Monday, 24 November 2014

The Generation Game

Dave Whelan is a football man, ex-professional footballer and now owner/chairman of Wigan Athletic, and right now he is being derided in the media as a dinosaur for his attitude to racism and discrimination.

Mr Whelan has decided that the best man to manage his team, after sacking the last best man to manage his team, is one Malchy Mackay. Mr Mackay, during his time with Cardiff City, although it did not come to light until after he left, was allegedly responsible for sending or forwarding a number of racist and homophobic texts. That scandal stopped him being appointed manager of Crystal Palace back in September, but now he is back.

The appointment met with much criticism, most publicly expressed by the local MP, who urged Mr Whelan not to appoint Mackay. Dave the dinosaur defended himself by making some vaguely racist comments himself, whilst trying to point out that Mr Mackay had not done much wrong.

Now, I am sure you will all be asking yourself what this has got to do with the exciting world of IT asset disposition, recycling and WEEE? Well, stop doubting me and concentrate, because I am about to tell you.

There are huge attitudinal differences between generations. I am 53, I clearly remember Love My Neighbour and Till Death Us Do Part on TV and the ‘humour’ expressed in those two programs alone would get anyone involved in serious trouble these days. My 15yo abhors racism and discrimination of all kinds because he has been brought up to be racially aware and he would be shocked if he saw these ‘comedy’ programs. There is a reason they are no longer aired on the endless loop of Gold TV channels – time has moved on.

Recycling and sustainability are similar. Back when you could be openly racist with an audience of 15 million people there was not a lot of recycling going on. Free love and world peace, yes, recycling absolutely not. 

All the things we now hold dear, plus a few we do not (health and safety springs to my mind) were if not quite non-existent then certainly not mainstream.

In the ensuing forty years or so we have learned a lot and come a long way. But the likes of Dave Whelan, a multi-millionaire owner of sports shops, in his late seventies, are the ones who still sit in positions of influence and power.

And this is why so many important issues are treated too lightly. They have not changed their minds at all, they have just bent with the winds of change enough to get by. This is why lip service is paid to so many important issues. This is why they don’t understand twitter storms, or the strength of feeling when one of their well-laid plans offends people.

I haven’t changed my opinions much since my mid thirties. I have not bought a CD in four years. I listen to Radio Four, and occasionally Radio Two. I am politically aware not active. I get most of my modern references through my son and his friends. In short, I am a normal middle aged man. My attitudes to things like racial equality, homophobia and sustainability are surely shaped by my life experiences and my education in its broadest sense.

I hope I am much more tolerant than Dave Whelan, but he is 25 years older than me, a child of the forties not the sixties. The next generation of leaders, be it politics or business, will be children of the seventies and the eighties. They have been brought up on climate change, on the idea of being truly green, and they will take things to the next level.

Which is good, because we need to raise our game, or, much like Wigan Athletic, we will be heading for League One, not the Premier League.