Brexit, rage, depression and the young

For a long time we have been lead to believe, as young people, that anger is the emotion at the very heart of activism.

We believed the outrage we felt, looking upon the gross injustices of the world, could provide the energy needed to mobilise ourselves and set change in motion. Politics could act as the means to turn anger from a negative into a positive. As this year has dragged on, however, I have come to believe this is not the case.

As a young person today it can be difficult not to let the current state of things chip away at you. For the past decade Millennials have been told, repetitively, that we will be worse off than our predecessors, that we will struggle to afford a house and save up for a pension, that many of us will be burdened with astronomical student debt that we may never repay, that the only planet we have ever known is slowly dying and nobody is willing to do anything about it. Is it any surprise that young people are facing an endemic of suicide and depression, when the face of the world not only refuses to listen to us, but tells us at every opportunity just how bad things are and will continue to be?

And yet despite all this young people have worked hard. They live healthier lives, they care more for the environment, they are more engaged in political discourse than the media would have us believe. But I fear the divisions between young and old have become irreconcilable by this referendum.

Brexit may seem like the wedge that finally split the United Kingdom, but the truth is we have been divided as a nation for much longer than the duration of this campaign. What has been the outcome of economic policy that has failed the poorest for the past thirty years? A country so deeply entrenched by class and inequality that only those within the establishment have the opportunity to be anti-establishment, where expertise is regarded as a symptom of privilege and where the concerns of the working class are illegitimatised as xenophobic and stupid. The greatest irony of all this is we now all live in such different realities from one another that the views of our neighbours are as beguiling to us as those of any foreigners might be.

Different visions

One thing that always worried me about the likes of Nigel Farage and Vote Leave was their throwback rhetoric; not just to the days of  smoky pubs or pinching women on the rear for a lark, but to that of Churchill, Spitfires flying over fields and talk of winning the war rather than realising the dream. Farage’s comments that the vote was won “without a bullet being fired” is not only utterly reprehensible given the tragedy of Jo Cox, but is telling in itself of a mindset that sees the greatest glory a man can have in finding your “Churchill moment”. These are the kind of people who are poisonous to our politics.

For me and many others my age, this is not, and never was, the kind of Britain I wished to live in. I would read remarks by Farage, read the lies being made by Vote Leave about the EU and realise I too was angry, but this time finding it didn’t energise me into any kind of action. Instead, I became profoundly depressed by my inability to fight back.

The future

The essential difference between Vote Leave and Yes Scotland was in their outlook. Unlike Vote Leave, Yes Scotland embraced an image of creating something new, a clean slate for those of us who never knew how good it used to be, only burdened by a constant dread of just how bad things were going to get.

All this latest result has done is consolidate my wavering Yes vote of two years ago. It has become clear to me that the problems we face are no longer avoidable but inevitable, regardless of whatever political makeup we wear, and feel now we must prepare ourselves for the worst rather than opt to avert catastrophe altogether. The United Kingdom has proven itself incapable of doing this as a single entity.

Our rage has fundamentally changed us. It has unearthed an ugliness in our character that nobody expected to find and nobody knows how to deal with.

Leave voters may have gotten the result they want last night. But whether they get the country they want remains to be seen.

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