Facebook is getting worse with all its ridiculous observations, injunctions and bons mots of supposed wisdom. Doubtless sometimes these words of (usually) leftist insight are broadcast because the poster sincerely supports the message. Sometimes, one suspects, they are put out because the poster feels that it is good for his or her image to hold leftist views. These statements pass unchallenged. Nobody exposes them for their speciousness.
For example, someone posted an alleged gem from Noam Chomsky in which the distinguished intellectual posited that student debt was, in fact, an instrument of policy so that new graduates emerge as unquestioning capitalist automatons. Chomsky’s assumption is that graduates aged around (say) 21 emerge as slaves to the money god because they have no choice, chained down as they are by debt.
The truth is very different and the evidence is clear. For starters, universities are not brimming with conservative activists. Anyone suspected of holding right-wing views at university is usually persona non grata among their peers. Most young people are on the Left. And the younger they are, let’s say from the age of 16 onwards, the more left-wing they are (hence Miliband wants to give this group the vote) their socialism probably peaking at around 21. Your average graduate is more likely to take part in an anti-capitalist demo than he is to don a suit and trot off to the city. By the time he reaches 21 − if he attended university − he has almost certainly been subjected to several years of indoctrination and browbeating at the hands of Socialist Worker activists and the like.
Essex University was case in point. I always thought the revolution would start there. Mandela was seen as a God, Thatcher as the anti-Christ and even the slightest deviation from leftists norms earned you a label as a “fascist”, especially if you resisted the temptation to throw eggs at Norman Tebbit or give money to the ANC.
By the time you reach 30, you start to shake off the socialist contagion. But by then, for some, it can already be too late. Far more dangerous than mere party allegiance (or even a decision not to vote) are the underlying attitudes that accompany this anti-capitalist mindset. The first is that hard graft, self-sufficiency, frugality and deference to one’s elders are all seen as undesirable. Work is seen as exploitative and manipulative and your employer as draining your spontaneity and individuality. The state owes you everything, not only free healthcare and schooling, but also your university tuition and indeed − by an extension of the same argument − the rest of your journey through life.
You don’t appraise your employers (if you have them) as individuals but as the enemy. Even the security guard in your local bank is doubtless seen as an enforcer of the capitalist order. If you see private enterprise as inherently evil, indeed all aspects of it, then you may even come to view ambition as pointless. You will latch onto certain public figures who promise the end of capitalism. You may sit back, go on benefits, smoke pot and drink Scrumpy Jack. You may look down on hard-working people of your own age as “sellouts” and malleable fools. Pictures of Che Guevara and Hugo Chavez and Russell Brand adorn your wall.
At some point, however − and here we will assume that out typical early 20s revolutionary is a man − he will seek to impress a female only to find she is unimpressed by his slovenly existence and intemperate pronouncements. He may start to enter the real world. By then, however, some of his best years will have gone. He will have been overtaken by his more sensible peers. All he will have to show for his existence is a flea-infested bedsit in Harlesden.
Those gullible enough to follow the dictates of anti-capitalist revolutionaries should remember that it’s usually the rich who can afford to advocate policies that they know will never be implemented. For example, Tony Benn left a cool five million in his will.
I’m not suggesting that all graduates should immediately rush off to their work place and ask “how high?” when their employer tells them to jump. But Chomsky should remember that young people are exposed to more revolutionary influences than conservative ones. And the likes of Brand look down on aspiration because they already have what they aspired to, £15 Million