In Defence of the Book! In Defence of Youth Work!

Penned to mark National Libraries Day this satirical piece by Julian Barnes on The Defence of the Book might raise a smile through gritted teeth as you begin your week.

As the political and economic crisis deepened in the years ahead.

Poverty threw up a few improvements, like the renaissance of the canal system. The re-establishment of the old barter system was welcomed by many. But it was the Defence of the Book that caused the most surprise. The widespread library protests of the early 2010s, more than a generation back, meant that much of the service had then been saved, an outcome for which all three parties had taken the credit (though it was thought that the ritual suicides of three novelists and a poet outside the Houses of Parliament had proved the tipping point). But little opposition was expected when the National Coalition announced that every remaining library was to be closed within a month. Since the digitisation of all forms of information, libraries – like churches under communism – were inhabited mainly by the elderly, that last generation which held on to the idea of the physical book as an item of value in itself.

Since the contents of libraries were deemed valueless, the Coalition simply instructed its enforcement agency (formerly known as the army) to burn the buildings to the ground. But after the first two incinerations, there were mass protests, and human shields were formed round many libraries. More menacingly, two offices of the enforcement agency were burnt down in retaliation. There was a broad suspicion, especially among the elderly, that once information and culture were only available digitally through the englandwideweb, truth would be easier for the government to control. To the surprise of many, the printed book began to take on a symbolic significance, as once it had done in the early years of printing.

Read on at The Defence of the Book

Perhaps we need a Youth work version.

By 2022, with the demise of the poor person’s public school extra-curricular activities programme, the national citizen’s service, spurned by most 16 year olds, with the reduction of university places, the wholesale closure of Humanities and Social Sciences departments and fees affordable only by Premier League footballers’ offspring, together with over 50% youth unemployment and the collapse of workfare, the National Unity Government [led by a troika of David Miliband, Louise Mensch and Chris Huhne]  had imposed a compulsory period of 10 years’ National Service, focused at the one end on providing an armed presence in schools and at the other on organising the surveillance of ageing dissidents and free thinkers, surplus to society’s requirements and, as the Minister for Culture, Eamonn Holmes pithily put it ‘a pain up the arse’. This central plank of the Government’s never-ending austerity and disciplinary strategy was run by the Ministry of Attitudinal Control [MAC] formed by a bringing together of the Ministry of Defence, the Metropolitan Police and Catalyst, the consortium led formerly by the defunct National Youth Agency and NCVYS Ltd, formerly the Royal Bank of Scotland [assets transferred in 2020].  However unexpectedly on the anniversary of the birth of the almost forgotten punk Johnny Rotten matters took an anarchic turn…….. Neither supporters of the government, irreverently known as the NUGITS, nor the staff of MAC or indeed their burger chain sponsors could believe their eyes…..

I wonder if it’s worth playing around with such a scenario. I know it’s a cluttered para! All with a view perhaps to getting our message across to….to be honest, I’m not quite  sure. Ideas as ever welcomed!

Not sure who to credit for the smart caricature.

5 comments on “In Defence of the Book! In Defence of Youth Work!

  1. diane211 says:

    I like it Tony, a satirical slant on serious issues sometimes gets more people to read them, comment and share. Even if with gritted teeth!!!!

  2. diane211 says:

    Wonder if Ted Milburn would make a contribution to it?! I like his wit! Combined with your starting paragraph, it would make a great read. 🙂

  3. paumurp says:

    Was going to email this rather than put it in comments…bit contrived, and a weak ending but what the heck…

    Ironically, they took their name from ‘Positive For Youth’, a little known, mostly forgotten, attempt by the Government of the time to hide the reduction in public expenditure on young people.

    Its release, – just before Christmas in those early recessionary days when we still imagined a return to the days when consumerism was sacrosanct – passed unnoticed by all but a small group of die-hards who where employed to work with young people.

    In those days youth work was a profession, like nursing or teaching, that held little value in the eyes of The Cabal who, as we now know, were directing the global changes happening at the time. There was no profit to be had in caring, it was just loss leader, that (in The Cabal’s eyes) merely served as a useful foil for creating a divide about who deserved care and therefore who got public money spent on them.

    The first 15 years of the century were critical years when The Cabal began inculcating the populous with what we now know as The Credo. Even then, it was always about control, and more specifically the illusion of control. They began breaking down some of the national institutions, such as the media and religion and of course parliament, through cleverly manipulation of the Everweb, or Internet as it was known then. They cleverly created the Leveson enquiry to oversee the decline of The Cabal’s only real rival, known then as News International. Conflict between races and religions has always been easy to manipulate. The global recession proved remarkably easy to manage in a world without alternatives to capitalism. A vacuum was created for The Credo and of course its author The Cabal, to step into. People wanted change. People wanted certainty. The Credo provided both.

    But I digress…buried in the middle of Positive for Youth was a page and a half about youth work. If Positive for Youth was the epitome of obscurity, then these few lines represented the dot on the letter ‘i’ in obscurity.

    But youth work showed remarkable resourcefulness and resilience. It found itself at the centre of a remarkable movement, which we now know as Catalyst.

    While The Cabal’s institutions of control, such as The National Citizen Service, were attracting the majority of young people with its promises of pathways to work, responsibility and of course power, other groups offered young people seemingly respectable involvement in ‘intergenerational’ projects with the elderly population. The Cabal’s confidence was its undoing and it neglected two small groups as ineffectual outsiders. Under the guise of active citizenship young people were meeting with older people. Older people who remembered what it meant to protest. They retained a spark of rebellion. The young people were kindling waiting for a spark. Together they started an underground fire that swept the country.

    The young people were showing their elderly compatriots ways to bypass the controls on The Cabal’s information flow. The older people showed their young compatriots how to use the offline Everweb – libraries. Skills were exchanged. Young people helped with the ‘In Defence of The Book’ movement. They helped remove books from the Libraries. They helped with movement of books, and inevitably they read them. Then they started to commit their blogs to paper, using their online networks to direct others to their cause, and teaching older people how to do the same.

    In the middle of this was Catalyst – youth workers creating networks, talking to young people about the world, listening when a young person expressed dissatisfaction at The Credo, listening when young people spoke positively about the their love of the Credo, allowing young people to imagine a future for themselves, encouraging young people to explore possibilities, and when appropriate introducing them to other members of Catalyst via other ‘youth projects’. For years they worked diligently but quietly, building an alternative Credo, one that valued people before profit.

    Youth Worker is no longer a paying occupation of course. Now all jobs that bring adults into contact with young people happened under strictly controlled conditions, with very clearly defined outcomes. This is for the “safety of all involved” and were clearly marked for those considered gifted in the Credo of Economic Prosperity.

    For many, Catalyst only exists in stories whispered around campfires by groups of young people daring each other to see who can push most against the boundaries of conformity. They say that there are people who live outside The Credo defying The Cabal. But that’s just a story for children. After all, why would anyone want to live in a world where your future wasn’t already determined?

    • Tony Taylor says:

      Ta Diane and especially Paul for this outbreak of creativity. I’m going to put it up as a new post. What the heck!?

  4. Zoraida Zaro says:

    A little off-topic: I’m the author of the caricature accompanying the text. My name is Zoraida Zaro and I’m a spanish illustrator. It’s been a surprise to get here through Google Images tools. Regards and thanks for the “smart” adjective referring to my work.

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