When I was a kid, I remember feeling angry a lot. My anger was fast, scattered and powerful – like those scenes in movies where the bad guy storms in and starts shelling indiscriminately. When teenaged me had the hump, everyone got it. If I had to draw a picture of my fifteen year old self today, I would draw it thusly (except with the fattest, blackest marker pen that exists):
My scribbled aura was basically bleak, existential anger that wobbled around me, fuelled by loneliness, hormones, The Velvet Underground, stolen cigarettes and cheap cider. In reality I had nothing to be angry about, but I was pissed off. So very, very pissed off.
But, and I’ve said this before, I literally couldn’t cope with being fifteen today. Fuck all that social media pressure and the inborn sense of hopelessness (unless you have parents wealthy enough to fund your education and give you a nice fat down payment on a flat). Imagine looking to the future and thinking, “Wow, it’s never going to get any better than this. The adults have truly fucked things up on a monumental scale”.
My little daughter will be eleven soon and she feels it already. She is regularly coming to me with questions about Brexit (“Will my Oba [grandma] have to go back to Japan?”, “Are we going to run out of food?”). When I was ten years old, Margaret Thatcher was PM, the miners were striking, there was rioting in Brixton and people were dying of AIDS. And I was choreographing dances to Duran Duran songs in the playground. It didn’t affect me. All that serious shit was handled by the grown-ups. And quite rightly so.
So, if today’s ten year olds are fearful of the world, then we have a serious fucking problem, people.
But we also have a serious fucking solution.
Over the last weeks and months, I have felt a very cruel sense of inner adult conflict. Watching a tiny girl with Aspergers take to one stage after another to admonish politicians and business leaders over climate change filled me with unconfined joy and utter, utter heartbreaking sadness. Seeing thousands upon thousands of children head out into the streets across Europe to protest at their governments absolute failure to act has given me a level of feels that I, even with my vast repository of words and capacity for gobshitedness, am struggling to articulate. My own perfect baby is angry – “The planet is a MESS and all adults can think about is BREXIT!” – and I am thoroughly ashamed.
There they are, thousands upon thousands of small and not-so-small members of what cynical marketers refer to as ‘Generation Z’, marching with placards because they are frightened for the future, feel helpless, don’t have a vote and have no other way to count. They realise that action in numbers is all they have in a world where adults are squabbling about how to operate a border, a man with the IQ of a Malteser is the President of the United States and thousands of people queue up for food handouts every week because of a fucking ridiculous disparity between wages and the cost of living.
They want us to listen, but we don’t. Or when we do, we pay lip service and tell them how ‘mature and brave’ they are, metaphorically patting them on the head and saying “well done!” before sending them back to the playground. Do you know what? They ARE mature and they ARE brave and they shouldn’t have to be because that’s what we’re supposed to be doing, while they get on with the serious business of being kids – learning all the words to Dua Lipa songs and building bloody enormous crazy shit on Minecraft. They should be pestering us to hotspot their phones, so they can play Pokemon Go, not assailing us with questions about when the world is going to end and whether we will starve after Brexit.
They should not have to take to the streets in their thousands because they are scared and only have one way to share that fear with the people in charge.
But what they are doing should have the politicians quaking in their fucking boots.
They are many. They are pissed off. And one day – very soon – they will have the vote.