Digby Anderson asks why the current generation of young people expect to be better off than their parents
Those intent on creating a sense of moral outrage have a new mantra. They announce, horror of horrors, that for the first time the current generation is worse off than the previous generation. The mantra varies as to whether this dreadful state has befallen us for the first time ever or just for the last half century or so. A political variant has younger people today worse off than those under the previous Socialist government. What is clearer is that this decline is modest, a few per cent of disposable income. The outrage is not about the amount. It is that any new generation should have less than their parents. Nor is this very slightly impoverished generation only among the poor or the lower orders. It is not a re-issue of the old Marxist nonsense about increasing immiseration of the proletariat under capitalism. The new unfortunate generation comes from all middle England.

Whig idea

Why then the outrage? If the decline is not discriminatory in terms of class and very modest, and happening perhaps only once — ‘for the first time; why the outrage? Because such an allegedly unprecedented event flouts what progressive persons regard as a law. The law is a child of the Whig idea of history; things get better. History starts in war, poverty and chaos and gets better especially after the Enlightenment. Unilinear progress is the rule of social and economic order. Laws and rules quickly become, for enlightened progressives, rights. It is the right of each new generation to be better off than its parents. Rights are being denied. Fie!

Remorseless progress is only one theory of history. Once, admittedly a long time before the Enlightenment, in the Middle Ages, chaps thought the world was getting worse and likely to get even worse before its end. Others held that fortune was like a wheel. One moment we are up in the clouds, the next in the manure, and then up again, round and round. Since then, really anarchic persons have dared suggest there is no law and that prediction is impossible. It is not clear where Our Holy Mother Church stands. Early teaching accepted the possibility of miserable chaos in the future. It also looked back to golden ages, notably Eden, but also during Roman times after Constantine. I cannot find anything in traditional teaching that upholds one generation’s right to be better off than its parents.

Secular progressivism

But the modern church is almost totally infected by secular progressivism and Vatican II’s understanding of the ‘modern world’ is rotten with it so modern clergymen are bound to defend our poorer, if only 5% poorer, young people. They are suckers for any supposed needs of youth anyway, their obsession with it yet another symptom of their secular infection. However, for the few who hold on to the older ideas there is nothing shocking about young persons’ trivial immiseration.

Why the outrage? Suppose, young people have to restrict themselves to only six pizzas a week, wait another three months to save for their house deposits, scale down the diameter of their tattoos, delay the purchase of a new pad or app, watch one fewer episode of pornography on a TV screen two inches narrower than their friends; reduce the length of a holiday, guzzle marginally fewer pink drinks, miss a visit to the hairdresser’s or put up with exhaust pipes emitting 5% fewer decibels than they would wish to inflict on the world, who cares?

Getting even worse?

There is, however, one point of interest, the prospect that this totally outrageous reversal of fortune is not just ‘for the first time’ but that things are set to get even worse. This might also go for matters non-economic and affect persons other than the young. An instance: the church has been told congregations have declined by 50% over a half century. It wonders what it can do to increase numbers. But why expect numbers to stay constant or increase? What if the next 50 years sees a greater decline? What would that do to jobs of bishops, the balances of budgets or the status of positions women clergy have struggled so hard to obtain? It is surely time the church, politicians and even young people opened their minds to the possibility of doom ahead. They must start thinking more negatively.