Today is the centenary of the first day of the Battle of the Somme, and one of the ways it was marked was by actors donning the uniform of a WWI soldier and standing, ghostlike, in train stations and public places around the country. They were mute, except for an occasional collective rendition of We’re Here Because We’re Here: a song dating back to the trenches in 1916. If a soldier was approached by a member of the public, they were handed a card giving the name, battalion and age of one of the 19,240 men killed on that first day. My son witnessed it first hand as he walked through Victoria train station in Manchester. He described the scene as eerie and incredibly powerful and moving. (The photographs are courtesy of his girlfriend, taken at Piccadilly train station, Manchester.) All this brings home the sacrifice made by so many men of all ages to safeguard the safety of this country’s people against the tyranny of a dictatorship. They didn’t think about themselves, only the greater good. Which is more than can be said for SOME, not all, of today’s generation with their inflated sense of self-entitlement.
I’m talking, of course, about the fallout from Brexit. According to reports, there has been an increase in hate crimes since the result was announced, with many Remainers condemning all Leavers as ‘racist and xenophobic’, who are ‘too stupid and uneducated’ to have made such a monumental decision. In their ‘educated’ opinion, the worst of these culprits is the old Brexiteer, who has thrown away the future of a generation; something they had no right to do, given that they’ll be ‘dead soon’.
While we all agree that abuse, be it racial, sexual or any other, is abhorrent and should not be tolerated, apparently this doesn’t stretch to abuse directed at the older generation, judging by the emotional outburst following the EU referendum. This is the apparent attitude being advocated by a section of young people with its rhetoric. It has resulted in the older demographic being targeted as fair game by any who hold a contrary opinion. They don’t even see the irony of vehemently defending those suffering at the hands of racial bigots while, at the same time, viciously lambasting an ageing population because they didn’t pander to their wishes. Some have even proposed a curtailment of the over-60s voting rights in order to ensure the ‘democratic process’ is being upheld and ensure the best outcome possible for the young. No one should be discriminated against or abused because they don’t look the same, talk the same, or think the same as any other. Including the old.
My origins are working class, and I have a degree and a nursing qualification. I listened to the many arguments presented in the campaign, on both sides, but also did my own research to reach an informed choice. And that choice was to LEAVE. I will not apologise for my decision but had the country voted to remain, I would have respected that and got on with it. That is democracy! I have many reasons why I voted out of which I have no intention of airing today. I will say, though, that I think it’s time the country got a grip, and those vitriolic youths — many of whom couldn’t take time away from their Facebook page to actually vote — take a leaf out of the books of the young soldiers who volunteered before they were conscripted, many underage and think of someone other than themselves for a change. Their arrogance and ignorance is astounding, as is the attitude of those parents who continue to validate their child’s selfishness by kowtowing and voting the way their little darlings told them to. Grow a pair, why don’t you? The men who went over the top on this day one hundred years ago weren’t able to demand a ‘safe space’, despite the obvious terror, or insist the Kaiser be ‘deplatformed’ because he was espousing a view different to theirs. The future of the youth of 1916 truly was ruined. So, stop whining about how you may now be forced to complete a visa or see an increase in your mobile roaming charges because the UK has voted to leave the EU, an undemocratic bureaucracy that is decimating economies and employment opportunities for many young people across Europe, I might add. We are still a part of Europe and you have your whole lives ahead of you, unlike those who died a century ago fighting for your right to democracy. Learn the lessons of history and don’t let their lives have been lost in vain.
Cards with the names of soldiers who died on the opening day of the Battle of the Somme Credit: Alastair Stewart/ITV News