Janet Street-Porter: Relax! My Generation needn't be so anxious
22:09 GMT, 21 October 2012
Pete Townshend of The Who at a book signing in New York this month
My generation, by Pete Townshend was the anthem of the Sixties for millions of teenagers, with the killer line: 'I hope I die before I get old.'
How many times must I have sung it (sadly, completely out of tune) at the top of my voice over the years
Back then, The Who's song summed up the very spirit of being young — angry, restless, wanting to be different and packed with energy.
One of the biggest thrills for me was meeting Pete a few years later and spending some time with him. He's so intelligent, but what a complicated — some might say depressing — fellow.
As a child, his first choice of career would have been journalism and he's just published an autobiography that has been very well received.
In it, Pete lays bare his troubled childhood: sent to live with a crazy granny at five; abused by older men when he joined the Sea Scouts; and a terrible time when he was accused of accessing child pornography — he was never charged.
Still writing music at 67, he's finishing a new rock opera called Floss, which (he says) focuses on the 'fear and anxiety' dominating our lives.
He says: 'We're terrified for our children, their future, for the environment. We're worried about religious fanatics, terrorism and the internet invading our lives.'
Last week he expanded on this theme, describing a 'latent anxiety' experienced by 'middle-class people . . . the kids, the parents I know'.
Pete's two daughters are in their 40s, his son is 22 and he feels their future is under threat.
According to Pete, 'we’re all worried we won’t be able to sustain life as we know it . . . to live in peace'.
Pete Townshend has said: 'We're terrified for our children, their
future, for the environment. We're worried about religious fanatics,
terrorism and the internet invading our lives'
I disagree. These are the thoughts of someone my age projecting them back on to a younger generation. The truth is that most young people, though they have little chance of getting a job or a home of their own, are incredibly optimistic.
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I don't see anxiety or fear everywhere, like Pete does. In the face of adversity, young people are still creative, feisty and positive. They write music, make art, design clothes. They don't see the internet as the threat my and Pete's generation think it is, something that invades our privacy and spies on us — for them, it's an opportunity to explore, talk to friends, exchange secrets and meet people.
It's the young who campaign for peace, for food and water for the Third World, who are excited by issues, not political parties.
Our democracy is going through a fascinating phase when major parties have no appeal to most first-time voters. Unless they engage with the young, the current system will melt down.
It's painfully obvious we need to attract a wider class of person into politics. There are plenty of MPs who have worked in real jobs, but sadly, they're not the ones running things.
When Pete wrote My Generation, young people and their taste in fashion and music were mocked by the establishment, and their parents seemed like dinosaurs.
Now, the problem is the reverse: mums and dads try too hard to be their children's 'best friends', dressing the same, listening to the same music and watching the same telly programmes. It’s harder than ever to be a different generation when oldies are squatting on your stuff.
As for popular culture, some might say it's too focused on youth when the reality is that oldies (baby boomers) make up the largest age group.
I am not paralysed with anxiety about the future, because therein lies madness. If I got up every morning stressing about whether the world will come to an end five months sooner unless I turn off the lights, recycled my cardboard and gave up meat, I wouldn't get anything done.
Of course, terrorism is a threat, so is global warming and I hate the fact we live in a society where every move we make is filmed by CCTV.
On the other hand, as more and more people own phones with cameras, we busily intrude on each other's privacy, snapping willy-nilly. Modern manners are so different to those of 50 years ago.
Pete, I love you to bits, but lighten up – thing's aren't that bad.
A TAXING ISSUE
Depressing news that Olympic hero Bradley Wiggins plans to pay less tax (perfectly legally) by investing in a complicated loophole that channels funds offshore to the Cayman Islands.
Reducing tax liabilities using expensive accountants and financial wizards is something only the very rich can afford – ordinary people pay a far higher proportion of their annual salary straight back to the Government.
Olympic cycling champion Bradley Wiggins, left, and Dragons' Den star Deborah Meaden
That is unfair – money doesn't just
buy you better homes and cars, it buys you more tax-free money. Gary
Barlow, Jimmy Carr and Coronation Street's Bill Roache – all rich people
who took advantage of tax-avoidance schemes while claiming to
I love scary Dragons' Den star
Deborah Meaden — worth more than 50 million – for having the guts to
say: 'If you earn cash in this country you should pay tax in this
country . . . wealthy people can afford to pay.'
Bradley, please note.
A REAL POLITICAL PARTY
On Saturday night, I came home from an excellent party, munched a slice of toast and drank cocoa in trackie bottoms. Bliss!
I struggle with canapes and standing in a room where everyone knows everyone and they're shouting at full volume.
I'd eaten as many bite-sized mini shepherd's pies as possible, carefully avoiding fellow guest Mary Portas, who was on the warpath.
Apparently, I have incurred her wrath by daring to criticise her plans to save our High Streets.
Sadly, there was no bunga-bunga taking place before I slipped away to comfy clothes and sinful bedtime carbs.
It's almost a year since Silvio Berlusconi stepped down as Italy's prime minister and last week he made a rare court appearance in his long-running trial, accused of paying for sex with girls, including a belly dancer nicknamed Ruby the Heart Stealer, 17 at the time.
A stream of gorgeous young women have testified that Berlusconi's parties were exotic affairs, and didn't involve trendy canapes such as mini fish and chips.
Showgirls (and I use that word loosely) dressed up as footballers, nuns, policewomen and nurses — one even impersonated Barack Obama — performing erotic dances.
Silvio admits he paid Ruby around 50,000, but says it was for 'hair removal equipment for her beauty salon'. As for bunga-bunga, perish the thought.
Berlusconi claims 'scenes of a sexual nature' never took place, even though girls were topless, brandishing handcuffs and pole dancing. George Clooney has been called as a witness — let's hope this trial is dramatised for TV.
MEN IN PINNIES
Pressure group Women In Journalism has counted up how many men dominate front pages of newspapers — have they looked at chefs
Last weekend's magazines were packed with pictures of men cooking, including a hilarious one of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall with flowers in his hair.
Nigel Slater declares 'food awards are important' — but to whom These vain blokes in aprons
John Thwaite, winner of the all-male The Great British Bake Off final, reveals he's known the result for months because it was filmed in the summer.
There’s a chap who can keep a secret! That's a very attractive quality and it’s got nothing to do with cakes.
THE TV STAR WHO EXPOSED HIMSELF
A fortnight ago, I told you a well-known TV presenter used to regularly expose himself, upsetting the women who had to work with him.
Lawyers were anxious about naming this oaf. It turns out he has outed himself – Chris Evans told a newspaper interviewer in 2005: 'If you get your willy out, it’s the funniest thing in the world . . . girls love it.'
I recorded a TV show at the BBC last week and other well-known presenters were being named by some of the backroom women who have kept quiet for years.
Some readers ask why I didn’t report stories of sexual harassment in the Seventies and Eighties to my managers.
I can assure you they would have done nothing — confirmed by the fact that every day more women come forward to tell similar stories.