Thaw­ing the Snowflake Gen­er­a­tion

Country Life Every Week - - Spectator -

I’VE just waved off the last of Gen­er­a­tion Snowflake, a term used to de­scribe thin­skinned stu­dents who sti­fle de­bate by ‘no plat­form­ing’ peo­ple they don’t agree with and who take of­fence at many things. Ac­tu­ally, that’s a cheap shot, be­cause I wouldn’t say we’ve got Snowflakes, but they cer­tainly come from the same gen­er­a­tion. The house feels very empty—just Zam, me and some slightly stale bread and cheese. Plus Fletcher the dachs­hund.

I weigh up the pros and cons of the new si­lence. I can keep tabs on my sham­poo and eat boiled eggs for lunch, but there’s no­body to ar­gue with about non-bi­nary gen­der dis­crim­i­na­tion and whether the younger gen­er­a­tion is more, or less, tol­er­ant. And we’ve dis­cussed these a lot.

The cu­ri­ous state of free speech crops up round the ta­ble on a reg­u­lar ba­sis—it’s in the news most days and leads to dis­agree­ments about tol­er­ance ver­sus creep­ing cen­sor­ship through strange dis­tor­tions of tol­er­ance. We usu­ally meet some­where in the mid­dle ground, but I’ve cer­tainly felt the gen­er­a­tional gap. I’ve no doubt this is a good thing.

If you’re out­num­bered by un­der 23 year olds, it’s worth tak­ing a poll or two and ours agreed that the (as far as I can tell, er­ro­neous) story that yurts should be banned at mu­sic fes­ti­vals be­cause this ap­pro­pri­ates another cul­ture was tak­ing things too far—a re­lief for me as I’m cur­rently re­search­ing them as a pos­si­ble part of the so­lu­tion to our on­go­ing hous­ing puz­zle and I don’t want my chil­dren to boy­cott their bed­room be­cause it of­fends Mon­go­lians.

Ev­ery­one was in­cred­u­lous at the story that clap­ping has been banned in a Syd­ney pri­mary school be­cause the vol­ume can trig­ger neg­a­tive re­ac­tions in the noise sen­si­tive un­til the 14 year old sit­ting on my left said they never clapped in her Lon­don school as­sem­blies—they clicked their fin­gers. She looked more amazed than we did about clap­ping or the lack thereof. The ac­tor who was stay­ing went rather pale.

Then, at the other end of the ta­ble, I heard Zam ar­gu­ing ro­bustly with a 19 year old who said they’d ban Don­ald Trump from speak­ing at their univer­sity. ‘He’s just too ex­treme,’ they said. Be­fore things got too heated, I mo­tioned the as­ton­ished Zam into the kitchen, thereby shut­ting down fur­ther de­bate. I re­turned to the ta­ble to find much dis­cus­sion about fancy-dress cos­tumes for forth­com­ing par­ties. The themes ‘tribal’ and ‘trop­i­cal’ are cul­tural-ap­pro­pri­a­tion mine­fields.

The morn­ing after the banTrump mo­ment, Fletcher looks peaky. ‘I feel sorry for him,’ says one of the chil­dren. ‘No­body lis­tens to him.’ On fur­ther en­quiry, this charge is laid against me be­cause, when­ever he starts whin­ing, I tell him to shush. ‘What if that’s his voice? Some peo­ple sound whiny. And what if he’s try­ing to tell you he’s ill?’

‘I’m no plat­form­ing him,’ I say as I open the car door for him to hop in. ‘And he’s not ill—he just ate too much.’

By the end of the hol­i­days, the ar­gu­ments about free speech are sup­planted by a flurry of ac­cu­sa­tions and per­sonal at­tacks while last-minute wash­ing and Will’s an­nual hair­cut take place in the kitchen. ‘Who’s stolen my knap­sack?’ ‘Who moved my bin that had the bag with the black top and the belt in it?’ ‘Who took my face wipes?’ ‘Are you ap­pro­pri­at­ing those pil­lows?’ I ask.

‘Check Mum’s bag. She al­ways takes the charg­ers,’ one shouts up­stairs to another.

‘Who’s nicked my socks?’ Will buys multi-packs of these and hides them, squir­rel-like. ‘Why can’t any­one ever find bloody socks in this house?’ he asks as he eyes me ac­cus­ingly.

‘I find that of­fen­sive,’ I say and wan­der off to let Fletcher out of the car for his sup­per.

‘Clap­ping has been banned at a Syd­ney pri­mary school

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