I struggle to verbalise the current situation that we find ourselves in. We lack idols; we lack leaders or, more specifically, the right kind of leaders. We are at war with each other's ideologies that have no bearing on our lives. We're a generation of political pariahs, shoehorned into a fit that is
just a little too confining.
There is a vacuum of positive influence for young men at the moment, a lack of proper role models promoting themselves through our popular culture, a uniter is not the answer, but I am sick to death of dividers. Challenging leaders are good for our society, but dogma has replaced compromise, and with it, I watch the dying embers of a once politically active younger generation. These days, we need honest leaders who challenge very vocal minorities and stand up for a universal goal of improvement. Always pandering to small groups, no matter how marginalised, will alienate any pluralist society. The result is an inactive generation or one whose political actions become antagonistic and retaliatory.
I genuinely cannot think back to my childhood and pluck someone I wanted to be like when I grew up.
The self-victimisation culture we have produced in our fight against oppression has paved the way for a sick revenge culture throughout high-level politics. All it takes is a quick glance across the pond to watch the constant bickering between outgoing and incumbent presidential administrations who aim to undo their predecessor's work. Oppression has turned into a bingo card for both sides of the political spectrum, with each eagerly waiting to label something a sly fascist move or dirty commie propaganda. Closer to home, Jeremy Corbyn is being forced to run independently so Labour can eschew the socialist banner from the party.
On the other hand, activists like Just Stop Oil and Extinction Rebellion exhaust me through their sheer ineffectiveness. Their message is getting overshadowed by their inability to pick effective targets. They are more interested in gaining screen time than achieving any positive progress. I read about Roger Hallam, the Extinction Rebellion co-founder, who uses XR as his personal affirmation factory, sauntering around their building like Colonel Kurtz. Zion Lights wrote about Hallam being the "leader of a cult", preying on guilt and anxiety by offering "salvation". The kind of extreme doom and gloom that manipulates the naiveté of a promising youth. As far as it goes, any figure willing to step into this mess and advocate moderation will face an uphill battle.
It is not that I wish for idolatry; people worship too easily today. Imitations of strength and power. Imitations of support and charity. Those willing to either stoop to the lowest lows or imitate the highest of highs to feel a sense of achievement. I see no real leaders who inspire challenges, who inspire change. As it is, politics has often preyed on impending catastrophe, and it would be refreshing to see a challenge to this, a politician whose message isn't one of untimely doom and destruction but one of hope and promise. Identifying a positive stride forward seems to elude even the most seasoned politicians and activists.
Idolatry is an oversaturated market, just like the market for disdain. Hating people got old quickly. Is it getting old not having someone to look up to? Is it too late to have someone to look up to?
It's alien. I genuinely cannot think back to my childhood and pluck someone I wanted to be like when I grew up. Outside of close family members and fictional characters, I really struggle. Maybe I outgrew the necessity. Is the aimless direction of this generation due to the same problem?
And our aimlessness is preyed upon by a reactive political culture. Like frenzied dogs, when someone knocks on the door, we await the next reason to publicly condemn a political event. As one dog barks, a chorus rings out, and the simultaneous unification of a generation gives credibility to some of the most significant social movements in the past five years. What is worse is that these movements didn't have an identifiable leader. Black Lives Matter, ANTIFA, and the #MeToo movement. All work and all protest was done after a breaking point. It was not proactive at its roots; it was reactive. Dangerously so. George Floyd, Donald Trump and Harvey Weinstein. It took a murder, an election and an outcry to kick a disjointed generation into gear. The cracks are beginning to show, and without a focal point, these movements eventually crumble. Moderation requires a voice, and there isn't one.
I remember being privy to a conversation over the "role of men" post-MeToo, and the general assessment was that the normal nervousness around women had been replaced by genuine fear. No one is to blame for such a development, but it happened. Intentions misread, actions exaggerated, and lives ruined.
I am sure many are familiar with that infamous Andrew Tate adage about women's clothing being responsible for them being raped or assaulted. The disaffected look up to Tate because he provides them with a place in society. He provides a place for young men who feel uncomfortable being powerless. Young men who have reached sexual, cultural and political maturity at a very politically sensitive time. Their first interaction with it is a whirlwind of accusations about all men being this and all men that. Imagine an aimless teenager being told, reassured even, that all the blame he is receiving was never his fault; that's powerful. Thus, the disaffection of a generation is dispelled by one man's vulgarity. A vulgarity that perks their ears like that of a curious dog in the night. These young men have been thrown a line which absolves them. The bait is tasty at first, but like any bait on a line, the fish is unaware of the consequences.
But I am interested in who stands up as a uniter; it feels like a dark time when compliance is a necessity and conformity is encouraged. Dogmatic individuals who are unaware of what they stand for but will fight for it to the end. The catastrophists see every political development against them as the beginning of their own personal genocide. It would be exciting to find a leader who inspires people based on the quality of their ideas and not on their ability to raise fear of their opposition. I remember seeing Senator John McCain speak about Obama on the campaign trail in 2008. He was asked about Obama's background and birthplace and how he would ruin the country should he get into office. McCain simply assured the woman that should Obama get into office, he was sure he would be just as capable as McCain himself. Politics has lost its promise, and being forced to pick "the lesser of two evils" will continue this trend.
So now, at the advent of a new election cycle that will grip the news for the next 18 months, it is pertinent to reflect upon a world whose leaders struggle to inspire their newest troves of the electorate. Amidst an easily curatable outrage culture, there comes the chance to spread a new kind of election promise, one that can inspire healthy change throughout a country. A stark contrast to the "kill or be killed" nature that pervades high-level political institutions currently. The repetitive nature of fear-mongering leaders will only prove to stoke unnecessary tension in an already strained population. One man wandering out of the darkness to inspire the uninspired seems like an outrageous proclamation, and even if it does happen, would the uninspired tune in to listen?