“Men are grown mechanical in head and heart, as well as in hand…Their whole efforts, attachments, opinions, turn on mechanism, and are of a mechanical nature.”
THOSE ARE THE prophetic words of Thomas Carlyle nearly two hundred years ago. “There is no end to machinery,” he wrote, and indeed, there seems to be no end to dominance of the digital-mechanical in modern life. Matthew Arnold a few decades after Carlyle made the same point: “Faith in machinery is…our besetting danger; often in machinery most absurdly disproportioned to the end which this machinery, if it is to do any good at all, is to serve; but always in machinery, as if it had value in and for itself…”
COMRADES! REVOLUTIONARIES! Let us celebrate! It is 50 years since the évènements of ’68 in Paris. Long live the spirit of the barricades! Remember what bliss it was to be alive then, what heaven it was to be young?
No, me neither. There was little bliss available in the rather dour, parochial environs of the ancient country town in North Yorkshire as I entered my fourteenth year. The political pronouncements of boss-eyed philosophe Sartre, the cobble-throwing students, the smart-arsed conundrums of the Situationists, these meant nothing to me or my contemporaries and barely even seemed to impinge on the consciousness of our parents who were more concerned by the fact that we had grown our hair long, dressed like scarecrows and listened to terribly loud music. To give them their due, though, they didn’t complain about us trying pass ourselves off as 18 in the local pubs (and sometimes succeeding) so we could get our hands on pints of cold, fizzy beer.
SO, THE MOUNTAINS of the Resolution Foundation groaned for two years and gave birth to…well, the usual farrago of nonsense and madcap propositions that think tanks are prone to. In this case it’s all about the “intergenerational contract” between the Boomers and the Millennials, how it’s being broken and what “we” should do to put it right.
This low-level conflict has been rumbling on for a few years now and really kicked off with a book by David Willetts, The Pinch: How the Baby Boomers Took Their Children’s Future – And Why They Should Give It Back (2010). Willetts is a former Tory minister and now runs the Resolution Foundation. “Former Tory” is what I nearly left it at, since his pronouncements these days have been most definitely un-Tory-like, favouring the kind of statist interference beloved of the left.
WATCHING OR LISTENING to the media these days is like being repeatedly subjected to one of those implicit bias tests HR departments force on employees to root out their supposedly unconscious prejudice. While the media frequently admonish us to “celebrate” our multicultural diversity whether we care about it or not, HR pretend they’re looking after the welfare of their company’s employees.