Should I be more jealous of my parents or my unborn child?

I’m having a baby!

Well, my wife is. Anyway, I don’t want to be *that guy* and now talk only about the baby, and forget that I ever had other interests. So, I have combined one of my other interests with the prospects of the child by thinking about social justice between generations.

I have written before about the loss in Britain of the last generation that knew war with an existential threat to the UK. From the ashes of the First and Second World Wars Britain built the welfare state, the NHS, expanded education access and built decent affordable homes. I think these things are related – there is nothing more obvious than a massive war for demonstrating how cruel and unjust life can be, with huge numbers of people dying or seriously injured in their early adulthood in the name of the state. I think that lead to a sense of social responsibility – we had a collective moment of recognition that we as a society should look after people who needed it. I think we owe a huge debt to that generation, as the foundation of a society where people are, by and large, looked after.

The subsequent generation reaped the benefits hugely. Free and available education, quality social housing and the welfare state mean that there was much less actual hardship. And, perhaps because of this lack of understanding of what they were saved from, that generation has been incredibly damaging. Where the war generations sacrificed a great deal to provide for their children, the baby boomers have sacrificed their childrens’ prospects to protect themselves.

That may sound harsh, but in many ways the baby boomers are pulling up the ladder behind them. Property around the country, but especially the city, is unaffordable because of property hoarding and an obsession with inflating property value, despite the fact that this is a clear sign of social inequality. Energy is largely created by burning dinosaurs because of small minded, short sighted NIMBYism preventing both renewables and nuclear power. Free, and with it at least the appearance of equal, access to education has gone, and healthcare is at risk of following. The disabled and those in need from other countries are demonised and treated appallingly rather than supported. In fact, people born in the 60’s and 70’s are likely to be poorer than their parents.

And yet, despite the selfish and short sighted nature of the Baby Boomers, in many ways life is much better now, and technology has changed the world and the way we live in it. Almost every part of the globe is accessible in very little travel time. A huge amount of knowledge and information is available free and at your fingertips. You can communicate immediately and for free in HD around the world. Healthcare is improved, and should continue to improve for at least those that can afford insurance. Food is plentiful and varied for most. Society is more liberal, with homophobia, racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination diminishing.

So, to answer my rhetorical question, I would much prefer to be born into the world today, as one of the first generation born into a world that has the internet. I prefer the great variety and improved technologies of the western world as it is now, which make our lives easier, safer and better. However, I am worried about the direction of travel in some areas, and I would very much like it if we could apply to this modern world a bit more of the ethos of that post-war generation, that recognised the duty to support those in need. I want my generation to have a greater understanding of our responsibilities to the future than the previous one had to us.

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