The flower power generation was one of optimism. We had a belief that things could get better and that young people had the energy, vision and capacity to bring about change. Students challenged traditional values and the status quo; young people chose careers in teaching and social work because they wanted to make a difference.
‘I thought the kids of the ’80s had “sold out”, accepted too readily the idea of a career, a mortgage and a house in the suburbs’
In the 1960s the public sector was “a good thing”. It was a vehicle for improving the lives of ordinary people, be it through comprehensive schools, council housing or the NHS. So the headline “Why 80s kids will transform the NHS” on hsj.co.uk was a surprise because I had not realised that us old hippies were the problem and that children were the solution.
I must admit, I thought the kids of the 1980s lacked our idealistic passion and our naivety. They were more pragmatic, even cynical, in the way they rejected our politics of social justice − just as they rejected our rock music, long hair and flared jeans.
Shock to the system
In the language of the time, I thought the kids of the ’80s had “sold out to The Man”, accepted too readily the idea of a career, a mortgage and a house in the suburbs. I thought of them as rather conformist and fence-sitters; a generation with an unhealthy interest in material things, too concerned with their own wellbeing and not enough with that of the poor, the vulnerable and the disadvantaged.
‘Are the values of the Facebook and skinny jeans generation so different to those of the flower power generation?’
To hear this group described as the rising stars who would transform the NHS was shocking. Yet this is the age group who will provide the rising stars and they will be the ones who radically change the NHS. They will provide the energy and vision to change not only the NHS but all sections of the public sector.
The real question is not their right to do so, but whether the values of the Facebook and skinny jeans generation are so different to those of the flower power generation?
The structure, the accountability and way of doing things may have to change to meet the challenges of caring for an ageing population, but does this generation still believe in making a difference?