The subtitle of this book is how we ended up greedy, narcissistic and unhappy. It doesn’t sound cheerful reading! But it is absolutely brilliant. Liddle is a superb writer – humorous, observant, and biting. He does not write from a Christian perspective but there is much in here that I could resonate with. One warning – one of the weak points about the book is the regular use of the ‘F word’….
if you don’t want to read the whole thing then I’ve identified 25 characteristics of our generation that he speaks about. I’m not saying that I agree with every single one of them, but it certainly makes for fascinating reading and provokes to thought. Enjoy!
1) The Selfish Generation –
“I, and my generation, seen by contrast feckless and irresponsible, endlessly selfish, whining, avaricious, self-deluding, self obsessed, spoiled and corrupt and ill. We are the generation that spent the small but hard earned inheritance we got from our hard-working parents (mine went on that most irresponsible and selfish of all our new and expensive freedoms, divorce lawyers), and are now busy spending the money we should be leaving to our kids.” P.9
2) The Lost Generation –
“It is hard to argue against longer life expectancy, greater affluence, safer workplaces, the freedom to escape from a hopeless marriage, the rights of women to be treated equally, and so on. But a certain moral code has been lost along the way, which has contributed largely to our country becoming close to bankrupt, a nation of broken families clamouring about their entitlements siring ill educated and undisciplined kids unfamiliar with the concept of right and wrong, where there is an ever diminishing sense of community and belonging, a perpetual transience, if you fancy a cheap oxymoron.”p. 10
“peace has made us complacent, freedom has made us irresponsible, affluence has made us acquisitive, comfort has made us neglectful of others, and security has made us – oddly enough – tremblingly insecure.” Page 11
3) The Proud Generation
“This is what happens when we are freed from the requirement to be humble, to bow down, to accept that we are deeply flawed and are inclined – when liberated from the suspicion that someone powerful and vengeful and probably bad-tempered is watching everything we do – to behave rather badly, and with a consuming arrogance. We build things to praise ourselves, and then, having finally abolished God, we become a God to ourselves. We become gripped by intimations of our own brilliance.” Page 15.
“It is no coincidence that this rapid erosion of deference to an omnipotent, unseen other has occurred in tandem with the growth of institutionalised self obsession, self-pity and public emoting.” Page 18
4) The Heartless Generation
“It is undoubtedly true that as orthodox religious belief has retreated, so we have become more nakedly individualistic, more inclined to be immune to the needs and requirements of our fellow men. I suspect there is a correlation.” Page 20
5) The Greedy Generation
“credit, as it exists in its ubiquity today, is a con trick perpetuated upon the poorest and the most vulnerable in society. It doles out an illusory wealth which has, over the decades, disguised the extent to which the incomes of the richest and the incomes of the poorest have become ever more polarised, the trickle down that never really happened and was never really expected to happen, if we are being honest. The poor get their shit stuff, for a while, until it is repossessed along with their oldest daughter, and maybe they forget that they are earning only 1/200 of the salary – excluding bonuses – of their chief executive, whereas 40 years ago they be on about one 20th as much as the boss.” Page 30.
6) The Impatient Generation
“This waiting is the thing my generation no longer does, is no longer cool with. It does not wait for anything. It does not see why it should. Life’s too short, isn’t it? Paradoxically, life was rather shorter back when people did way – still they waited.” Page 34.
7) The ‘Flexible’ Generation
“Flexible, then, as understood by Mr Starkey, is a synonym – a euphemism, if you like – for xxxx cheap. The reason British businesses employ Eastern European labour is that they can pay them 3/5 of xxx all and get away with it; it is nothing to do with a reluctance on the part of the British worker to shift his indolent fat arse and travel a few miles for a job. The Poles and Slovaks have very low overheads here, and a much lower cost of living back home. They don’t have families to support in this country, by and large, so they work for less. Have you noticed how minicab fares haven’t risen much recently, or sometimes gone down? You can probably work out why that is when you listen to the drivers accident.” – Page 42
8) The Homeless Generation
“And back at home moving, always moving; having an investment only in the baldest sense of the word, in the mortgage. Having no investment in the community you live in, and the people who live around you, because you’re always ready to move on again, to buy bigger and better, and thus trouser more almost wholly imaginary money. As a consequence, the poorest of us – an ever-growing proportion – are forced into private-sector lettings, because there are no council houses left.” Page 49.
‘’ we replaced the communal with the sopilistic, the acquisitive and the narcissistic.“. Page 51.
9) The Blameless Generation
“We are, as Richard Hoggart put it in The way We Live Now, riding a wave of relativism – ‘the obsessive avoidance of judgements of quality, or moral judgement ‘; there is no blame to be attached to anything anyone does; we should not judge, we should not blame. And so, of course, as a consequence, people come to expect not to be judged and not to be blamed. People who cannot work because they are ‘disabled ‘by, say, alcoholism or obesity, but who nonetheless have several children to support, do not remotely blame themselves for giving their kids an awful life – they blame you, and me, and society. And they will demand, as a right, a larger house, and therefore a larger bill for you and me to pay, because the notion that they should look out for themselves a little bit either has not occurred to them, or has occurred to them but appals them in its apparent callousness.” Page 59.
10) The Atomised Generation
“This moronic fugue, this howling – that I have been transgressed, or I am a victim, or I demand redress, or simply and exultantly LOOK! I AM! – is the conscious expression of a society which, underneath, is fractured into a million different parts and no longer has any sense of itself as a cohesive whole, and therefore with a concomitant moral responsibility to others. What we have instead is an infinitely atomised morass of acquisitiveness and complaint and insularity and braggadocio”. Page 64.
“In a sense, the free market, and this perpetual demand for choice, is another expression of our modern individual narcissism, and our insularity: we alone know best.” Page 183.
“The thesis is that choice has made us happier. This control we now have has given us better lifes. Has it?” Page 185.
11) The Generation of the Sixties and Eighties
“from the 60s we acquired the insistence upon self-expression and the overthrowing of a conservative social agenda in favour of one in which, after a fashion, anything went and was beyond all reproof. A reaction, of course, against the buttoned up, constrained and often absurd stoicism of the preceding generation. And as those free-living and endlessly expensive baby boomers get older and wealthier, so their individualistic demands drove them to the political right. From the 1980s we received the human right to be endlessly, pointlessly acquisitive, to look after our own interests and XXX the needs of the rest, to deny – a la the prime minister of the time – that such a thing as society even existed.. “Page 64.
12) The Divorced Generation
“beyond that, though it was a betrayal of my boys. Having made the decision to have children, I should have stuck with it. But I didn’t; my personal happiness seemed to count for more than anything else.” Page 75.
“The loosening of the divorce laws, and the swift removal of stigma from those who have been divorced, came from the top down. It was designed to enable the more affluent in society to continue to pursue that most compulsive of post-1960 pastimes, serial monogamy.” Page 76.…
Like so much socially liberal legislation presented to the electorate as a wonderful means of acquiring those most liberal of things, freedom and equality, divorce reform benefited only the well-off, by and large. It was legislation designed to enable the affluent to XXXX around with impunity, (no fault, remember!), And hang the rest. Hang the kids. Children from broken homes make up 80% of the population of Britain psychiatric units……. Whoever the 1971 divorce format was brought into ‘enable ‘, it was certainly not the children. It was not the children, and it was not the poor.” Page 77.
13) The Sexualised Generation
He talks about the 1970’s and Gary Glitter singing to 14 year old girls – ‘Do you wanna touch me?” What do you think he was referring to…?
Part 2 here