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Matthew Sweet

31. Free Thinking Manifesto Bridging the Generation Gap


What can the generations learn from each other? Free Thinking sends a pensioner and a teenager out into the festival weekend to discover what each of their generations would like to say to each other.

They report back in this entertaining session chaired by Night Waves's Matthew Sweet. With the help of the audience we draw up a manifesto for crossing the age gap.

The Free Thinking Festival 08 Manifesto for Bridging the Generation Gap

During this year's Free Thinking festival we wanted to create a manifesto for Bridging the Generation Gap.

Our audiences at FACT, led by 80 year old Keith and 17 year old Hannah, emerged after a Sunday afternoon discussion with the following 10 point plan.

1. More inter-generational days out and try speed-dating.
2. Abandon your prejudices about youth and age.
3. Older people should remember what it was like to be young and younger people should bear in mind that they will be old one day.
4. Teach your Granny to text.
5. The young and old should celebrate each others' successes.
6. More inter-generational smiling.
7. Volunteer, and create your own community groups.
8. Ask your Granny round for dinner.
9. Hug a Goth!
10. Share each others' stories.

Listen to the recording of the session and hear the discussion.

Audio available in iPlayer for 7 days after broadcast.

Audio available on this page in perpetuity first working day after the broadcast.

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Your thoughts

Robert Miller
I really enjoyed the debate on the radio last night, and thought there was lots of interesting ground covered by the two on the panel and the audience.But I couldn't help but feel one of the principal causes of the problems that were raised was completely ignored - and that is the privatisation of our lives by business.Think about online banking - it's meant to "free up" our free time, but actually the work that would previously have been done by banking staff is now done by us - and we don't get paid for it! We have to spend ages in front of our computers (or even worse, waiting in a telephone queue) to transfer funds, pay bills etc. The result is pressure on our time which means we haven't got it to mix with our families, to volunteer, to set up community groups, as was suggested.We increasingly look towards third parties to resolve and manage our affairs, when before they would have been personal and familial. So our parents and grandparents are getting infirm - what do we do? Farm them out to a carehome - because to look after them ourselves would be too much responsibility (we claim it's for their best interests, but we know we simply can't be bothered). Our children are off the rails - what do we do? Blame the school. Blame the government. Blame hip hop songs. In other words - rather than talking, rather than sharing problems with family and neighbours, we just turn straight away to an "official", a website, the Council. We've willingly surrendered the family to the state, and then wonder why we don't talk to one another anymore. The ironic consequence of this is that the state will probably end up paying for "socialising" or "community" groups so different generations/backgrounds/races can talk to one another and do the very things we should be doing anyway, free of charge.Then think about all the impacts on our time spent by becoming (relatively) wealthy or by being socially mobile (i.e. becoming middle class). A generation or two ago, we wouldn't have to worry about mobile phones, wouldn't have cared about our diet, about keeping fit, mending the car, going on holiday twice a year (that we arrange ourselves online), worrying about our kids being bullied - an endless list of bourgeois concerns that now occupy our time, and that 40 or 50 year olds in the immediate post war years simply didn't have. Again, as a result, less time for being active in the community, for mixing with friends and family - as well as the perhaps the greatest impact of the breakdown of family life: the point when leaving to "get a better job" became more important than family ties. No we're all expected to be graduates, we're all expected to leave our communities and our roots and move to wherever the jobs are. If we want to stay behind in our towns of birth, we are considered to lack ambition or to be "losers".As a result of us all wanting to be "middle class" we all want to send our children to university. This costs money. Yet, although we want to be middle class graduates, we're not prepared to fund it through taxation, so we have to have loans. This means that graduates spend a long time paying back those loans, which means that the focus is on earning a lot as soon as possible (as well as wanting to become home owners) - so the decision to have children is deferred for as long as possible.So there's a whole generation of people around their twenties and early thirties who have no contact with children whatsoever. A whole generation of people who are farmed off to await their death in a care home. A whole generation of young children who are kept cocooned in their homes getting obese, because their parents worry about their health. Listening to the programme last night, I couldn't help but think of the great book "Bowling Alone" by Robert Putnam. Most of the causes of the breakdown of "social capital" that Putnam describes, can be pretty much used to explain the breakdown in communication between different generations.

A festival of ideas in Liverpool Friday 31st October - Sunday 2nd November 2008, on radio and online.

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