Neo-Nomadism: A New Reality for the Young | Adam Limb

The discourse around house prices is always plentiful, largely because they have and continue to hold such ludicrous prices with no signs of stopping any time soon. At this point everyone is aware of how many articles about ‘how to buy your first home’ amount to little more than thinly-veiled gloating from an older generation who just don’t get it. Cut down on avocado toast, pull on those bootstraps, and basically pray you were born to wealthier parents. House prices are an obvious barrier to settling down and actually enjoying one’s life and community, and so it begs the question – what do young people even do before they acquire enough capital to purchase a home?

The life of the average aspiring young homeowner today can only be described as a form of neo-nomadism. They are born, attend school, and then at 18 must immediately leave home to get a degree of some kind. Of course, this saddles them with more debt – a debt which may retroactively be increased soon. However if you want a job that earns enough to realistically pay off a ludicrous mortgage, then ultimately you’re going to need to attend a university. It’s strange how normalised the whole affair is now, it’s not as though you really chose where it was you were going to go. You went to the best university you could get into, with no attachment to anything there beyond your academic interest – which you may very quickly discover you’re not actually all that attached to. Across the years in university, students will find themselves constantly moving from one side of town to another. If they’re fortunate enough to have a religion, this means being pulled away from whatever church they were attending in order to attend another one. But for most it simply means a new set of neighbours to annoy by arriving back home after a night out. Once graduates make it out of university, they then have to search for employment which will almost certainly take them away from both the community in which they grew up and the community they might have managed to integrate themselves in at university.

And this is to say nothing of schooling before university. I attended a Sixth Form specifically because it was the best one in my area, which also drew me out of my local town’s social sphere and into a totally new place where everyone was unknown. After two years, which is not nearly enough time to plant roots – I was off to university, leaving all of those things behind. There are those brave souls who attempt to make relationships last despite attending separate universities. Most of these stories end in adultery or disinterest. Both leave their marks on the developing minds of our generation.

All of these things inculcate in young people a kind of nomadic attitude. Don’t get too attached to an area or your neighbours – you’ll move next year. Don’t get too attached to a city – education or work will force you to relocate. Don’t get too attached to a partner – if your work life demands it, your partner will be shipped off into the arms of someone else. Locals in university towns tend to complain about the lifestyle of students, but it’s only this constant flux that these students inhabit which make all the creature comforts of our newfound service-oriented economy possible. The only reason you can basically go anywhere in the UK and broadly expect outposts such as McDonalds, PremierInns, and Tesco to provide you with identical goods and services is because some university student is happy to be shifted all across the UK to set up and run all of these outposts. From IT Infrastructure to Business Management, young people everywhere are forced to give up the consistency of love, friendship, and community to provide a cheeseburger that tastes the same in London as it does in Glasgow.

Out of this, our generation has become nomadic, able quickly to erect and dismantle their lives, relationships and friendships with no serious commitment to anything beyond the next 24 months. All the while, they pay the mortgages of those who have seen the very best of consistency in their lives. The previous generation inherited an expansive welfare state, a society that was highly cohesive and bound together by the memory of war. Not to mention their parents were more likely to stay together, along with all the benefits a stable home brings. Our generation instead inherits a society that shifts them across the country like pawns, and consumes the pieces of other nations to ensure no pawn ever reaches the end of the board and becomes too powerful for their own good. As it stands, this government is waging economic warfare upon its youth. They pay 40% to the government between national insurance, student loans, and taxes, and then the landlord asks them to pay another 40% in order to enjoy the privilege of having no permanent connection to anywhere or anyone.

The real trouble with home ownership is not merely the individual aspirations of those who wish to buy a home, but instead the lifestyle they are subjected to as they wait to buy a home. How can a Conservative government ask its citizens to care about law and order, if their lives are constantly disordered by an economic system that disprivileges them? Who can be made to care if their drug use facilitates gang activity, if the gang won’t be a problem until after they leave? Moreover, how can you “Build Back Better” if the ground you are building upon is constantly shifting?

There exists an inherent contradiction at the heart of conservatism today. The forced marriage of Traditionalism and Libertarianism has always been an electoral convenience for the Conservative Party, rather than for the best interests of the conservative movement itself, and the debt of good will owed by the Party has come due. There is now not only a moral, but a practical obligation the Conservative Party has to the younger generation. By deracinating the young, and providing them with no roots – these dissatisfied youths exist across every constituency, in every town, and in every place, and their electoral power reflects that reality. If they cannot be provided with the consistency that a conservative philosophy can offer, then they cannot be blamed for embracing the frenetic chaos they have been flung into, and raining it down upon the party.

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