We are a small bunch of friends, drawn from 3 generations, who share a common wish for our young to be able to attain their hopes and aspirations, spending their lives in – and contributing to – a vibrant Britain, at ease with itself and with the rest of the world.
We have come together to share our thoughts with you and to stimulate dialogue for two main reasons.
First, we know that it is the young – our and your children and grandchildren – that hold the key to Britain’s future. They are the ones who have to live with the results of any actions stemming from the EU referendum. It also seems pretty obvious that, if Britain rightly aspires to new greatness, this can only come through the commitment, enthusiasm, skills and energies of the younger generation.
Secondly, we are all deeply disturbed that the referendum process has created dire splits in our society, communities and families. If Britain is to regain its composure and our children and grandchildren are to learn to trust those who are closest to them, the healing must start within divided families. We hate the thought that our children might have to spend the best days of their lives in split families.
Suffice it to say, we receive no finance from outsiders, we are not beholden to any political party and we have no political ambitions.
The Long-Term Impact of the Referendum
The main difference between the EU referendum of 23rd June and general elections in Britain is that, rather than selecting individuals to represent us in Parliament for just 5 years, we were asked to vote on choosing a course of action that will have a profound impact on British lives for decades to come. If, as a result of the referendum, the British government confirms its intent to start the leaving process that it sanctioned, it will be embarking on an irreversible course. Had the vote been in favour of remaining, the option would still have existed to leave at any time in the future.
At the time of the referendum, voters were in the dark about what leaving would entail. Five months later, they remain in the dark because the government is still unable to define its negotiating stance and to offer voters an objective assessment of the chances of getting what it wants.
We do not question the referendum verdict. It has given the government a permission, albeit it by a slim majority of voters, to leave the EU. Presumably, however, the verdict cannot be interpreted as an instruction to leave at any cost or to commit national economic suicide. As we see it, the government must carefully weigh up the options and decide what is best for all the British people. If they find, on further examination, that none of the leaving options can be counted on to generate significant benefits, a responsible government would presumably report this to the electorate.
The greatest dilemma posed by the Referendum result stems from the fact that a significant majority of older voters opted for leaving the EU while most younger people – the under-45s – voted to remain.
Younger people may reasonably claim that it will be their lives and those of their children that will be most affected by a decision to leave and that it is, therefore, blatantly unfair that their expressed wish to remain should be over-ruled by the older generation whose remaining time on earth is relatively short.
Some people may scream that even to think in this way is anti-democratic and anti-geriatric, but it seems a perfectly normal reaction from a majority of the young voters who together count for 71% of the total British population of between 1 day and 55 years of age. Just because you are too young to vote should not mean that your aspirations should be treated as worthless in a genuinely democratic society.
The worst flaw in the government’s post-referendum behaviour is that it fails to see the obvious – that Britain’s future success, inside or outside the European Union, depends wholly upon the performance of the younger generation. If the majority of young people feel that they are being forced into living, working and studying in an environment that they clearly said they did not want, we can be sure that they won’t go out of their way to make the new arrangements work. This is human nature!
Some observers suggest that the indignation of the young could provoke inter-generational conflict. Our view is rather different. Instead, without intending to stereotype older people, we see that it comes naturally for grandparents to promote harmony in their families and to support the aspirations of their children and grandchildren.
Our goal is to convince the older generation that the future of Britain lies not so much in their hands but with the young. If older people, especially grandparents, accept this and translate it into displaying their respect for the expressed desires and aspirations of their children and grandchildren, this will immediately start to reduce inter-generational tensions in their families and beyond, and to create an atmosphere conducive to the open and calm dialogue that has been so absent over the past few months.
We intend to contribute to the successful outcome of this dialogue by opening a space for exchange of ideas and experiences which would help older and younger people to address these complex issues together.
We know that, if young and old sing the same tune, the PM and MPs will prick up their ears.
Our Line of Thought
Many families are in a mess after their members have voted in different ways. Often there has been a complete breakdown of communication between wives and husbands, children and their parents and grandparents, and siblings. This is not just sad but also highly destructive and damaging to the morale of everyone affected. It is feeding an atmosphere of distrust and conflict within families which can be especially damaging to their youngest members.
Probably the easiest divisions to heal are the intergenerational ones. This is mainly because of the natural bonds of affection that instinctively exist between grandparents, parents and grandchildren and of the high propensity for the senior generation to act in the interests of younger relatives even if they may hold different values themselves.
When older and younger members of the family voted differently, as seems to have frequently been the case, younger members felt betrayed. Grandparents are especially well-placed to begin to restore trust by signalling their understanding and respect for their offspring’s choices, whether for “leave” or “remain”. Through this process, they effectively pass the baton for shaping Britain’s future to the younger generation.
Their engagement in this “right of passage” does not mean that grandparents have to renounce the values and beliefs that induced them to vote differently or to “regret” their vote. But it will give them the satisfaction of knowing that they have made a real contribution to the happiness of their families, regained the respect of those whom they brought into this world, and helped to open the way for a more dynamic future for Britain.
Harnessing the basic instincts of Grandparents
We need to reach out to the 14 million grandparents in UK who have the potential to assume this vital healing role. In endorsing their offspring’s choices, they would be implicitly supporting the concept that the main “say” on the shaping of the post-referendum process must rest with the younger generations.
If intergenerational rifts are healed in this way, this will do a lot to restore a happier atmosphere within families and with their friends who may have been alienated. It will pave the way for a genuine basis for the frank and open dialogue among the under-50s on the options facing their generation as a result of the referendum.
Hopefully the added credibility that young people will gain from the overt support of their seniors will persuade our Prime Minister to stop chanting her mantra that “Brexit means Brexit” and using it to slam the door on the hopes and aspirations of the most dynamic people in the country. Instead, perhaps she might admit that Britain’s future must be determined not by her but by the younger generation.
If she fails on this test, she should be gently urged to admit that she is out of touch with those who really count in a truly democratic society, and gently step aside.
We know that changing people’s attitudes is fraught with difficulties. However we believe that the present divisions within so many families are causing such distress to all those involved that there is a strong desire to overcome them.
It is also perfectly “normal” for older people to assume responsibility for maintaining harmony in the families that they head, and to take a strong interest in the welfare of their offspring. The fact that we want to reinforce instinctive behaviour suggests that calls for restoring customary relationships should usually be well taken by all parties.
The resistance will come from older people who, perhaps for cultural reasons, habitually distrust younger generations as well as from those who may feel that they are being called upon to renounce their beliefs.
Over the past months, partly under media pressure, there has been a hardening of positions on Brexit-related issues and communication barriers have arisen within millions of families: many of them are simply avoiding any potentially contentious topic.
The big issue is how our small group of persons with limited resources can get the ball rolling.
How We Will Work
We do not intend to engage in direct campaigning. There are lots of existing campaigns with similar goals and some may wish to draw on – and adapt – our ideas in their work.
Instead, we created this website as a “resource hub” or “knowledge exchange” for use by like-minded people, institutions and campaigns. There is no charge for using the content on the site and no formal membership.
We are building up a small foundation of initial materials to get the ball rolling. Over time, the majority of the site content will come from all of you.
We will try to keep the main focus on the healing of inter-generational divisions. We will leave it to others to discuss the merits of hard or soft Brexit, migration, the single market etc.
Please look at the initial material on the site and share it with others.
If you feel that this site could, as it grows, be useful to you, please ask us to put you on our mailing list.
We invite anyone who would like to post relevant material on the site to fill in the form below or mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org
We are keen to post on the site:
- Comments on any displayed material.
- Stories, recordings, videos, photos etc. about experiences of divided families and friendships, and how these have been healed.
- Blogs, articles and short messages.
- Links to relevant sources of information, publications, newspaper articles.
- Links to your own set-up.
- Notices of future events and reports on completed ones.
When you submit material, please say if you want to be named as source or if you prefer anonymity.