At only 24 I can only look back to England in the 1980s, and the late 80s at that. My personal experiences then were filled with being forced to join campaign marches against the Poll Tax by my socialist mother or being dragged to church on a Sunday to get a drilling on why Jesus died for me followed by the nightmarish experience of my dad trying to teach my mum how to drive by going around in circles at the local supermarket’s car park because back then, all the shops were closed on a Sunday. It’s something I look back on with mixed feelings. Part of me wants the fast-paced consumer lifestyle, but then other times I remember how everything being closed on Sunday was a way of slowing the country down a bit – forcing it to take a break, to spend time with the family, to catch up on the household finances.
England today is already a lot different. Even at my young age I feel alienated from the youth that patrol the streets, but unlike older generations that call the police on these kids, I understand that the street is where they feel safe now, where they feel in control and where they are able to express themselves. England, to me, has lost something over the past few years and looking at the generation behind me is a vital clue.
It’s lost that face-to-face communication that was so common even when I was a kid, but in the evolution of the internet it’s gained something else. My generation and the one below are more comfortable with social networking websites than they are with sitting down with their parents over dinner. But, within that domain of cyberspace they are able to develop a range of skills and experiences that will sustain them through the burgeoning growth of the internet-enabled world.
Yet, despite the changes in communication, friendship and socialising that the internet has heralded, there is still something great and old-fashioned about England – our compassion and how we support the worst off in our society.
Look at the recent flooding, for example. Communities came together to offer assistance to their neighbours – probably people they would never speak to on a day-to-day basis. Then, there are terrorist attacks, which cause a great rallying around of collective solidarity.
For me, England is a nation that has so many different vibrant strands in society. There’s my internet-enabled generation, but then there’s also the elderly, those that can’t afford the internet, those that spend all day in tough jobs with little reward and those that face daily neglect and abuse. We’re a nation built of individuals, each with very different lives and cultures, and together we forge a great economy and a free nation. Yet, when the face of evil, or the hand of disaster comes to call we bind together, united in one clear voice that we are a community, we are neighbours, and we are a nation. We are England.
Mike Rouse is the Managing Director of MessageSpace Creative and Head of Technology at 18 Doughty Street Talk TV as well as blogger at www.mikerouse.net