There will be a lot of ink (real and digital) expended about the Battle for Millbank Tower yesterday and the limits of protest. I’m not going to join in the discussion about the specifics.
I had a dose of youth anger to deal with closer to home. My youngest daughter had come home from school fuming. When I toddled in from work Mrs RPS told me I needed to hear about the cause of this ire. So I settled down in my chair to listen.
It turned out that a teacher at school had given the class the, ‘You all need to buckle down and get good GCSEs because that’s the only way to get and keep a good job’ speech. Now my daughter took umbrage at this as did many of her friends. It turned out there are quite a few kids in this particular class who have parents who have been, are or will be made redundant.
They pointed out to the teacher that their parents are variously and often wonderfully qualified yet have all suffered the spectre of being unemployed. So getting qualifications may not be enough. And getting qualifications that cost you an arm and a leg with no guarantee of getting a job is hardly an extra inducement to learning. Apparently the teacher got cross with the class’ attitude. So lots of anger all around then.
I was absurdly proud that we have produced children who are able to exercise critical judgement to test arguments and reach their own view. Unsurprisingly all that is happening to me coupled with what is happening in their world of education is coming together to produce committed, articulate and angry young people. All deeply sceptical that anyone in public life is capable of being truthful. I feel I should probably put up a warning for canvassers ahead of next year’s elections.
I blogged before here about the variable levels of truthfulness on offer in key parts of our public life. Mrs RPS and I have obviously inculcated the importance of truthfulness into our children. We are unsurprised when a politician gives a cast iron and unequivocal guarantee that turns out to be made of an ambiguous alloy. Our children though are shocked by this shamelessness. I would dearly love them to retain that capacity to be shocked. But it’s that shock that provokes the anger.
As the evening developed I sat with both my daughters on and off. What enraged both of them most was the sight of politicians pretending to an anguish over breaking a pledge – freely entered into – they plainly do not feel. When an MP protested that circumstances had changed my oldest daughter retorted that the only thing that seemed to have changed was the chance for ‘some people’ to get a crack at cars and swanky houses. I did say she was cross. More importantly she now also has the vote.
Happily for the Big Society my children now are more likely to get involved as citizens and attempt to influence decisions. Unhappily for the Big Society architects who seem to want it to be a franchise – with central control over ingredients – rather truly local dishes I suspect my daughters will prove to be paid up members of the awkward squad.
They are not alone though. My contacts with public servants suggest to me that there is a substantial community out here simmering with rage. In my experience mild-mannered, middle-aged and middle-class folks are talking about national politicians with a level of bile and contempt that has stopped me cold.
The abuse hurled at public servants is the sown wind that feels like it is beginning to produce the whirlwind. The Secretary of State for Communities began to feel that wind for real over the weekend (see @ajrhayman’s weekend twitterfeed and LGC article(£) for details).
And this is all before any of the real cuts begin to bite. It’s worth remembering that. The cuts we have had so far are but a single note of an overture before the orchestra really gets going. I’m obviously trying to work out if I’m still playing the triangle or going for a trickier instrument.
But you can rest easy that I managed to help my children manage their anger. It was easy. I simply deflected them into arguing with each other. That always makes them feel better. Divide and rule? Now that couldn’t possibly work elsewhere as a strategy, could it?