The British youth have for so many years enjoyed the privilege of free education, paid for examinations, caped tuition fees, and so many other perks of a society that prided itself on the type of education it could provide could give. Today however, the reality that faces every other child across the modern world dawns at the door of any youngster planning to undertake a university education beyond 2010. It is time for the youth of today in modern Britain to wake up and accept the reality that we live in a very different world, a world where governments can no long afford the privileges of free education, free medical health and a benefits system that the youth of today have become all to accustomed to abusing to their own benefit.
I grew up in a country where my school fees were paid by my parents. My father worked every single day he could to ensure that his children were educated, and given the best possible footing for launching themselves into the pool of applicants that had to seek university grants and scholarships that enabled them to complete our education. Had it not been for the fact that we were focused from a young age to work hard and do well at school it would not have been possible for any of us to have acquired the education we had, as in the real world, nothing is for free.
For a moment I feel sorry for the youngsters of tomorrow in the UK. Yes they have been born to a world, a nation that is fast changing, a nation caught in the midst of a world monetary crisis that was caused by no fault of theirs, yet it is they who have to suffer the greed and foolishness of so many who go before them. However, this is the reality that as a nation, everyone needs to wake up and confront head on, before any tangible and meaningful progress will be made. Yes everyone has the right to protest, and I believe that the youth should be protesting, however, I also believe that at some point along the way we have to realise that time have changed, and the policies that are being rolled out today will be the beginning of a very new very difficult lifestyle.
Society in the UK has some very difficult lessons to learn. For too long the British people have buried their head in the sand and allowed governments, ministers and elected leadership run amok with the nations coffers. We have quietly accepted the status quo, hoping that by not rocking the boat we can all carry on enjoying the joys of a plastic society, spending its way into the clutches of greedy bankers and men driven by zeros at the end of their personal bank statements. We expected that the glorious days of sunshine and happiness that New Labour brought with it after the doom and gloom that had preceded it, would last forever, yet we cannot say we were unaware of the warning signs that the hinges were falling off, and the walls were in need of paint. Time and again we heard professionals warning that our accrued level of debt was spiralling out of control.
When I first arrived in the UK, I trained as a IFA (Independent Financial Advisor) under the guidance of the Charted Institute of Insurers and the Financial Services Authority. It seemed to me back in early 2000 that it was an ideal job, and a sure way of making good money. I recall one fine day going to a lesson with an Advisor from a large London based Accounting firm, and sitting through lunch chatting with him, he proceeded to tell four of us that within five to seven years the bottom of the market would fall out, leaving thousands of people in negative equity. I vividly recall asking him how he could be so sure about such a prediction, and recall him smiling and saying this.
When your government is borrowing as much as your country is manufacturing every day we wake up, and the people in the nation in which we live are collectively in excess of a trillion pounds in debt, there is only one viable conclusion. Someone, somewhere along the way is going to fail to repay their loans for whatever reason, and this will start a chain reaction that will eventually effect everyone, from the richest in society to those who will suffer the effects the most, those who can’t afford to survive the fall.
I recall at that point in time deciding not to invest in property just yet, as it would seem illogical, having been given the warning to go striding into a whirl pool of disaster. Don’t get me wrong, it was a prediction, but one which the more I thought about the more I became certain made definite sense, and thankfully my gut kept me on the straight and narrow and always brought me back to this man’s warning whenever I began to wonder about setting down roots.
But if he could see that banks were already crippled with toxic debt, surely too goodness the likes of Gordon Brown knew this too? Mr Brown was heralded as being the most effective Chancellor of the Exchequer that the UK had ever had. How then is it possible that he could not have foreseen that market lending money to borrowers up to four and sometimes even six times what they earned could not be bad for business? The FSA the watch dog given more powers than even the police in the UK was born under his watch, and in power to oversee a system that actively encouraged banks to lend to people it was clear could not afford the level of debt they were getting themselves into. Even when we received a full blown warning explosion across our bow at the collapse of Northern Rock did he had any measures to reign in the dodgy practices that were leading us all down a path of wonton destruction.
Thing is that even if Gordon Brown wasn’t watching, we have to ask ourselves who was? The banks must have known the risks that they were taking were bound to rebound on them at some stage. The men managing the banks are employed and appointed for their ability to avoid adverse risk and toxic debt, so how is it that even they didn’t know it was happening? The reality of the situation is that from the Government on down, those who we trusted to be looking out for our best interests, were taking advantage of the sunshine and busy lining their nests with millions of pounds in payouts, bonuses and backhanders. The people of the nation were left to carry on blundering into a world of debt, pain and misery.
Let me ask you this, while we are all struggling to survive, do you see Tony Blair struggling to make ends meet? Have you seen John Prescott loosing out as he gains a peerage, after he blatantly earned mega money during his time in office? Which parliamentary minister has had their house repossessed? In a time where for the first time in British history a parliamentary minister has been charged and admitted his guilt of false accounting of the public purse, I am surprised to find that it is only the students that are out protesting the way in which we have allowed the government to manage our nation and get away with it. In a time I’d expect to see the British people demanding better, and standing up against the crime and corruption that is rife in the halls of commons.
Parents should be calling for tougher sentencing for celebrities that are caught abusing their status to commit crimes and walk away with a slap on the wrist as a judiciary seems apparently incapable and far too afraid to hold the criminal accountable for their crime. Take for example George Michael who smashed up a shop in London while high on drugs, or Paul Gascoigne who has been arrested multiple times for drink and drug offences, arrives on an active police stand off with a kebab and six pack of beers for the culprit the police are seeking to arrest, or Amy Winehouse who was arrested for smoking smack in a nightclub and got caught on CCTV or assaulted an employee of another establishment she was visiting. Take for example Steven Gerrard who physically assaulted an individual in a Liverpool nightclub, or Pete Doherty a singer who is more famous for his drug fuelled binges than his music. Why are we not as a society calling for those people that are in a position to influence our youth and act as role models for the kids of tomorrow, to be held responsible for their actions in the same way any one of us might be. Why are we not making a massive fuss about ministers who can steal from our own pocket and get away with it, when had it been any one of us we’d be looking at bars on the inside of a cell at Belmarsh Prison?
While I accept that the students have every right to take the government to task and ask the question, “Why should we suffer your incompetence?”, I do not accept that a legitimate protest should be hijacked by a small element of our society with anarchy in mind. I do not accept that swinging off a flag on the Cenotaph or defacing the statue of Sir Winston Churchill is acceptable nor constructive behaviour. Anger may well be targeted at the government of the day, but destruction and desecration of honourable men and women and their memory within out society is only symbolism of the small minded and ignorant members of the community in which we live.
Attacking the Royals in protest against the rise in tuition fees does not show maturity and progressive thinking. Smashing windows and doors of the treasury can only go against the message of the majority looking to hold those in power accountable for their actions. Attention if focused away from the central message of the protest and falls on the lunatics that disrupt society and those that tarnish the name of every student that brings their discontent to the table. The sad thing is that over the last few protests the message that the youth of tomorrow are trying to bring out has consistently been stolen as thugs who have no intention of ever going to university join the throngs of people with legitimate concerns and antagonise the police, cause dissent among the protestors and bring a perfectly sensible protest crashing down into a melee of crime and disorder.
No, my message to the students would be to think proactively. Use your right to protest wisely and be sensible about the type of protest that you choose. Don’t let a tarnished and damaged reputation such as the population regarding you as thugs of society become the resounding memory of these protests. Be responsible and careful with the decision to take to the streets. If you choose to protest seek ways that ensure that you exclude the anarchists that would seek to hijack your cause. I would also suggest that it is wise to understand that it is now a different world, and what ever the out come of your protests, ultimately education in the UK will be different going forward. This is not your fault, but while it is not caused by you, it is something which you will need to accept and seek to change proactively; as the reality is that our nation cannot afford to do all it has done in the past. Too many bad decisions mean that the privileged society that Britain’s could take for granted no longer exists and it is now up to you to seek to afford to live at the level of comfort of the generations gone past.