Each and every one of us has to cross the bridge at some point. From the security in the relative innocence of youth, we traverse to arrive in the hard world of adult life and realise all of what we have been ‘building’ for years actually counts for very little. The world of the Blairite ‘flexible labour market’ is not nearly as rosy as we might have thought.
I suppose that this process has happened later for me than for many others – I am a few weeks past my quarter-century on this planet – but in European comparison this is still quite young. While I have 3 years of work experience, a BA from a good university and a MA from a less good one behind me, I feel that this summer is the starting blocks of a marathon that will end in retirement, with many pitfalls along the way.
Politically speaking, I am very much at the end of ‘youth’. My time as President of the Young European Federalists (JEF-Europe) comes to an end in about 3 months, and I have been awaiting this end for some time. It will time to wave goodbye to being the first among equals, probably for many years. It will be time to wave goodbye to trying to do the right thing in a more or less meritocratic environment. And it will be the end to the bitter-sweet politics that were so aptly summed up by Henry Kissinger: “student politics are so bitter, precisely because the stakes are so small”.
Perhaps adult politics are less bitter because anyone who has survived beyond youth politics has had all the anger and passion blown out of them. That’s for sure how it feels at the moment. I just cannot manage to make myself stand up and fight. Why bother? What will I manage as a small and totally insignificant citizen anyway? I believe what I believe about whatever topic, but what hope have I got of managing to make any positive impression on others? Little.
For as things stand at present, where could I possibly find the motivation to really engage myself? I can’t muster the energy to commit to more pro-European work – the European Movement or UEF would be fates worse than death. The Labour Party in the UK – despite some 10 years of membership now – feels even less welcoming than ever. Other organisations like the Fabian Society might offer some hope, but do I have the stomach for petty fights? Does it matter if I am a social democrat or a socialist? Or even if I believe in federalism or a federal state? Probably not.
I find myself in the strange situation where all of what I believe is mainstream enough – I am not going to be a radical of left or right, and I am not going to be a firebrand breaking the law for political aims. On the other hand, my beliefs are some amalgam of liberalism, federalism, environmental protection, equality of opportunity, rationalism, secularism and social democracy, all of which for me is very coherent and based on solid evidence and a rejection of prejudice wherever possible. But I wonder how many others in the UK come close to believing in all of that? Further, as party politics remains principally national and requires submission to the party line, then what hope do I have?
So does this summer mark the start of a period of descent into ever-deeper cynicism, and the need to just keep my anger in check? A sort of annoyance that should be confined to an inner being, something impracticable that should just be locked away?
So has burned a political youth. CV looks OK. Network of good people all over the place. But what good is that actually? Time will tell, but don’t count on much having happened if you read this blog in 10 years time.