I often teach youngsters at art schools.
I’m always surprised at the way they need permission to be creative.
They way they will always ask what they are allowed to do.
To avoid breaking the rules and upsetting anyone.
I always thought that young people were supposed to be rebellious.
To want to change things.
Murray Chick is one of the best planners I’ve worked with.
He has a theory about this.
His theory is that young people aren’t necessarily rebellious.
We think they are because the generation we grew up in, the baby-boomers, was rebellious.
The baby-boomers were teenagers in the 60s and 70s.
When Murray said that it made me wonder.
If our generation truly was more rebellious, more questioning, more creative, why was that?
What made us different?
My theory is we got lucky.
We owe it all to the previous generation.
The blokes who fought in the war.
What changed things was the Labour Movement.
The unemployment and strikes of the 1930s meant the working class wasn’t going to be downtrodden any more.
Now there was a workers’ party to oppose the traditional elite.
And two world wars were the turning point.
The feeling was that the rich start the wars.
The rich profit from the wars.
The poor fight the wars, and the poor die.
And they’d had enough.
That’s why Churchill and the conservative government were voted out of power while the war was still going on.
Not a lot of people know that.
Winston Churchill wasn’t Prime Minister at the end of the war.
It was called ‘The Khaki Vote’.
The working class soldiers who fought the war voted for a government of their own.
And with that came the promise to look after the working classes.
Free medicine for all, old age pensions, unemployment pay, free schools for everyone.
The feeling that everyone should have the same chance as the rich.
Particularly as regards education.
And that generation opened up art galleries, and theatre, and concerts, and culture, and creativity to my generation.
And they democratised mass media, with commercial radio and commercial television.
All things which had been state-controlled, and run for the benefit of the elite.
Suddenly everything was open to everyone, open to question, open to change.
And to my generation, it felt like being let out of a cage.
It was the thrill of being able to go anywhere, try anything, compete with anyone.
For the first time it was about ability, not class.
And that’s why the baby-boomers questioned everything, rebelled against restrictions, expanded into creativity.
Subsequent generations of course take all that for granted.
They don’t have anything to rebel against.
So there is no thrill at questioning, experimenting, changing.
Breaking rules, getting into trouble, aren’t seen as exciting, rebellious acts anymore.
Now the only criteria is success.
And success is about making money.
And that’s about finding out what you’re allowed to do.
About fitting in and not upsetting anyone, doing what everyone agrees on, what’s expected.
Trying to be better, not trying to be different.
That’s how you succeed, that’s how you make money.
It doesn’t feel very creative to me.
But then it wouldn’t.