Tuesday, 18 March 2014
Generation W - or maybe pre-W
This week the Guardian's G2 magazine section is being edited by Generation Y who, I gather, are young people born during or since the 1990s. They appear to replace Generation X, also known as the Baby Boomers: those born since the Second World War, who, it is alleged, never had it so good and are even now taking more than their fair share of the national income and thus depriving Generation Y, Z et al of decent life chances.
I'm not a Baby Boomer. Having been born in 1937, before the War, I'm presumably Generation W, or even pre-W. I suppose I had a deprived childhood, but I didn't realise it, since everybody else, at least of the people I knew, led a similar lifestyle. We really were "all in it together." Designer jeans, or any other sort of jeans, hadn't yet appeared, our clothes were often patched and handed down, our weekly sweet ration was a tube or Rowntree's Cleargums, and when the fish and chip shops proudly announced "Frying tonight, Fish" (as opposed to just chips ) we were pretty indifferent as we usually ate only "chips with bits on" anyway. Our ultimate in treats was a dish of tinned mandarin oranges with evaporated milk as cream. The height of family entertainment was to gather round the one radio in the house to listen to Saturday Night Theatre on the Home Service.
Our junior school classes were unstreamed and mostly 40+. I supposed we ceased to be "all in it together" when, after the 11+, taken at a different primary school with a warning from our teacher that it wasn't necessary to wear your best suit, some of us were creamed off to grammar schools and the rest either stayed on at the elementary school or went to one of Mr Butler's newly-created secondary moderns. Whichever, there was no shortage of jobs when we finished our education, and if we had chosen a job we didn't like it was not difficult to change to another.
Throughout our working lives the question of redundancy rarely arose and, even if it did it was pretty easy to find another post. I was lucky to have a job as a teacher which I thoroughly enjoyed, and was able to devote some 97% of my energies to teaching people rather than filling in forms to prove to OFSTED or the like that I'd done it.
I now live very comfortably in retirement with my two index-linked pensions (state retirement pension plus teacher's pension) providing amply for my needs.
I do not, however, accept the charge that I am some sort of parasite robbing Generation Y of its future. That's because I paid for the comfortable situation which I now enjoy. For most of my working life the standard rate of income tax was around 6/8d in the £; that's 33.3p or over 50% higher that it is now. In addition my National Insurance Contributions, about 6% of my salary, were deducted every month from my pay, along with another 6% for the teachers' superannuation scheme. On top of that, though from misguided choice rather than necessity, I paid a massive amount of additional tax and duty to sustain my tobacco habit, fondness for beer, and the luxury of driving a car.
I do not claim that Generations pre-W, W or X were or are particularly virtuous. Most of the the deductions made to fund our retirement were compulsory rather than voluntary. However, it is wrong to accuse of selfishness which is harming the coming generations. If Generation Y would like in their old age to enjoy the comfort and security that we do they should stop voting for parties which bribe them with promises of lower and lower taxes, and realise that you get what you pay for.