From top: Young climate change activists protest in Dublin city centre last May; Dan Boyle
I was sent a text this week from a young environmental activist. He wanted to let me know that he had read my book on The Green Party’s experience in government, ‘Without Power or Glory‘, and that he found it illuminating.
I thought it indicative of the many young activists now coming to the fore. For them it isn’t enough to respond to the emotional triggers that permeate the environmental debate. For them to be able to debate with passion it is necessary to become sufficiently informed.
This is so different from the prevailing practice of those two or three times their age. Those with a lazier intellectual disposition, content with static commentary often wrong in context or historical accuracy.
We are beginining to see a generation where the cliche of youth being wasted on the young, may no longer apply.
While we should encourage young people to live and enjoy life, with the fecklessness and recklessness that adolescence was created for, the emergence of a cohort of serious young people is no bad thing.
Of course no generation speaks in a single voice. The best we can hope for is that a preponderance of those, of this generation, match their concerns with ever probing challenges towards those whose failings have delivered such a threadbare legacy.
I identify strongly with these young people. I was first elected a councillor when I was twenty eight years of age. But that was a journey that had only started from my mid twenties.
I greatly enjoyed my rock and roll years that preceded my becoming a conscientious bore.
Where I have less patience is for those who not choose not only to act against type prematurely, but also choose to think old before their time; absorbing everything negative from the ancien régime.
Without having to resort to metaphor or analogy just think Young Fine Gael.
Maybe just maybe, with the very nature of leadership being redefined, we may finally have a generation that can get ahead without having to ape all that has been awful before them.
Especially encouraging to see is the number of young women coming to the fore as activist leaders. It has probably has something to do with the Greta Thunberg effect.
But only slightly. In Ireland a more likely effect, for young women at least, would have been the expectations raised by the Same Sex Marriage and the Abortion referendums. Together these events have helped politicise a generation.
They too will get it wrong. We can only hope that, in the Beckett sense, they will fail better.
It’s almost guaranteed that they can’t get to do any worse, and we can’t afford them to do otherwise.
If I’m truly honest I should point out to them that I am their natural enemy, or at least characteristic of it. Middle aged and male, deeply in fear of having our World about us changed, without us.
Prepared to strike out at those challenging our outdated certainties. Doing so in a far more childish manner than those whose early maturity frightens the hell out of us.
And proper order too. The smugness and arrogance of my generation needs to be set aside by those whose life choices and chances do not need to be further compromised by our failings.
I only hope they can do so efficiently but not so impetuously.
Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator and serves as a Green Party councillor on Cork City Council. His column appears here every Thursday. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle