“Snowflake” students have become the target of a new conservative crusade. This narrative can now be found in news stories, political speeches and op-ed columns in Britain on a daily basis: that young people simply gang up to howl down views they don’t like, rather than engage in debate.
Rightwingers claim it is a form of censorship, and that the young need to get better at “hearing what you don’t want to hear”. In a decade of economic stagnation, it is a convenient put-down to use against a generation faced with low pay, high house prices and deterioriating mental health, and a system regulated in such a way as to “maximise the security of asset holders, while impoverishing the future of everyone under 40”. (William Davies in The Guardian).
My early years were spent in the middle of a war. A doodlebug hit the house next to us and we were homeless. I wasn’t aware of it but the future must have looked grim. In fact, most people my age have since experienced peace and a steady improvement of life in general. Leaving university, one worried, not about whether one would get a job, but which job. There was a huge housing shortage, but the government was doing something about it. Yes, the treatment of unfamilar West Indian migrants, brought over to boost manpower, was a disgrace, but in general there was political and social consensus, andfew very rich people (most people were poor).
But out of it all we got the National Health Service, among other things. In those days it was unthinkable to shout down speakers in debate (I took part in many). Underlying it all was a sense that both political parties generally had the welfare of the whole country at heart, snd that capitalism was operating for the community (generalisations! Forgive me!). I think the behaviour of some rude, closed-minded young people arises out of one emotion – fear. I don’t blame them in some ways, but it is immature nonetheless to shout down and ban those you disagree with – it will inevitably come back to bite you. Argue! Use your brains!