or may not be true, but the reason that many of us are, can arguably be attributed to a few key discrepancies for which we were given no choice. Governmental decisions to lay to ruin much of our future. This may seem like an exaggerated hyperbole, but the devastating effects of an increasing cost of living coupled with the crippling burden of student debt are not yet even fully realised as many of us are still attempting to find even footing. We are told to pursue our education and we will secure a better future for ourselves. We are convinced that getting student loans is a necessary evil and to forget about the future implications they cause. Here we are in late 2017 and according to a recent YouGov survey, one in three recent graduates felt that the cost of their University education was not worth it.
Furthermore, the Higher Education and Research Act, passed just this year sets out a bleak vision of things to come. Not only does this spell out a greater degree of debt, it also risks the added consequence of reinvigorating the classism that education should have forgot, signalling that the best educations will go to those who can afford it, as opposed to those who deserve it based on academic merit. To date this Act has been used to bolster the twisted view of Universities as businesses as opposed to academic institutions. Worryingly, the ‘Teaching Excellence Framework’ initiative from this Act, to be used as a way of ranking Universities on factors such as employability has been side-lined until 2020. Perhaps the only respite for students is that Theresa May has now pledged to freeze tuition fees, so at least the already too-high fees will not climb higher.
Whilst millennials dive into debt for their education, the cost of home-owning independence also becomes progressively insurmountable. The cost of owning a home has grown exponentially and is showing no signs of slowing down. A Halifax report detailing the record costs facing first time buyers includes the record breaking figure of £207,693, for the average house price for first-time-buyers. This backdrop of disproportionate figures serves to create a daunting depiction of what may lie ahead for many of us. Bearing in mind these factors, which exude a collective feeling of uncertainty, it becomes increasingly understandable why millennials and so many young people are tentative as we gaze into our murky future.
All things considered, the trend of young people’s growing interest in politics seems like the appropriate, intuitive way to seek change. With so many decisions made on our behalf, it is vital that we make a conscious effort to be involved in order to salvage what we can of our future. We have encountered some of the most damaging and destructive political decisions in recent years and as a society we have been asked to make such weighty decisions as our snap election, the Scottish Referendum and of course, Brexit.
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What emerged from this chaos was the somewhat unlikely heroic figure for young people, recognising and validating their dissatisfaction. It was the one and only Jeremy Corbyn. Once, the predominant recipient of public ridicule, he has enjoyed and unparalleled swell in popularity as much of the heat previously faced by him, is now being ousted in Theresa May’s direction. The advent of social media is being utilized to make memes of election blunders and triumphs alike and it is to this, that both leaders have fallen victim. From May’s infamous ‘field of wheat’ comment, which led to comedian John Oliver branding her as ‘Thatcher in the Rye’, to Corbyn’s painful high-five ‘fail’ following the election results. They are both politicians in the age of memes, and they both suffer the consequences.
Social media, along with widespread access to information, has been crucial in young people’s interest in politics gaining such traction. This can be seen in particular, in the manner in which pivotal moments have a tendency to ‘go viral.’ This means that the traditional satirical late-night TV rants have undergone a metamorphosis. The same spirit is being utilized by young people as they initiate the questioning of the political process, as well as politicians themselves. Songs were released post hung parliament, chanting for Corbyn at Glastonbury was widely reported and of course a sea of GIFs steadily made their way through social media posts regarding the latest fiascos. This is not only proof that many more young people are taking an interest in politics, and using their own means and preferred forms of communication to express it, but that they are a pivotal driving force, who must wrestle to take control of the conversational wheel.