In a sentence, the young already won. Let me explain.
Young people are vulnerable and smart as hell. The fallout from Brexit amongst people aged 11- 35 is going to be a structural evolution, not a political revolution.
Young people in the UK weren’t listened to before Brexit, where most voted to Remain, or during it, and there’s a loss of expectation that any attention will be paid to the needs of young people after it.
Now, there are European citizens who have made their lives here through education, work, and family. These people are now being invited to ‘apply to remain’ in the UK following Brexit as classrooms, workplaces, and families split.
Across the generation, young people in the UK have gotten faster, smarter, and increasingly tired with the introduction of zero-hour contracts on a gross scale, university costs having tripled, and banks lending money on the assumption that parents will support a mortgage application.
In the UK young people are expected to be independent yet the socio-economic and political structures that supposedly support this transition undermine them.
John Galtung talked of structural violence in his writing on peace to explain how structures can enable or disable lives, and the way in which socio-economic and political structures can violate people.
Wikipedia sums up structural violence as ‘a form of violence wherein some social structure or social institution may harm people by preventing them from meeting their basic needs.’
Most young people in Britain today have experienced poverty and/or discrimination as it has rippled through families impacted by austerity, immigration, and/or prejudice. Take, for example, the age-old process of unemployed people having benefits tied to a requirement to apply for jobs to get back into the working world.
In my entire life, I have gotten one job from a written application which was in 2018 when I worked at Lidl.
Previous jobs as a cleaner, programme assistant, assistant housemistress, and yard girl came through knowing people, finding out about a vacancy, and then applying. My current job at a Big Four firm? I was approached through LinkedIn. An example of structural violence would be knowing this and continuing to enforce rationale approaches through politics, policy, or law despite knowing that such outcomes are impacted by multiple variables.
What this new chapter in the UK’s history means for young people is that the activism of young people is going to be cemented but it’s not going to be through opposing the current socio-economic political structures like employment, parliament, or savings accounts. Instead, young people will secure their futures through a structural evolution.
Young people can’t foot the risks associated with a political revolution. We are too tired to vote, busy applying for jobs, paying for our own mental health, helping our friends get by, and panicking about how to get to work on time when the buses run less and less frequently.
Yet, there are 11-year olds around the world who are taking the Friday off school to protest climate change – do they give a fuck about voting? No, they do not.
There are 15-year olds who can recite case law in FGM, as I had the privilege of witnessing at a PeaceJam UK event at Winchester. Do they have time for bullshit rhetoric in diverse classrooms with peers who are directly impacted by these issues? Nope, they want solutions and they want their friends to be protected.
What has shifted is how active the generations are becoming; was I protesting at 11? Well, yes – I protested as Glen Morven primary school against the construction of a carpark which got built anyway. Was that a global issue? No.
When I was 15, did I know what FGM was? No, I was probably getting drunk in a park with a Smirnoff Ice.
Now I am 28, am I speaking up for things that matter? Well, I have a draft email ready to go to the team about why dressing as "Mexicans" for a fancy-dress day is a shitty thing to do.
So, when I look at the bigger picture, this is what I see for young people post-Brexit. We will lose vulnerable and intelligent young people from the UK but there's something more systemic that needs to be brought to the forefront of our conversations.
One thing that hasn't been fully acknowledged in the public consciousness is that Britain had a really strong base of consumers that makes the market go around. Put simply, people are buying things – whether it’s from impulse, stress, a sense of superiority, delusions of quality, a desire for quantity – the money moves around, accountants count it, HMRC taxes it, shopkeepers get some back, people like me calculate the VAT implications, we pay our bills, and the world as we know it moves.
GDP grows, everything is grand.
In the UK, people buy things, earn money, and keep that capital moving. But millennials are renowned for conscious consumption which is why we have ‘woke advertising’ from companies who do remarkably shitty things [and which is why millennials set up their own businesses].
The generation below, those the 11 year olds with placards, aren’t buying things yet and we are yet to see their consumer spending habits. If they are estranged politically and economically, there’s very little buy-in (pun intended) for them to continue supporting the system as it exists in Britain.
Why? Well, because the entire socio-economic political structure of the UK is a post-War relic and is increasingly reliant on something that young people are increasingly unable to access – participation in a consumer based market.
Now, if young people can’t get jobs, can’t get paid, can’t buy things, and the youngest people aren't even interested – that’s a problem and as we watch the come up of young people, this is one major Brexit bargaining chip that has been ignored.
The youngest generation has a strong understanding on the way in which opinion becomes politics and how it affects people. They focus on the impact on the lives of their peers, not the offence, and how this impacts the way we live, eat, work and operate.
Amanda Ngoc Nguyen wrote and passed 23 laws for 45 million people without being a politician or a celebrity or a lobbyist. She was born in 1991 and was behind the Sexual Assault Survivors' Rights Act, one of 23 bills to pass unanimously through US congress. Now, she has started a 'lab' to train people on how to pass laws to secure their own civil rights - she found a way to make the system work for her, and people like her, on her own terms.
In the UK, I see more and more people affected by insecurity, poverty, and discrimination who take an active interest in reducing structural violence because people care and they are changing things with or without politicians.
Whether it's ensuring that the provision of sanitary pads is done for free for people who have periods - like freeflow who want businesses and organisations to see menstrual products as essential items and provide them in their bathrooms - or individuals taking themselves to therapy to break generational toxicity in families, people care and they are less and less inclined to be inactive on issues that matter.
So, what does this new chapter in the UK’s history means for young people?
The structural evolution will continue and I don’t think any of it will need permission, votes, or any of the structures that exist today.
Young people will work around, under, and above those socio-economic political structures in which they’ve played every conceivable role and received neither reward nor recognition for their time, energy, or input.
I predict that we are going to have insurance policies based on gendered violence instead of travel, cars, and homes as less and less people can afford them.
I think we will take on Islamic banking practices and it’ll become an increasingly negative thing to make and take interest off money. To earn money without the use of charging interest, Islamic banks use equity participation systems. Equity participation means if a bank loans money to a business, the business will pay back the loan without interest, but instead gives the bank a share in its profits.
I think social media will become a market place and where companies profit off personal data, all social media users will become shareholders in the value that is extracted from information for profit and receive a return.
I think the same logic will be extended to maximum wage as is currently applied to minimum wage on the basis that if there’s an amount that is acceptable to someone to live off as a minimum, the same applies at the other end of the scale.
The concept of infinite growth on a planet with finite resources will be publicly recognised as nonsense.
I think there will be an explosion of global accountability and cultural licenses will be mandatory to combat the global export of white saviours working in the development world (a personal favourite of mine).
Let me know what you think - the panel is June 1st.
It's a closed event with senior and young representatives of leading institutions who will address the prospects of young people post-Brexit, gender equality's progressions and setbacks, and the effectiveness of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.