Young Britain: Ambitious, anxious, cynical, frustrated, pragmatic. Now our readers pass verdict on their generation

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The Independent Online
Many readers have responded to our Young Britain series. Some are concerned about a future dominated by careers, while others think that although they work hard they can play hard too. Here are some of their thoughts.

Work

I am 22 and work in a busy city centre hotel in Birmingham whilst my wife attends university as a post-graduate student of archaeology and despite the fact that we both work extremely hard we are still able to and understand the need to relax, or to use a "yoofemism", chill out.

It seems that my generation is able to combine this with busy work lives more effectively and perhaps more productively than any of our predecessors.

Ben Westwood

West Midlands

PS: I think your cannabis campaign is the best thing since king-size Rizla.

As I spent the third year of my four-year modern languages course abroad many of my friends have graduated and are out there in the "real world". When I returned I was amazed to find how many creative, artistic people with first-class degrees from the country's supposedly top university (Cambridge) were now working ridiculous hours for ridiculous money in the City.

They included the kind of people who considered themselves vaguely trendy and alternative and were still wearing the nose rings and ethnic jumpers from their gap year well into the second year.

Every week Varsity, letter-boxes and noticeboards all round the university are filled with information on recruitment for banking, corporate finance, marketing and management consultancy. These are, apparently, the only options if you want a "career" these days.

I am just a little concerned to know where my generation's voices or leaders are going to appear from. As your survey seems to be revealing, my generation is one that craves, above all, stability, conformity and financial reward.

Does nobody grow up wanting to save the world anymore?

Eleanor Wason, 22

Gonville & Caius College

Cambridge

One of the most recent and striking differences of the day, in contrast to 10 years ago, is the "work experience" ethic.

To land even an interview at any of the blue-chip graduate training schemes, a thorough work experience programme has to be illustrated.

This is all very well but one has to be extremely lucky at 18 years of age to know what direction you want a career.

I also understand the logic of companies demanding work experience but a student has to be very fortunate to actually glean something from the placement rather than gain a sparkling aptitude for photo-copying.

Zoe Woolfson, 23

Hendon

London

Stress

To reach demanding goals, young people now have to give more and increase the pace of their lives. According to these demands, this generation is disciplined and hard-working but not without it share of flair, fun and frivolity. Although, perhaps unlike other generations, they are awake to the fact that these need to be juggled with serious purposes.

In a world of intense competition, what has arisen is not just a "can do" generation but a "must do" and "need to do" generation, as teenagers recognise the necessity of working now to gain security and stability in the future. However, academic grades are no longer a guarantee of university places or job opportunities. Employers and universities are seeking qualifications, experience, extra-curricular interests and enthusiasm. They want it all. The young need to co-ordinate all these elements to make themselves into marketable products. In short, to succeed today you need it all and more.

Frankie Whitelaw, 18

Kent

If I was to sum up my years in education into one word, it would have to be: anxiousness.

I was anxious as a kid in primary school to pass into the year above, I was anxious as a teenager to choose and pass my GSCEs with flying colours, I was anxious to pass my A-levels and be accepted in the university of my choice, I am anxious about getting a good degree and, finding the ultimate job I have spent my anxious early life studying and enduring tedious job experiences. And I am anxious because I may not live up to my high expectations.

My anxiousness derives from the fact that I truly feel that the pressure is on and that my time has to be directed at securing my future. The real world is harsh, I've heard it said everywhere, the problem is, I'm not sure if I am ready to face it.

Karen Ishak, 21

London

Women

Having just read "The future, focused, flexible and female" in the Indy I have to say that I find the smugness and arrogance of the women featured is breathtaking.

How can Nina Dye Sharp so conveniently dismiss all men with such massive generalisations? And it's worth pointing out that many of us straight men can thrive on our own without the opposite sex. Talking of sex, why does Sarah Cox only see it as being about having loads of partners, being as "demanding as men", and formulating strategy on the basis of what she can get out of it ? Sounds remorselessly, oppressively extrovert and pretty loveless to me.

Can't she see she's living a life totally in hock to what's "cool and hip" and that she's actually a slave to the current fashion and the need to be popular.

As for Robin Banks, who enjoys a joke at his gender's expense, echoing the popular "men behaving badly" angle endlessly propagated in the media - he's sold out. But maybe his attitude is the only sane one - you gotta laugh, or all you can do is cry.

Ben Matthews

Evesham

Education

A load of young people are misinformed at school that to get ahead in life they must have a degree. Once they do, the world will be their oyster. Education, education, education has got me a job as a receptionist. Why? because I chose an arts degree. No one in the business world wants to know, yet school and university misinformed me that it didn't matter what degree I did, the fact that I could do one would be enough. And I'm not alone - I know plenty of others who did non-vocational degrees who are in the same predicament as me.

I am so angry and so disillusioned. When I called some graduate agencies to change my job recently, they rudely informed me that I had just wasted three years of my life. The number of students pouring out of universities every year with non-vocational arts degrees terrifies and saddens me - I see them as wasted lives. I hope I can persuade some to think again.

CG

Name and address withheld

As someone who was a teenager in the supposedly halcyon 60s, I have to say that I simply don't recognise the blase approach to employment attributed to my generation. Certainly it was easier to find employment after completing a degree course - but, then, it was much harder to get on to a degree course in the first place. Only the top handful of the state grammar school I attended ever aspired to university entrance. The pressure to get good grades, for those who did aspire, was always intense - beginning at primary school as one faced up to the 11-plus. I remember only too well the "bribes" handed out by some parents to their children in the hope that they would pass this all-important exam, and the tears when some of them - the majority - didn't. Then, as now, some children cracked under the pressure. Many more learned at a pitifully early age not to aspire to any form of higher education or any kind of "good job" at all.

So, please, balance up the findings. An honest appraisal of history might actually indicate that, in terms of opportunities, today's generation have never had it so good.

Janet Rider (Mrs)

Haywards Heath

Environment

The car is the perfect vehicle for a generation lost in the cultural milieu of job insecurity, alienating work and very little influence over society. Car is all. It is a hobby, a craft, with a great deal of work satisfaction, and it is the home from home in which we socialise away from discerning observation and through the combination of work and home we do become adults.

We have become alienated from our environment, both social and agricultural. It is an incarceration.

To our credit, we are intelligent enough to bypass Swampy: his political naivety and Luddite regressiveness have only served as ammunition against those of us who would like to see industrialisation without the unnecessary pillaging of finite environmental resources.

Yet, we are immature enough to revel in self-gratification, to lubricate ourselves in short-term rewards, to steal ourselves a quick moment of relief although we are ultimately shagging society. Let down, cynical, we race through life and are now heading for a crash.

Brendan Montague

Cricklewood, London NW

When most people of my age couldn't care less about the environment and the future of this planet, I do. I am working flat out in my area to "Save the Planet".

I have greened our home: we recycle glass, paper, cans and aluminium foil from food and milk bottle tops. The family has drastically cut its car use by increased walking, cycling and use of public transport. We have a dozen energy-efficient light bulbs and also saver plugs on our fridge and freezer. We actively try and cut down our waste when shopping and buy environmentally sound washing powder and washing up liquid.

Gad! you're crying, I bet this eco-saint drives though, doesn't he? Well, no, actually. At 17 I chose not to learn to drive on environmental grounds.

It is very sad that the majority of young people are committing the crime of apathy. We will have our entire lives dominated by environmental issues - and the devastating consequences of our current lack of interest. If this is the attitude of young Britain - a shallow, materialistic, selfish and characterless monoculture, then God help us.

DAVID RYAN

Shrewsbury

Lifestyle

I am twenty-one and have been house bound and often bedridden with severe ME for three years.

I don't feel that being an ill person is my whole identity but my hopes and fears and opinions have been affected by the position I am in. While other young people perhaps have jobs at the top of their agenda, I have to consider the fact that I might be reliant upon the benefit system for the rest of my life. Will I receive enough benefit to live on? Will I be able to get sheltered housing? Who will look after me when my parents are no longer able to?

As far as relationships go, I do have a boyfriend, but for us to be committed in my present state would be expecting a huge amount from him. I worry that I won't be able to sustain a relationship. I'm also aware that in the meantime, and possibly in the long term, children are just not an option.

I understand that young people who are ill are not in the majority but we do exist. We are part of the future too.

Martha Courtier

London W3 7RF

Like a hungry man who finally eats, The Independent gorged itself on Britain's youth. They had their very own page for one week. Generalisation, gaps and oversimplifications aside, Young Britain was at least a nod to young people.

But what happens next? Back on the diet of consumer news I expect. Appealing to salaried, mortgaged individuals which the majority of under-25s are not?

Raekha Persad, 24

London

Tomorrow may belong to us, but I don't think I want to go there. It seems a curious mix of New Right morality and the New Labour work ethic.

We need "Sex, drugs and rock'n'roll". If that sounds like a cliche, maybe we need to reinvent it.

But when did it all get so serious? Why do we want to become our parents, only worse?

Ian Corbett, 21

Runcorn, Cheshire

Do those surveyed belong to a cult of Liberal Democrats living in a retreat making effigies of Paddy Ashdown? I tried to spot an individual (remember? daring, wild, a little dangerous ... sorry, forgot) amongst your ragbag of socially, morally, ecological, asexually correct respondees. But - oh, no - these carefree, rebellious spirits are too busy planning for the future, families and God knows what else. Let me ask. When do you think your "Young Britainees" are going to hit the boredom threshold? Perhaps they are the boredom threshold? I suspect Mary Whitehouse has been filling in questionnaires and loading the result...

Of course there is another possibility. YOU HAVE BEEN DUPED, CONNED. Your survey has shown that Young Britain are a bunch of liars. They know it. They've had a good ol' laugh about it whilst popping a pill and getting hammered.

Ed Funnell, 24

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