“A conservative at twenty has no heart, a socialist at thirty has no brain” – I am sure we have all heard variants of such a phrase before, but the question that has always interested me is why such a phrase exists, how is it so well known and relatable? But more importantly – why do the youth flock towards self styled progressives?
Is is out of a naivety that life experience will shake apart? Or is it an inclination to challenge what’s seen as the ‘Old Guard’? I don’t believe it’s either – for the simple reason that Jobbik in Hungary and Kukiz in Poland both enjoy strong support among the youth; both parties were to the right of the conservative establishment. Turkish citizens living in Germany voted overwhelmingly for an Islamist to become a quasi dictator. What makes a twenty two year old Pole different to a twenty two year old Gael?
I would proffer this – that it is an inadvertent failure of traditionalists to address issues of concern to the youth of this country.
For decades upon decades, a conservative political establishment had the safety valve of mass emigration to hold in check any serious attempts to challenge the status quo. Generations upon generations were reared for export to England or America. As there was no serious discontent, the status quo was upheld, those who left didn’t come back, or if they did they benefited from the same system that had driven them away in their youth.
That’s not to say this was done out of malice, it was simple incompetence and self interest – there weren’t any votes to be had in changing things, but there was certainly votes lost for challenging groups with vested interests. What politician would seek to make their own re-election harder?
While some things have only changed cosmetically – Canada and Australia have replaced England and America, other things have changed the equation drastically. The advent of cheap travel has allowed the young to make their presence felt on referenda, and if those living abroad are enfranchised in future, their votes will surely be felt.
And yet, the political class still seems not to have absorbed the shock and scale of the victories in the SSM and Abortion referenda – almost as though they were once off events that don’t display a serious realignment of the political system.
The same issues affect the youth as ever – who cares that a young man pays thousands of euro for car insurance? Certainly not the middle aged citizen who pays three hundred and is incensed that it’s up from two eighty the year before. Who cares that young families may never afford a home? Surely not those enjoying their property values rising as a result of the same crisis.
I’ll tell you who seems to care – the left. The middle-class pseudo-intellectuals who parade themselves as paragons of moral virtue, whom have never lived a day as someone working class, who could rely on their mother and father in their youth to ease any troubles. This left has positioned itself as the group with its ear to the concerns of the young, for the working class, for other groups losing out in the social contract.
And the result itself is plain to see – for when you are a twenty four year old and see a question being put to the people, on what side of the argument will you fall? Will you side with those who appear to have listened to your concerns or those too preoccupied with themselves? Will you adopt the views and positions of those who give oxygen to your dreams, or those who protect that which is causing you such angst?
If we on the right (traditionalists or conservatives or nationalists or whatever we want to call ourselves) wish for our ideals to live on, to ensure the longevity of our beliefs, to shape the fabric of our society to better emulate our morals, then we need to change our tactics. We cannot rely solely on the votes of those seeking to retain the status quo, we cannot any longer ignore the plight of the young.
We need to establish a workable coalition between the stakeholders and the youth, to fashion a conservative New Deal that will address the concerns of the young and the disadvantaged Irishmen and women in our society.
If we don’t, we’re going to continue down this path of fighting a retreating war, and we’re going to reach a point where we simply cannot come back.