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Nicolas Collignon

Generation spite: is that really how we want our kids to remember us?

Wanting to leave a better world for future generations is a basic desire. Our struggles ought to be final, our political and social battles won, in order that our children will not have to fight them again. And yet the year 2017 sees both them and us agreed on one thing: the next generation will be worse off than their parents.

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There used to be a material underpinning to the Protestant work ethic. Labour was how you obtained the means to survive, so the virtues of hard work and discipline were important because they would enable you to obtain these means. Now, work is the end in itself, a performance rather than a contract. Wages are a luxury, and the idea that they should be high enough to live on, let alone save for the future, is apparently hopelessly unrealistic socialism.

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As our children grow up over the next couple of decades, do we really want their memory of us to be of a spiteful generation, spitting venom at young people we hold in contempt while systematically destroying the world our parents built for us simply so that they wouldn’t have a chance to live in it? Do we really want them to remember that we hated the idea of their happiness and comfort so much that we clubbed together to strip it away? What a miserable legacy that would be.