They tell me it’s tough at the top… well, I have to tell you it’s pretty tough at the bottom as well! And those of my peers who have managed to claw their way to the middle are not in a good mood either.
Let me repeat myself, but louder – “Stop Moaning”. In the nicest possible way, I can assure you that you’ve never had it so good – hard to believe, I know, but all the evidence points to the fact that the standard of living that most of us are enjoying (or not) now is beyond the wildest dreams of those only a few generations ago. This isn’t just a rant about generation Y not wanting to work, or complaining that us Xers have somehow squandered all the good stuff before they had a chance to get their hands on it. It was tough then, it’s tough now… easy credit slips through the fingers of the unwary, house deposits have atrophied to nothing and but there’s a s**tload more to watch on telly when you can’t afford to go out.
When I was a student I would lament my impecuniosities as I supped yet another pint of, admittedly cheap, lager. I would rail against the lack of compassion of my elders. Bastards, I would think, they don’t know how hard it is to survive on a diet of Fosters and doner kebabs. I bet they haven’t felt the icy blasts through inappropriately lightweight (but cool looking) clothing as they struggling the short miles back to a one room apartment. Little did I suspect that their few thoughts of me were limited to contempt, brought on by the plain fact that I could spend virtually an entire day in the union bar. Sheltered from the complete reality of life, work, parenthood, crippling debt and those many other “grown up” daemons as yet unknown to me. I suspected, it had never been this bad – my generation had been abandoned and left to rot, freezing in our Miami vice t-shirt and jacket combos.
There is indeed nothing new under the sun. When I left home I moved to the metropolis of London, at that time (with a more consistent regularity than the running of commuter trains), the IRA would deposit explosives across my busy path. Quite literally, not a week would go by without a “bomb scare”, punctuated by the less frequent atrocities of an actual bomb. It was impossible to buy a house; I simply didn’t earn enough, occasionally not even enough to make my meager rent. My friends and I occupied large elderly houses that we sub-divided into dormitories, rent-auctioning rooms based on their size and lack of mildew. This sort of accommodation still exists today, but only in documentaries about drug use or in condemned buildings. It took me nearly fifteen years before I could afford to rent my own place, and even then some of the furniture was dragged from skips. There was no internet – we survived using a network of telephones that you pushed coins into, which ate them like Smarties (the precursor to M&Ms) in exchange for snatches of conversation with distant relatives or cab firms. When you arranged to meet people, you waited if they were late. Simply put, you didn’t know where anyone was unless you could actually see them. Messages were left with whomever answered and pinned to a cork-board behind a communal phone – my message “Where are you bastard – bi-bi-bi-bi-bi (fumble for more coins) – I waited for two hours and you didn’t show”, may never have been read by it’s intended recipient.
Information lived in books, or came in more diluted form from the confidently garrulous in local pubs. Late night wagers lasted to the next day as to whether snakes had lungs or how many people can be seated on a Boeing 747. Google was a misspelling of a cricket bowling technique, the internet was for the government and encyclopedias were just too heavy. It seems difficult to conceive what I would do without my smartphone now, but I do know that I survived many years without one and I didn’t die.
Everything from air-con to air travel is now affordable, better, and less dangerous. The automation that we were taught to fear has made many secretaries redundant, but has enabled them to get honours degrees online. Robots have replaced us in dangerous or repetitive environments allowing us to watch a staggering average of over 100 hours of useless TV per month!
Really, it wasn’t so tough then and it’s certainly not tough now – so stop-bloody-moaning and do anything, anything at all and feel privileged and lucky that you can.