An extract from Auberon Waugh's column, 'Rage'. Here he is on the young, the stupidity of dumbing down newspapers and television, and Liverpool's urgent need to forget about the Beatles. 24 July 1992
AN ALARMING picture of the younger generation emerges from the British Youth Council’s report published last week. The British Youth Council is an organisation which might be expected to take an optimistic or ‘upbeat’ view of the nation’s youf, pointing out how big- hearted it is in many ways, how classless, free-thinking, unimpressed by cant, etc. Youfs or youves on motorbikes have been known to take bread and milk to old age pensioners in isolated cottages.
That, at any rate, is received wisdom on the subject, but the British Youth Council takes a gloomier view: largely drug addicted and homeless, almost entirely unemployed, prone in ever-increasing numbers to suicide, youth’s only bright spot (if these figures are to be believed) is that juvenile crime actually fell by 25 per cent between 1979 and 1989.
Personally, I do not believe that last claim, although, if it is true, it may mean that the younger generation is losing what little urge to self-improvement it once had. So far as there is any purpose to the report, it must be to urge us — or rather the government — to push more money towards youf, although I am convinced that would be the worst possible approach.
Nothing will be solved by giving them more money, nor is there anything to be gained by reducing newspapers and television programmes to their level: they have no money to spend, and no prospects of earning any while they remain in their juvenile state.
Perhaps the worst thing of all is to set up training colleges, like the one proposed by the 50-year-old teenager Paul McCartney, to teach them how to make rock music. When half-witted advertisers and philanthropists stop throwing money at it, they will realise that the youth culture is as bankrupt of ideas as it is of money. Anything which flatters youth into believing otherwise is bound to help swell the numbers of those who are homeless (about 50,000) as well as jobless (about a million), or already in the prison system (about 30,000). Both the Queen and Mr Major should be criticised for giving money to Mr McCartney for his appalling scheme. Liverpool must be taught to forget about the Beatles, forget about Mgr Derek Worlock, its Roman Catholic arch-bishop, forget about the prospects of screwing any more money or sympathy out of the Hillsborough disaster and settle down to the boredom of having to earn a living again.
I am confident they will win through if they are left alone, and so long as older generations can stop pretending there is some moral value in the hideous music, the moronic opinions or the repulsive poverty of the young. Last week I was visited by the oldest of my four children (no income, two kids) who had come to scavenge some vegetables to feed her two children. Suddenly, standing in the walled kitchen garden of Combe Florey, she exclaimed: ‘These are the things I believe in: continuity, the royal family, religion, and picking gooseberries in Granny’s garden.’
Imagine a parent’s gratification at hearing these sentiments. She is 30 years old, and I have no doubt that in 20 years' time, when her children are grown up, she will be of genuine interest to advertisers, a worthy reader of the Daily Telegraph. Nothing is to be gained by trying to interest such people in rock music, or showing them new types of motor-car which they could not possible afford.
Perhaps at the age of 30, she would pass nine of the 20 critical tests to be an oldie (I failed only one, having eaten in Japanese restaurants). I have a feeling that the more intelligent young people will embrace the oldie philosophy sooner than we did. At what age, I wonder, did I decide that topless pictures were shameful, rather than cheerful or user-friendly? Perhaps it was only last week, examining the polychrome representation of topless 22-year-old Kathy Lloyd in Saturday’s Sun:
‘Our Kathy’s a cream-teaser! That’s scone and done it! Kathy Lloyd, 22, has let slip her secret passion — she loves creamy Devonshire teas! Jammy fans might try to butter up our Liverpool lass with a few homemade treats. But only if she brings her dream topping.’
About 25 years ago I was composing captions for photographs of bathing beauties in the Sunday Mirror. In those days they were not topless. It has taken me a long time to see that Clare Short is right, these topless pictures are indeed an insult to women — not because they turn them into sex objects, but because they constitute a form of ritual humiliation, almost as if the ill-favoured, sexually gauche male Sun readers were taking their revenge on Ms Lloyd for being young and attractive. The pleasure readers get from these pictures is not the normal pleasure of sexual titillation, but the slightly sadistic pleasure of being part of a mass readership with the collective power (and money) to persuade a woman to humiliate herself.
It may seem a shame if the only way these Liverpool lasses can escape their predicament is by exposing themselves to their fellow proletarians, nationwide. But if Mr Murdoch has it on his conscience, he can comfort himself that encouraging them to make hideous noises as rock musicians would be even worse. The Beatles are the model for them all to avoid.