MY FATHER’S Guernsey no longer exists.
The Guernsey of today would be totally alien to him and unimaginable when he was born in 1911, which coincidentally was also the birth year of Sarnia Cherie, which seems to lose its special meaning to us year by year.
I find it hard to imagine him as a compliance officer in a finance firm. I find it hard to imagine him working at a desk or taking orders from a boss. I look at the life of my 14-year-old grandson, which is far different to Dad’s, who entered the workforce at 12 driving horses and delivering coal. Through modern eyes my dad’s way of life as a child would be regarded as underprivileged and venturing on abuse.
My own upbringing was very different to my grandson’s. At 14 he is looking forward to at least seven more years of schooling whereas I had only three more years before me at that age. He spends a great deal of time digitally connected whereas I spent a lot of time playing outside with a stick. He is only now coming to an age where he is free of constant adult supervision whereas I was almost feral from a very young age.
Dad thought that I had a pretty soft childhood compared to his and I think the same about my children. What is interesting is that each of my siblings hankered back to the lives we lived as children and each of us built a cocoon based on that age for us to live in. The world changed around us and we tried to ignore it, being very happy living in our bubbles.
We had to compromise and engage with the real world to make our livings but we had our own worlds to come back to when the working day was over. Perhaps after a certain age we all tend to hanker for the past and do a lot of tsking when we see the next generation forging their own new ways in a world of constant and ever-faster change.
Dad expected very little from government and in return expected government to have very little to do for him. He grew up in a rural economy, which was pretty poor when viewed from today but, with greater income equality (everyone was relatively poor) and few global comparisons, most felt they were doing OK if they could afford to rent a couple of rooms in a house to set up home in.
His early life would not have been acceptable to me. No way would I have wanted to be carrying huge bags of coal on my back at the age of 12 and no way would I have wanted to live in an age without television.
I think most of us have a special time in life that we think is perfect and then as we get older we want to cocoon ourselves in our own version of that special time in a place where we can just shut the door on the ever-changing world we are trying to escape from.
In our generational group think tanks we join together (mostly on Facebook) to relive those great days of a better bygone Guernsey. And each of us thinks the Guernsey of our day was the best one and how much we have lost by letting it keep moving forward.
But move forward it does. For better or worse, the only constant is change and we forget that the youngsters are programmed to seek out that change and build their Guernsey. They too will arrive at a Guernsey they believe is the best and they too will be nostalgic for their Guernsey as the next generation after them pushes it to a new and, in their eyes, better place.
Why then do we tend to elect politicians who do not build New Guernsey for our children to want to live in but want to build it in their own generational image? The older, greyer politicians want a Guernsey fit for their generation to live in and espouse the mantra that it is better to be free of regulations (unless they help us to get richer) than tied up in red tape. The younger (in States deputies terms) politicians, who have seen the world, received a liberal education and expect our tiny island to be able to deliver the same level of rights and services as the giant nations surrounding us, want to save the world even if that could mean losing Guernsey.
The question I ask myself is which of the 119 election hopefuls (I would put a political joke here, but the problem with political jokes is that they get elected) is interested in building my grandson’s Guernsey? Over the past three Assemblies, who has been campaigning for world-class broadband? It may be wonderful that we can download a film in 18 minutes, which is a minute faster than in South Sudan, but what if it was 15 minutes faster in Jersey? I’ll let you into a secret: it is 15 minutes faster in Jersey.
I expect we will have far more ‘legalise cannabis’ candidates than ‘good broadband’ ones. I expect we will have far more green candidates. I expect we will have far more candidates banging on that we must build the infrastructure we should have built 20 years ago.
On 7 October, we will be electing 38 people to a four-year term of office. Very little can actually be achieved in four years (look how little has been achieved in the last 12) and I expect the next term will be spent reacting to global events rather than adding to our list of rights, virtue signalling action on climate change or petty squabbling in the Assembly, but I hope and pray we will not elect an Assembly that wants to fight the last war they have already lost in the 2016 Assembly.
We need safe hands to get us through the next four years, but they mustn’t be attached to politicians who are still buried in their past. It is very easy to decide to vote for the devil you know but I urge you to look at the new candidates very closely. Yes, some might be terrible, but there could be some hidden gems among them.