In October 2015 my son filled his application for University, which in UK involves writing an essay submitted to five universities of your choice through a system called UCAS. As a difference from the US, in the UK you have to decide early on what you want to study so the essay must be a convincing argument why you are interested in a particular domain. My son wanted to study Politics, Philosophy and Economics.
Before submitting his application, he asked me to have a look at his essay.
After reading, I’ve told him that I have two observations.
Firstly, I said, I don’t think that this topic that interests you is the problem of your generation. You see, one year before Trump and Brexit my son wrote:
“I have always been fascinated by the rise and fall of oppressive political systems. It spurred me to interrogate the mechanisms that keep them in power, and to dissect and contest ideology and theories more broadly.[..] I was perplexed by how a utopian philosophy could have been cannibalised to the point at which its original goals were lost.”
I told him that Europe has seen totalitarian regimes of right and left and this is definitely a thing of the past. People have learned the lesson. Instead of looking at the recent past wouldn’t he want to focus on something else? You are wrong, he said. This is the problem of my generation too. This can happen any time in any country again.
Secondly, I said, you quote here a mixture of authors: Archie Brown, Zizek, Morozov, Hayek, Zimbardo. Some, I said, are considered to be of the left while some others are hard liberals and may be considered to be of the right. Whoever will read your essay would not understand where you position yourself: left or right to the centre. Mum, ideas don’t aggregate only on the left/right axes, he said. Things are quite mixed nowadays. While I knew this, I did not imagine at the time that the mixture left/right will become such a melange and in less than two years I will see on TV the French presidential candidate saying “Je suis de droit et de gauche”
or UK economists trying to guess where the policies of Labour or Tories fit on a two axis graph.
This melange does not involve unfortunately converging towards the centre but on the opposite the extremes touching each other in an ugly Mobius strip.
Without changing a word, my son submitted his application. I am sure some of the professors who read his essay had the same observations as I did. He was accepted though at a University of his choice.
Last year in October, after Brexit and Trump and a bit more than a month as a student of PPE, we’ve met for coffee in town and I asked him: What do you think, after one month of economics, our PM and her government are ignorant in the 101 of economics, are just plain stupid or ill intentioned? None of these, he said. They are extremely greedy.
You see, my son is not a clairvoyant. Like many young people, he just does not take bullshit and he is not yet restricted in his thinking by dominant frameworks of thought. Young people call things on their name. If you are afraid to even utter what you see in our society, ask your young. They will undoubtedly spell it for you clearly.
Before voting on 8th of June, ask your kids or other people’s kids what they see and what they understand from the election campaign. Don’t even mention politicians. They will tell you.
If you are a young man or woman and you have the right to vote, please register to vote. Trust your mind. Trust what you see and don’t let anybody tell you that you don’t know enough. Your opinion matters and you probably see better than most what is going on.