It is Year 11, and I won’t lie; the outlook is bleak. Put aside a triple-dip recession with no end in sight. Put aside global political instability and the very real prospect of looming war in the East, not to mention a number of vast humanitarian problems. Like many, I’m currently engaged in the tedious and soul-destroying process of taking tens of exams as part of my statutory GCSEs. Should I achieve reasonable success in these, I’ll be able to access two more sets of exams, AS and then A2 levels. Only if I prevail in these and win a relative lottery, will I be permitted access to university. And from there, things get harder. The only easy day was yesterday.
With this in mind, I sometimes ask myself what my inspiration is for getting out of bed in the morning. Truancy laws notwithstanding, the question of ‘Why bother?’ is a poignant one for the half million or so people my age in the UK. I’m still waiting for the definitive answer, if there even is one. But in the meantime, I thought I’d try and write my own. By almost all measures, we’re set to be the healthiest, smartest, most tolerant and promising generation of humans to have ever existed. And we’re all about to come of age. We are safer and more secure than any who have come before us. Not because of the size of our armies, the height of our walls or the might of our weapons. We are safe because we are the children of a peacetime set to outlast any before it. We are safe because our parents tore the walls down and buried the hatchets. The focus of scientists moved to technology that can enhance life rather than end it.
Contrary to what I said at the start, the road paved for us is a smoother one than it has ever been. Yet there is still a huge amount left to be done. Fifteen years ago, not long after the generation I’m part of was born, a group of world leaders took their seats at a table and made some promises about what they were going to do for humanity in the next fifteen years. The promises included eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, and giving every child a primary education, as well as various other commitments. Sadly, although things improved, none of the promises were truly fulfilled. They couldn’t or wouldn’t finish the job. We can do better. We must do better. We will do better. We have to finish what they started. If the promise of a generation is to leave behind something better than they themselves were left, then we have work to do. It’s time to get out of bed.