Debt is central to the lives of Generation Y, while their parents had fun for free. Photo: Flickr/Eden, Janine and Jim
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Shouldering the cost of the Baby Boomer legacy is destroying my generation's prospects

It's time for young people to fight inter-generational injustice – and it may be that top-down bureaucracy is one way to do it.

It’s always nice, when you suspect that you may be being screwed, to have it confirmed officially by those in power. It just helps firm things up a bit, mentally.

Being a part of Generation Y (also known in newspeak as the “fuck it”, or “lost” generation, which consists of “millennials”, or people born roughly between the early Eighties and the early 2000s) naturally means facing a parade of regular headlines to that effect, but confirmation has now been received.

The Office for Budget Responsibility’s FSR report has offered said confirmation by informing us that UK debt is snowballing with terrifying momentum and that it is the young who will be hit hardest.

This is, essentially, because baby boomers keep making fiscal promises to themselves which their children will be required to shoulder. The gap between the UK’s assets and liabilities grew, in the last five years as of March 2014, to £1,852bn. If you include unfunded state pension liabilities, you can add another £4,000bn to that.

The report confirms one released by the Centre for Policy Studies earlier this month entitled “Who Will Care For Generation Y?”, a question I ask frequently while kneeling on the floor and gesticulating at the empty sky above. And yet, still no one answers.

If you’re a member of my generation and you’re reading this, you don’t need me to tell you that we have enough on our plates without spiralling debt as well. We’re already facing a housing crisis that feels like a waking nightmare, with rents and house prices rising well past the point of absurdity (the average rent in London hit £1,500 a month for the first time just two days ago).

Then there’s student debt, which we all try not to think about because opening the letter to discover that you’ve only made enough money to cover the interest and that the sum of monies owed remains the same is a crushing experience like no other (stop opening the letters, is my advice).

And that’s before we even get to talking about the weird, fragmented careers that so many of us are saddled with, comprising zero-hours contracts, low-paid, unreliable work and jobs tutoring the children of Russian oligarchs.

The Centre for Policy Studies says we’ll be the first generation to be worse off than our parents, but still, we’re expected to foot the bill. They call it “inter-generational injustice”, but you don’t need me to tell you that what it actually represents is a total shitshow.

So what do we do about it? The CPS is today recommending that an Office For Inter-Generational Responsibility be established. At the moment, prospective legislation must be accompanied by an impact assessment analysing its costs and benefits, but assessments that look at the impact of legislation on young people, who are future taxpayers, do not exist – and they should, for obvious reasons.

The Office For Inter-Generational responsibility would co-ordinate these impact assessments. It all sounds highly bureaucratic but what it ultimately means is that a body will exist that has a fiduciary duty towards future taxpayers as well as current taxpayers. What it all comes down to is the need for those in power to take some time to consider the impact of their decisions on future generations; something we can all agree that previous governments have not been doing enough.

Politicians are known for pursuing short-term goals, a tendency that is not helped by pressure from self-interested lobbyists, nor the fact that young people are less likely to vote or engage with the political system.

The CPS report has several ideas for how we go about reducing the financial burden on the young, including reducing tax reliefs, but the one I’m perhaps least convinced would work is that we “embrace digital democracy” by starting an e-petition asking for our own designated minister. Certainly a Minister for Younger People is a very good idea, but could we actually garner a million signatures?

Perhaps I’m jaded because the one I signed to legalise space cakes has yet to come to fruition, but I just can’t see a million people signing up for something so BBI (Boring But Important). And yet, more than that tuned in for the season six premiere of Made in Chelsea. It’s a bleak state of affairs.

But it’s worth a try. We’re obviously in need of a vocal, galvanised political movement of young people, one that isn’t made up of university debating society tosspots, but real people. Perhaps Russell Brand could take it on – young people love him, apparently (though clearly not enough to back Ed Miliband). I’d like to see Owen Jones write a book about inter-generational injustice – he’s done Chavs, and the Establishment, could we have one on Boomers next?

Or perhaps I could transform my personal anger towards the “Escape to the Sun” generation into some kind of furious national movement? I like my parents but the rest of them, with their free university educations, buy-to-lets, sexual liberation, top quality drugs and Cash in the Attic have caused me no end of trouble. Thanks, guys. Really. Much appreciated.

Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett is a writer for the New Statesman and the Guardian. She co-founded The Vagenda blog and is co-author of The Vagenda: A Zero Tolerance Guide to the Media.

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Love a good box set? Then you should watch the Snooker World Championships

The game relies on a steady arm, which relies on a steady nerve. The result is a slow creeping tension needs time and space to be properly enjoyed and endured. 

People are lazy and people are impatient. This has always been so – just ask Moses or his rock – but as illustrated by kindly old Yahweh, in those days they could not simply answer those impulses and stroll on.

Nowadays, that is no longer so. Twitter, YouTube and listicles reflect a desire for complex and involved issues, expansive and nuanced sports – what we might term quality – to be condensed into easily digestible morsels for effort-free enjoyment.

There is, though, one notable exception to this trend: the box set. Pursuing a novelistic, literary sensibility, it credits its audience with the power of sentience and tells riveting stories slowly, unfolding things in whichever manner that it is best for them to unfold.

In the first episode of the first series of The Sopranos, we hear Tony demean his wife Carmela's irritation with him via the phrase “always with the drama”; in the seventh episode of the first series we see his mother do likewise to his father; and in the 21st and final episode of the sixth and final series, his son uses it on Carmela. It is precisely this richness and this care that makes The Sopranos not only the finest TV show ever made, but the finest artefact that contemporary society has to offer. It forces us to think, try and feel.

We have two principal methods of consuming art of this ilk - weekly episode, or week-long binge. The former allows for anticipation and contemplation, worthy pursuits both, but of an entirely different order to the immersion and obsession offered by the latter. Who, when watching the Wire, didn’t find themselves agreeing that trudat, it's time to reup the dishwasher salt, but we’ve run out, ain’t no thing. Losing yourself in another world is rare, likewise excitement at where your mind is going next.

In a sporting context, this can only be achieved via World Championship snooker. Because snooker is a simple, repetitive game, it is absorbing very quickly, its run of play faithfully reflected by the score.

But the Worlds are special. The first round is played over ten frames – as many as the final in the next most prestigious competition – and rather than the usual week, it lasts for 17 magical days, from morning until night. This bestows upon us the opportunity to, figuratively at least, put away our lives and concentrate. Of course, work and family still exist, but only in the context of the snooker and without anything like the same intensity. There is no joy on earth like watching the BBC’s shot of the championship compilation to discover that not only did you see most of them live, but that you have successfully predicted the shortlist.

It is true that people competing at anything provides compelling drama, emotion, pathos and bathos - the Olympics proves this every four years. But there is something uniquely nourishing about longform snooker, which is why it has sustained for decades without significant alteration.

The game relies on a steady arm, which relies on a steady nerve. The result is a slow creeping tension needs time and space to be properly enjoyed and endured. Most frequently, snooker is grouped with darts as a non-athletic sport, instead testing fine motor skills and the ability to calculate angles, velocity and forthcoming shots. However, its tempo and depth is more similar to Test cricket – except snooker trusts so much in its magnificence that it refuses to compromise the values which underpin it.

Alfred Hitchcock once explained that if two people are talking and a bomb explodes without warning, it constitutes surprise; but if two people are talking and all the while a ticking bomb is visible under the table, it constitutes suspense. “In these conditions,” he said, “The same innocuous conversation becomes fascinating because the public is participating in the scene. The audience is longing to warn the characters on the screen: ‘You shouldn't be talking about such trivial matters. There is a bomb beneath you and it is about to explode!’”

Such is snooker. In more or less every break, there will at some point be at least one difficult shot, loss of position or bad contact – and there will always be pressure. Add to that the broken flow of things – time spent waiting for the balls to stop, time spent prowling around the table, time spent sizing up the table, time spent cleaning the white, time spent waiting for a turn – and the ability for things to go wrong is constantly in contemplation.

All the more so in Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre. This venue, in its 40th year of hosting the competition, is elemental to its success. Place is crucial to storytelling, and even the word “Crucible” – whether “a ceramic or metal container in which metals or other substances may be melted or subjected to very high temperatures,” “a situation of severe trial”, or Arthur Miller’s searing play – conjures images of destruction, injustice and nakedness. And the actual Crucible is perhaps the most atmospheric arena in sport - intimate, quiet, and home to a legendarily knowledgeable audience, able to calculate when a player has secured a frame simply by listening to commentary through an earpiece and applauding as soon as the information is communicated to them.

To temper the stress, snooker is also something incredibly comforting. This is partly rooted in its scheduling. Working day and late-night sport is illicit and conspiratorial, while its presence in revision season has entire cohorts committing to “just one more quick frame”, and “just one more quick spliff”. But most powerfully of all, world championship snooker triggers memory and nostalgia, a rare example of something that hasn’t changed, as captivating now as it was in childhood.

This wistfulness is complemented by sensory pleasure of the lushest order. The colours of both baize and balls are the brightest, most engaging iterations imaginable, while the click of cue on ball, the clunk of ball on ball and the clack of ball on pocket is deep and musical; omnipresent and predictable, they combine for a soundtrack that one might play to a baby in the womb, instead of whale music or Megadeth.

Repeating rhythms are also set by the commentators, former players of many years standing. As is natural with extended coverage of repetitive-action games, there are numerous phrases that recur:

“We all love these tactical frames, but the players are so good nowadays that one mistake and your opponent’s in, so here he is, looking to win the frame at one visit ... and it’s there, right in the heart of the pocket for frame and match! But where’s the cue ball going! it really is amazing what can happen in the game of snooker, especially when we’re down to this one-table situation.”

But as omniscient narrators, the same men also provide actual insight, alerting us to options and eventualities of which we would otherwise be ignorant. Snooker is a simple game but geometry and physics are complicated, so an expert eye is required to explain them intelligibly; it is done with a winning combination of levity and sincerity.

The only essential way in which snooker is different is the standard of play. The first round of this year’s draw featured eight past winners, only two of whom have made it to the last four, and there were three second-round games that were plausible finals.

And just as literary fiction is as much about character as plot, so too is snooker. Nothing makes you feel you know someone like studying them over years at moments of elation and desolation, pressure and release, punctuated by TV confessions of guilty pleasures, such as foot massages, and bucket list contents, such as naked bungee jumping.

It is probably true that there are not as many “characters” in the game as once there were, but there are just as many characters, all of whom are part of that tradition. And because players play throughout their adult life, able to establish their personalities, in unforgiving close-up, over a number of years, they need not be bombastic to tell compelling stories, growing and undergoing change in the same way as Dorothea Brooke or Paulie Gualtieri.

Of no one is this more evident that Ding Junhui, runner-up last year and current semi-finalist this; though he is only 30, we have been watching him almost half his life. In 2007, he reached the final of the Masters tournament, in which he faced Ronnie O’Sullivan, the most naturally talented player ever to pick up a cue – TMNTPETPUAC for short. The crowd were, to be charitable, being boisterous, and to be honest, being pricks, and at the same time, O’Sullivan was playing monumentally well. So at the mid-session interval, Ding left the arena in tears and O’Sullivan took his arm in consolation; then when Ding beat O’Sullivan in this year’s quarter-final, he rested his head on O’Sullivan’s shoulder and exchanged words of encouragement for words of respect. It was beautiful, it was particular, and it was snooker.

Currently, Ding trails Mark Selby, the “Jester from Leicester” – a lucky escape, considering other rhyming nouns - in their best of 33 encounter. Given a champion poised to move from defending to dominant, the likelihood is that Ding will remain the best player never to win the game’s biggest prize for another year.

Meanwhile, the other semi-final pits Barry Hawkins, a finalist in 2013, against John Higgins, an undisputed great and three-time champion. Higgins looks likely to progress, and though whoever wins through will be an outsider, both are eminently capable of taking the title. Which is to say that, this weekend, Planet Earth has no entertainment more thrilling, challenging and enriching than events at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield.

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