Jeremy Corbyn, should he become prime minister of Great Britain, wants to re-open the coal mines. Before you rightly point this out as yet another beautiful example of socialism and the green movement coming into conflict with one another uncomfortably for those hoping to pass them off as inexplicably linked, let’s look at how Jezza attempts to cover his backside on that issue:
“….if there’s to be substantial coal fire generation it’s got to be clean burn technology, it’s got to have carbon filters on it, it’s got to be carbon neutral. I’ve looked at it, I’ve discussed it. It’s complicated. At one level it looks very expensive. But the advantages also look quite attractive.”
Putting aside the ridiculousness of “clean coal” as a concept, it is clear that this isn’t about Corbyn wishing to have his brand of socialism steamroller over “liberal” notions like environmentalism – he, like most far-left figures, wants to simultaneously denounce liberalism whilst cherry-picking the bits he can’t live without – but rather his desire to tap into nostalgia for a bygone era, one in which there were coal mines for the working classes to enact their “solidarity” around. Since this last sentence is bound to earn the ire of many leftists who will point out how the base of Corbyn’s surge is made up of mostly young people, I will demonstrate that those under 25 can yearn for the “olden days” as much as anyone else.
The idea that young people can’t be nostalgic for eras they never personally experienced is one of the strangest erroneous notions of our time. I can say first hand that it is nonsense. Growing up in the 1970s and 1980s, I and many of my peers engaged in pretty full on nostalgia for the 1960s. It felt from the perspective of the mid-80s, as a kid just entering adolescence, that the 60s were this amazing, endlessly exciting, revolutionary age in which society transformed itself, and what we were then living through was nothing more than the echo of that period, growing ever fainter. I suppose if we’d had smart phones (or even computers that had storage of over 64 kilobytes of information), we could have felt technologically superior to the 60s dwellers at least. But no, all we had were synthesisers making sounds that made you realise the futility of existence, used in the service of a never ending stream of terrible radio ballads, so we were left to imagine what the visceral thrill of May ’68 really felt like instead.
So it is very easy for me to imagine an 18-year-old in 2015 wishing they could go back to the 1980s and engage in the ideological warfare that took place during the Thatcher v Scargill period. But what you cannot claim is that this is forward looking or radical. It is, actually, conservatism more than anything else: the fear of the unknown represented by the future placated by the notion that we can return to the past by simply trying to recreate the conditions as they existed during the era in question. Like reopening the coal mines as opposed to actually trying to solve the economic problems faced by south Wales with ideas fit for the 21st century. The young can pine for the past as much as the grouchiest, stop the world I want to get off pensioner. And they can express this via the left or the right-wings of politics. Nostaligia is universal, you see.