The vote is wasted on the young
We should raise the voting age to 25, not lower it to 16.
The best provocation yet for abolishing the House of Lords has been its members’ determination to give away the vote to 16- and 17-year-olds. I appreciate that rich, Baby Boomers who now make up the Lords feel awful that the young have it much harder than they did. But being slave to a guilty conscience is no justification for pursuing a policy of atonement. This is on a par with affluent metropolitan types voting Labour as an act of purification, to purge their feelings of guilt.
It’s been reported this week that the average age of a cyber-attacker is now 17, with teenagers hacking, for the most part, to knock-out computer-game rivals. This reflects a long-established truth about teenagers: that they are more clever than wise, possessing intellectually fertile but emotionally febrile brains.
Adolescents and those in their early twenties behave childishly when they become involved in party politics, as the debacle over the Tatler Tory demonstrates. We should expect ‘bullying’ in the youth wing of the Conservative Party, its members are still children at heart.
Everyone who has reached the age of 25 learns that only then do you start to think like an adult. Only then does it dawn on you that you wouldn’t give your callow, teenage self the vote. The 25-and-over policy employed by some supermarkets for the purchase of alcohol may seem punitive and excessive, but it’s not illogical. Young drivers pay more for car insurance for the same reason: they are reckless and act more on impulse.
Young minds, especially those of students, actually tend to regress during their early twenties, as a means to escape the fresh challenges of the adult world. The tantrum-throwing behaviour of some students today, with their babyish ‘safe spaces’, is but further evidence that the voting age should be raised.
This guilt-ridden move by the Lords to lower the voting age debases the voting franchise. Aged, rich liberals argue that ’16-year-olds can be intelligent, and it’s their future’. On that reasoning, there’s no argument against lowering the age to 12. Or why not seven, the so-called age of reason? I have a niece that age; she, too, ‘is the future’.
Sullen, braying millennials have foisted a sense of guilt on the aged, innocent Baby Boomers in the Lords. These pensioners have been found guilty of not having the power of clairvoyance in the 1960s, of not being able to forecast the economic trends of 50 years hence.
There are good reasons for raising the minimum voting age to 25, and also for introducing a cap on the voting age. This should be enacted as soon as someone becomes an unelected Lord who is unburdened with the sickly guilt of the rich, left-wing liberal.
You ain’t no grammarian, bruv
‘Grammarians quietly stewing over “You ain’t no Muslim, bruv” double negative’, runs the headline to an article on NewsThump. This was the satirical website’s take on the now famous retort by a passer-by to the knife-man in Leytonstone Tube station in east London.
‘“A very worthy cause, of course. It’s almost right”, said Dr Peter E Dantry, president of the Oxford English Grammar Society’, continues the fictitious report. ‘“Really, it’s fine. The message is clear enough. I suppose it’s just that ‘You are not a Muslim, brother’, might have been a touch more succinct, and accurate, but never mind.” Other observers were less charitable in their criticism. “You ain’t no Muslim, bruv? So he is, in fact, a Muslim? Is that what you meant to say? Then why did you say that then?”, commented a bespectacled, middle-aged man.’
Double negatives always divide English-language purists, who believe languages have inviolable rules (a second negative cancels the first), from those who assert that language is foremost the vernacular (for them, a second negative intensifies the first, as it does in French with ‘Je ne sais pas’). Our man at Leytonstone Tube station used it as an intensifier, and to good effect.
Language is all about context. If you hear a teenager in the street saying ‘I don’t know nothing’, the meaning is clear, and you leave him be. However, these words uttered in class by the same youth should be corrected by the teacher, because future employers will pick up on informal grammar and interpret it as ignorance or sloppiness.
Double negatives and greengrocers’ apostrophes don’t matter on the streets, but they do if you want to get ahead in life. In other words, there ain’t no place for the word ‘bruv’ in a job interview.
The luminescence of civilisation
I compose most of what I write in my head on long walks, with a pen and notebook to hand. An ever-changing visual landscape is a source of inspiration, and I work over ideas and amend my prose mentally with each step.
The other day I walked north along Deal Beach in east Kent, in the direction of a town the name of which children always find hilarious: Sandwich. It was twilight, and there was an array of sounds, from dogs yapping in the dark, cows mooing, the wind whistling and waves lapping the shore. From beyond the fields in the distance, a train clattered by.
In the manner of Brian Cox gazing in awe at the ‘wonder of the universe’, I stopped to observe civilisation on the horizon. To the north, beyond the bleakness, I could see the lights of Ramsgate shimmering, and, making a counter-clockwise turn, the lights of Canterbury, Folkestone, Dover, Deal, Calais and Dunkirk.
To view the luminescence of civilisation amid all the forbidding forces of nature was awesome. Here was a part of Europe that in the Ice Age was one landmass, known to archaeologists as the Transmanche. Indeed, to stand on the cliffs of Dover today, where one can see the features of the almost tangible French cliffs, is to regard the English Channel as but a flooded valley.
It’s easy to lose sight of the feats of civilisation after the slaughter in Paris, evidence of man’s capacity for savagery. But to value humanity within our place in nature, I recommend winter walks in the country or by the sea, amid the mud and along mucky paths. It’s a magical feeling to make that first, simple step back on to the pavement.
Patrick West is a spiked columnist. Follow him on Twitter: @patrickxwest