I think the moment that triggered my new-found craziness came when Cathy and I were driving home after a dinner party one night recently. I had become fairly tetchy with two friends over some issue. It doesn’t matter what it was about because it wasn’t really important, and my wife prodded me in the back halfway through to remind me of this fact. In the car on the way home Cathy said “I think you’re becoming more left-wing and not less as you get older.” It was a comment that stuck with me.
I thought about this a bit over the next few days and decided that two things have contributed.
Firstly, being a teacher and then a Dean in a lowish decile school for five years opened my eyes to a lot of things. Specifically, how hard it is for kids from some families to do well in school, how it’s usually not their fault, and how even though they keep screwing up they always want to do better. It made me realise how hard it is to affect real change, and how important it is. The other thing that teaching has done has made me realise how much energy and passion young people have, and how idealistic they are (all the cynicism and “whatever” stuff isn’t true of teenagers on the whole).
Secondly, I think becoming a parent turned me into a lefty. It did it in two ways. As a parent you become aware of yourself as a model. The easiest example to use is swearing. It only takes one incident of your daughter mimicking your bad language to cut your profanity levels right down I can tell you. It extends to other things though. Cathy and I stopped watching TV before the kids were in bed because we didn’t want our daughters to think that this is what you should do with life: come home,watch TV and go to bed. We also started having all of our dinners at the table (which is a tie for the second best thing I did last year – walk to work – first place goes to taking a risk and changing schools).
The other way that becoming a parent made me more left-wing was in making me think about the legacy I hand my daughters. What kind of natural world will they get to pass on to their children, and what kind of society will they live in?
If I can’t change these things globally then I suppose I can do more to show my daughters how I think we should act towards our planet and our fellow people, and why. As we get older and more educated by life I feel that we should do more and not less for our society. As I get older I feel that the biggest hold back on real change in society is not the so-called apathy of youth, but the apathy of the middle class, and the indifference of the wealthy. The exact groups who have power and the ability to lead.
This leads directly into my actions for 2012. I intend to write about all of these things as 2012 unfolds. I should add that stopping drinking for a year has nothing to do with any of this – I’m just finding it increasingly hard to get up in the morning after a couple of wines, and I would rather start the day on the right foot. I expect both to fail and succeed in these challenges, but I am tired of shouting at the TV about the world I see in front of me. I really, really want to do something, and this – as laughable as it may be – is something.