Here’s a question you’ve probably never been asked: what does the proposed Digital Economy Bill have in common with the escalating media clamour in favour of banning mephedrone (or meow-meow, as absolutely no-one under the age of 35 is calling it)?
Answer: they’re both attempts to criminalise the behaviour of young people.
Now, I won’t drone on about the DEB, which is currently being umm-ed and ahh-ed over by the House Of Lords (the legislative chamber, not the Young Knives bassist), since it’s the fourth most tedious subject known to man, just after Formula One, the new Doctor Who, and that iPhone app you just downloaded.
Suffice to say the Bill, if passed, will have the power, thanks to a draconian “three strikes” rule, to essentially boot you off the internet, without any kind of judicial process, if you’re caught downloading, oooh let’s say, Beach House MP3s from Limewire (not that I was just doing that precise thing, honest).
Naturally, these proposals have been about as warmly received as a Darkness reunion tour. Thousands of web users have signed petitions opposing the bill – though they might as well tattoo their objections on their own balls for all the difference they’ll make.
It’s the same story with mephedrone. The legal high will be banned by the end of the year because the media have decided it’s a Killer Rave Drug, even though, as New Scientist point out, next to nothing is known about its effects, and almost all of the deaths initially linked to the stimulant have since been attributed to other causes.
None of those details matter, because it’s not a news story anymore, it’s a moral panic. The real issue is not that mephedrone is dangerous, it’s that its users are mainly in their teens, and might just be having an unauthorised good time. After all, nothing torments the older generation more than the needling suspicion that their kids are having the kind of lawless fun that they never enjoyed.
Then again… how much fun is it, exactly, to be young in 2010? What is there to look forward to?
Well, there’s University, of course – except, oh, bad luck, the government is slashing the further education budget by £500 million, so by the time you get there your on-campus facilities will consist of two gym mats, a Bunsen burner, and a copy of The Faerie Queene that’s been dropped in the bath.
And what if you do get a place? Best enjoy it while you can, because three years on and you’ll be drowning in debt, ten grand plus, even more if you don’t get any help from your parents (whose University education, unlike yours, was paid for by the state – did we mention that?).
Still, they’ve probably got a bob or two, your mum and dad, having profited from the greatest property boom in history. As the homelessness charity Shelter pointed out in a recent ad, if groceries had appreciated in value at the same rate as housing since 1971, we’d now be paying £47 for a frozen chicken.
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But at least you’ll get a job at the end of it, right? Maybe, but not in the areas you want, like the media. Haven’t you heard? The media’s full already, and shrinking fast. Sure, you’ll find something else, but you’ll need to work unpaid for many months as an intern to get your foot in the door.
Still, cherish that job when you finally get it. Just be aware that it will never, ever pay you enough to enable to you to buy a home of your own.
Does any of this strike you as unfair? It should do. The past twenty years have seen an unprecedented transfer of wealth from the younger generation to the older. It’s just a shame they didn’t hang on to it.
No, they invested it instead, gave it to the bankers, who then spaffed it up against the wall and bankrupted the Western world, leaving future generations – that’ll be us lot – to pay off the colossal debt (currently estimated at £86,000 per household), while they retire on the generous pensions that we will never have.
But what can you do, eh? Start a Facebook group? My advice: take plant food if you want to. Download music. Start a band. Get pissed, destroy [within recommended legal limits! – Responsible Ed]. After all, you’re only young once.