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Martin Sewell: This is Polly Toynbee's Generation

6a00d83451b31c69e2014e8929fa51970d-150wi Martin Sewell is a family Solicitor from Kent. He is also an Anglican Reader.

Liberal Britain remains stunned and shamed by what it saw on the streets of Britain. It says that it recognises the need for a bold response, but do not believe for a moment that this heralds a willingness to row back far from the policies, doctrines and values that have shaped the generation which was capable of such a sustained attack on civilised values.

As the Government begins to attune to the current public mood, there will be others desperately working to diffuse it. They will be defending the value system of social, economic, family, penal, media/entertainment, and education policy espoused by the liberal establishment for the past forty years. That value system is entrenched; there are powerful sectional interests involved, and nobody likes to admit they were wrong.

Not least, the greatest cultural influence in the country - The BBC - can be relied upon to defend the status quo and we shall under- estimate its ability to shape the debate against change at our peril.

It therefore becomes all the more important that those of us wishing to seriously do something about the situation be very clear and focussed about what we are up against.

The problem is not fundamentally about resources, or policies, but about core values,  and anyone seriously mounting a response  and offering solutions, needs to understand that we are entering a phase of Counter Reformation against Generation Toynbee, a term I coin to encapsulate the cohort of young people brought up according to the values and priorities constantly promoted by that leading commentator of liberal doctrines.

Generation Toynbee is...

  • Rights aware
  • Entitlement demanding
  • State dependent
  • Contribution-lite
  • Authority averse
  • Responsibility poor
  • Hedonistic
  • Historically uninformed and un-curious
  • Undervaluing families/fathers
  • Culturally narrow and modernistic
  • Demanding ( often unearned) "respect"
  • Generationally isolated
  • Materialistic
  • Intellectually un-aspirational
  • Drug tolerant
  • Morally relativist
  • Unchallenged by mainstream society
  • Indulged materially and behaviourally
  • Suspicious of wealth generators

We need to fix in the public mind the correlation between these values and the problems we have seen on our streets, and to establish a clear divide between those who broadly support such a mindset and those wishing to change it. The riots are but the most graphic illustration of the malign consequences of Generation Toynbee, but there are many other symptoms testifying to the betrayal of the young by such attitudes; whether you visit the public spaces after dark, or the  STD clinics, the evidence is widespread.

Some have called the riots David Cameron’s “9/11” or “Katrina” Moment. If he has the will, he can catch the sympathy of the public to respond to the riots in both the short and medium term. Policy will be important, but unless there is a Counter Reformation against the values of Generation Toynbee the response will be shallow, short lived,  and ineffective . He needs a wider vision and a greater ambition. The public mood however will be with him.

After the last week, I imagine that David Cameron must be feeling like a member of the audience of the late, great, Nina Simone, who used to begin her concerts with the line - “Have you ever been to a revivalist meeting - well, you’re in one now!”

The Counter Reformation led to the Jesuits identifying the key importance of values. “ Give me a child of seven and I will give you the man” We have been given proof of the nature of Generation Toynbee, In whose hands will Generation Cameron be?


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