Owen Jones writes of a generation “treated with unadulterated contempt by the right” and warns conservative parties of the dangers that will lead to eventual electoral meltdown (The right thrives on bullying ‘snowflakes’. But who will vote for it when they grow old?, 4 January). It’s not a new aspect of public debate: my university years in the 1960s saw real anger between progressives and the postwar establishment, focused on the right to express, to publish, to protest.
What is new is the laziness of the current rightwing view: its imprecision and ugly generalisation, its blanket dislikes and gleeful dismissals. In short, its dizzying arrogance that it is somehow morally superior.
The “snowflake generation” is highly resilient and adaptive. My children earned their degrees in a lockdown, their courses badly disrupted by Covid. They have chosen to work in sectors that attempt to improve the lives of other people.
Sometimes I hear friends, many of whom were students in the 60s with liberal attitudes on sex and drugs and their own freedoms, using the word “woke”. It’s a short word, monosyllabic, that can be released as a snort. It’s spoken without thought or research, like one of those early 1930s clubland cartoons by HM Bateman: “The man who found young people unbearable!” What happened to those of us who were so keen to build our own privileged lives over the last 50 years? Maybe we are the snowflakes?
• Owen Jones is optimistic that today’s young people will remain socially progressive as they age. He says that this time it will be different. I fervently hope that he turns out to be right, but the odds are not good.
In the 1960s, we boomers were so invested in our values that we were prepared to go into pitched battles in Grosvenor Square in London, in Paris and across the US, in the name of civil rights and against the Vietnam war.
In the early 1990s, we dared to believe that the young people we saw standing atop the Berlin Wall were part of the generation who would buck the trend. In 2008, we felt certain that the young people who helped swing the US presidential election in Barack Obama’s favour were the harbingers of lasting change.
Now, as the millennials reach maturity, and we see them begin to join the previous generations in their trashing of everything I hold dear, I continue to hope, against nearly seven decades of disappointment, that next time it will be different.
• Owen Jones makes an excellent point that the generations following baby boomers may not necessary follow the historical trend of turning away from their liberal beginnings.
I am a white baby boomer born in Berkeley in the 1950s. I am shocked that the Woodstock dreamers who began movements fighting for women’s, ethnic minority and gay rights, ultimately abandoned initial collective environmental conservation for unprecedented trashing of the planet’s resources, driven by individual greed, and ultimately providing the backbone of Trumpism. Hopefully today’s youth will retain what we boomers have lost.
Annapolis, Maryland, US
• Owen Jones suggests that we move to the right, politically, as we get older. I have always been a socialist and find myself moving further to the left as I age. I am 80 years old. Where do I go from here?
• If only those “snowflakes” would get off their arses and vote – there might be an avalanche.
Stockport, Greater Manchester