“What’s this, another millennial complaining about how tough they have it?” (Swallows tofu) No. 

Over the next 6 weeks, we are in for the mother of all culture wars as the powers that be pit millennials and boomers against each other. National Service you say? Oh, my mistake, it's already begun.

When Rishi Sunak announced that 18-year-olds would participate in national service if the party wins the general election on 4 July, I groaned. And more importantly, jumped to conclusions.

"Oh, here we go, a rallying cry to Boomers to get them onside. National Service ended in 1960 but they'll act like they went through it."

I'm not 18, so it wouldn't affect me, but I instinctively fell for what Sunak and co desire most. Division.

Why is National Service a bad idea?

Although details are still quite vague (obviously) the concept seems to be a form of non-voluntary service. Refusing to participate, however, would not be subject to criminal sanction.

Penny Mordaunt once told The Telegraph that the National Service could “harness young people’s goodwill and community spirit, tap into the energy and imagination of the next generation, and promote good mental health and resilience”.

But does non-voluntary service work? I don't think so. 

Less than 4% of the approximately 750,000 18-year-olds in the UK would be able to take up one of the 30,000 military placements that would be made available. The rest would be doing service with blue light organisations, the NHS, community or environmental projects. You couldn't help feeling particularly aggrieved if you were one of the 30,000, could you?

“The problems arise when we move from the voluntary nature of the current programme to a mandatory one,” Yiannis Baboulias argued in a 2019 article in The New Statesman.

“A voluntary scheme ensures that by and large only the most eager students will participate. This eliminates from the existing sample of schemes the negative attitudes of teenagers who will not want to be there, therefore biasing the results.”

National Service would feed into young people's resentment of authority and produce the opposing 'intended' result. Disorder. And who would they blame? Their elders.

So, who has it worse? 

Who has it worse? Is just a leading question designed to deflect from the bigger picture and stoke up tensions. It works worryingly well, as well. 

Playing on people's belief that they own the monopoly on self-crisis is not a newly employed tactic either. Naturally, people want to believe they are hard done by more than others. 

Recommended reading:

National service plan ‘could take millions in funding from Wales and Cornwall’

Will people go to jail for refusing national service?

Jeremy Clarkson slams obviously idiotic national service

Don't believe me? Enter any pub over the next 6 weeks and I guarantee you'll get a broken rendition of Monty Python's Four Yorkshiremen at some point.

"Right.. I used to get up in the morning at night at half-past-ten at night, half an hour before I went to bed. Eat a lump of freezing cold poison, work 28 hours a day at mill, and pay the mill owner to let us work there.

"And when I went home our dad used to murder us in cold blood, each night, and dance about on our graves, singing hallelujah.

"Yah, you try and tell the young people of today that, and they won't believe you..."

The other day, I saw a UNILAD article: ‘Millenials have started ‘quiet vacationing’ instead of asking for time off’.

In the article, they explained that 'quiet vacationing' meant doing your job and not going above and beyond - ‘vacationing’, really?

Someone then pointed out: “I'm beyond tired of media outlets writing misleading articles to make it seem like people are lazy rather than just calling out corporations for overworking their staff. These people are doing their jobs. They are doing exactly what they are paid for.” 

The National Service ploy by Mr Sunak plays on this old trope perfectly: millennials are bone idle and lazy. Sadly, however, this is no longer a stereotype, it's a rampant belief instilled in many. And it works both ways. If you're younger, you're lazy, if you're older, you're bitter. Simple.

 If you're younger, you're lazy, if you're older, you're bitter

"Millenials? Ha, just a bunch of avocado-eating Just Stop Oil supporters with pink hair."

"Boomers? Ha, just a bunch of people in egg-stained vests shadowboxing under Churchill's statue."

It's easy to stereotype and I have been guilty of it. But the fact is, both are so far off the mark.

It's ruining any chance of a proper discourse between generations during a crucial time in our history. We have the worst government in recent times on the way out and the seemingly bare minimum coming in. Surely we should be holding our leaders to a better standard instead? Instead of waving pie charts of house prices at one another.

Now, I'm not calling for a nationwide rendition of Kumbaya every night at 8pm, holding hands, burning sage and hugging trees as god intended, no, people are going to disagree. And damn right they should. We're in a build-up to an election after all.

But disagree on the real topics, the real things that matter, and not get blindsided by gimmick policies that will never come to fruition.

Vote to improve things, not to spite a generation you’ve been tricked into hating.

Who has it worse? Us? Or them? Let’s stop patronising people for being younger and demonising people for being older. Punch up, not down.