Whitney (and George) show how to play the generation game

PUBLISHED: 13:00 01 April 2018 | UPDATED: 11:36 04 April 2018

Anti-Brexit campaigners protesting in Edinburgh. Photograph: Jane Barlow/PA Wire

Anti-Brexit campaigners protesting in Edinburgh. Photograph: Jane Barlow/PA Wire

So. Yeah. Easter. Bit of a weird one. For all that Easter is in many ways the direct counterpart festival to Christmas, the yin to Yuletide’s yang, as it were, it’s always been very much the junior partner. It’s just not as big a deal, for all that in theological terms the two festivals ‘bookend’ the same story.

I think part of the problem is the way that the festival wanders backwards and forwards through the calendar. Pretty much any weekend from the beginning of March to the end of April could potentially be Easter, and it’s only because I have school-age kids these days that I have any idea when it’s coming. Back during my carefree bachelorhood Easter was wont to jump out at me with about 24 hours’ notice.

I did once read up on the methodology employed in deciding on which date Easter should fall in a given year; I seem to recall it had something to so with the phases of the moon and I really can’t be bothered to go and look it up again. Google is your friend (more than Facebook is, in any event).

There’s also the fact that if anything, Easter seems to be have been cut even more loose than Christmas from its erstwhile religious moorings; as the late Bill Hicks once described it, it’s “the holiday when we celebrate the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ by telling children that a giant bunny rabbit left chocolate eggs during the night”. As far as I’m aware, the American right-wing media hasn’t even yet bothered to whip up any phony hysteria about a ‘War On Easter’, although of course there’s a first time for everything. This might be partly due to the festival’s name; while the word ‘Christmas’ gives plenty of etymological ammunition to the ‘reason for the season’ lobby, the name ‘Easter’ would do them no such favours. It may still be called ‘Holy Week’ in devoutly Catholic countries, but as far as anyone can tell, the name ‘Easter’ seems to refer to the Pagan fertility goddess Oestre (who also gave her name to oestrogen).

That would certainly make a degree of sense; a festival timed to coincide more or less with the coming of spring and whose primary symbols are eggs and rabbits probably does have more to do with celebrating fertility than anything else.

I’m not sure at what point Easter became primarily about demented levels of chocolate consumption, but seeing as I’m on a particularly miserable diet just at the moment (it had to be done) I’m not even going to be ‘observing’ that ritual this year either. Basically, Easter 2018 is going to be something I watch other people do.

In the meantime; you may recall that I wrote last week’s column while waiting for my new passport to be ready; something else which happened during those few idle hours was that I discovered an email which had actually been sent a few days previously, but which my account had managed to spam-filter. It was from a gentlemen by the name of Julien Planté, inviting me to address a conference entitled “Should I Stay Or Should I Go”, drawing attention to the plight of foreign-born nationals resident in the UK who have been cast into a particularly hideous legal limbo by the result of the EU referendum.

The conference was taking place that very day; indeed it was already under way by the time I belatedly read the email. I called Julien anyway and said that seeing as I was already in central London I’d be happy to wander over to the Queen Elizabeth Hall and say a few words.

So it was, that later that evening I found myself giving a short address/speech/routine/rant at the end of the conference; it’s on YouTube if you want to go looking for it. Upon arriving at the hall I was delighted to see that I was to be preceded on the stage by some people I’d been hoping to meet: Femi Oluwole and his pals from Our Future Our Choice, the anti-Brexit youth movement which amusingly acronymises down to the evocative OFOC.

I’m sure you’ve seen some of the viral clips of Femi being devastatingly logical on various news programmes articulating OFOC’s unarguable point: that the difference in support for Brexit between the various age groups (it gets far less popular the younger you go) means that by the time it comes fully into effect, we’ll have lost thousands of Leave voters at the old end of the scale and gained thousands of would-been Remain voters at the young end. As such, even if no Leave voters had changed their minds since the referendum (and many have) there would still be a clear majority against Brexit by the time we actually have to deal with it.

Femi and the Teen Titans (as I called them on the day) inspired the hall with their enthusiasm and clarity, and I couldn’t help but be reminded of them a few days later, watching the incredible numbers of young Americans who marched on Washington DC and other US cities to protest the continuing wilful impotence of this – and indeed all – administrations in the face of uncontrollable gun violence.

The baby boomers had their cake and ate everyone else’s too; my generation were too mired in Gen X apathy to do anything to challenge this. Perhaps the next generation will be the ones to sort things out.

For was it not Whitney Houston who first said “I believe the children are our future”?

No, no it wasn’t. It was George Benson.

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