Its long been thought that if you do not vote in an election, you're throwing away your right to have an opinion on certain subjects. I've long thought that this is true. I voted in the last general election, I voted blue as it happens. It is for this reason I believe, I am able to moan about decisions made by the new coalition government should I need to, I moan about promises never kept, I moan about the lack of a European referendum when Mr. Cameron promised there would be one. It might not feel like it at times, but we live in a democratic country and I see the vote as a privilege. Something that thousands of men and women have died for throughout history to secure, that's why whenever I get the chance I mark my 'X'.
Last night I was watching a DVD at home with my girlfriend. It was a stand up comedy show by the nations favourite pub landlord Al Murray. He might appear to be the voice of the everyday working class British person, but actually, Murray is a very intelligent man. The Oxford history graduate is a performer, who happens to know what hes talking about. He starts the show by picking on various terrified audience members, asking them their names, their occupations etc the usual stuff. He is famed for one of his opinions though, which becomes evident when he asks "what do you do for a living pal?" and receives the answer "I'm a student" back. His face twists up as if hes sucking on a wasp marinaded in lemon; naturally the audience find it hilarious. I understand that he is in character when he responds like this but I really do think that it represents the view of a large cross section of British citizens. When did your right to an opinion depend on so many factors in your life?
There are certain points that supposedly justify this opinion of students. For example, the majority of them receive vast sums of government money in the form of student loans. This is a large investment for a government, no doubt there, but the majority of this money will be paid back. The fact that a monthly subscription to 'OK' magazine would cost me more than my loan repayments is irrelevant. The point is, when I'm 84 the government will have received my entire loan back, with interest. Students also pay less or often no tax, but plenty of other people avoid this too and receive less stick in the process.
Students have always had various tags attached to them, 'dosser' 'scrounger' and 'tax dodger' to name a few, in many ways this is correct. Surely though, it isn't hard to look a few years into the future and see what a lot of these people will become. Lawyers, Doctors, Pilots, Engineers, Journalists, Vets, Politicians, Actors and Call Centre Operatives. Give us all a break.
The problem is, throughout the British population one outdated view remains. If I had a penny for every time I've heard a sentence started with "When I was your age..." I'd be a millionaire. Throughout British history there is a common theme; when you are old enough, you go to work. That could be 14 down the mines, 12 on the farm or 13 in the mill; sometimes even younger. This is obviously no longer the case, you're educated till 16 and before that point will struggle to find any employment other than a paper round. At 16 there are pretty much three options available to you; A-Levels, apprenticeship or sitting on your arse. More and more people are choosing A-Levels and why shouldn't they? The employment figures in this country are terrible. What harm is another set of qualifications going to do to a (less face it) basic CV? Times are constantly changing and not so long ago if you wanted to go to the toilet you had to go into the back yard. No one ever complains about the new 'cushy' indoor toilets of today, nor do they complain about the shops and pubs staying up longer or mobile phones. More and more people are going to University now and I wish that the older generations would accept it. They don't have to like it, just acknowledge it. Maybe once this happens we might be cut some slack and they'll give us our right to an opinion back.
If you vote, you can moan, it's as simple as that.