Great expectations of a lost generation

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DURING my life I’ve seen a lot of changes in the world around me, including the expectations held by many.

Take Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) for example. It was set up at a time when many working-class families, mine included, had, for many years, relied on the ‘Panel Doctor’ for advice and treatment.

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I can’t remember how it was paid-for, but it seemed to function, albeit in a limited fashion. I was a somewhat sickly child, requiring hospitalisation now and then, and receiving it despite the fact that my parents could not afford private medicine. Treatment seemed always available, and perhaps owing to our limited expectations, working people then were well satisfied.

Then in 1948 came the NHS, a great step forward, bringing advances in medicine, and with heart and other transplants becoming almost the norm, one gets the impression now that everyone expects doctors and surgeons to keep us alive and well, almost for ever. However, research, and developments for new treatments are never without cost, but patients tend to assume they will be freely available ‘at the drop of a hat’. Decades ago, before these miracles existed, people just accepted the world as it was, and perhaps this is one of the reasons why the NHS is now forever in financial difficulties. Expectations, you see.

A further example of how expectations have surged ahead of reality is to be seen in the everyday world around us. Many young people appear to believe it is their right to begin their independent lives with everything their parents have. They expect a house, comfortable furnishings, central heating, plasma TV, and so on, and they want it all NOW.

In the majority of cases of course, their parents started their lives together short of money – not to say pretty broke – and worked their way up, but to be reminded of this is perceived by many of their children as nothing but a boring exaggeration.

Quite a number believe attendance at university, however useless the course, will guarantee a glamorous, well-paid job, and at the end of it all, they are disappointed to find there is nothing out there for them except the dole-queue, or perhaps, if they can swallow their pride, Starbucks or Macdonald’s. They become disgruntled and disillusioned because their dreams haven’t come true, and of course, it’s all down to the politicians, the bankers, ‘The Establishment’, the schools they attended – anything and anybody except themselves.

They go on line contacting others of a similar outlook, many becoming habitual demonstrators, known in Spain as ‘Indignados’.

If you took one of these ‘lost children’ aside to ask them exactly what they were protesting about, I doubt if many could give you a cogent reason, or a coherent argument. If you were to look closely at the television reports over a period, you might begin to recognise the ones bellowing through ‘bull-horns’ and orchestrating chants. In the UK we used to call them: ‘Rent-a-Mob’.

Some parents won’t like what comes next, but many of the problems are down to them. They have actively encouraged their off-spring to harbour aspirations beyond their capabilities, urging them to go to ‘Uni’ instead of being sensible, reminding them that there is nothing demeaning about being in a good, well-paid trade. Quite the opposite, in fact.

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