Features

Are you a Yuffie? 

So you're overeducated and underemployed — welcome to the world of the young urban failure

2 November 2013

9:00 AM

2 November 2013

9:00 AM

I remember, during one of my last classes at UCL, the topic of conversation turned from the cultural implications of Algerian independence to the subject of life after university. Our lecturer, a grumpy ‘progressive Hoxhaist’, told us that things had never been worse, and out of the 20 or so students in the room, only one or two would have found any kind of full-time employment by the time the year was out. ‘But it’s not fair!’ cried one girl, ‘we’ve all worked so hard over the last four years, we’re all clever [speak for yourself, I thought], we all have debts and we’re just going to be ignored!’

‘Who are you going to blame, then?’ responded the lecturer. The question was a pertinent one: who were we to blame? The government and the banks? No, too simplistic, particularly for a class of ‘clever’ soon-to-be graduates. Our parents? Again, not an option, given that most of us would be living off their generosity for the foreseeable future. Ourselves? Well, maybe, as our lecturer went on to tell us, we were just a bunch of pampered bourgeois keener on whingeing than getting stuck in.

He had a point. Two years later and I am still a contributor to the youth unemployment statistics. In fact my generation of over-educated, underemployed twentysomethings has come almost to pride itself on its plight. Just as we remember the 1920s for its ‘Bright Young Things’, the 1960s for its Hippies and the 1980s for its Yuppies, we’ve decided that we are Yuffies: young urban failures. Future generations, we think to ourselves pompously, will look back and pity us.

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So what entitles Yuffies to think of ourselves as particularly hard done by? We’re not the first generation to find ourselves out of work. In the Thatcher era, the educated offspring of the bourgeoisie actively chose to drop out en masse. Geoff Dyer’s essay ‘On the Roof’ describes a decade spent during the 1980s living in Brixton in benefit-sponsored bliss. ‘I now realise what a privileged historical niche I occupied,’ he writes of his twenties, ‘free health care, free school, free tuition at university, a free maintenance grant and then — the icing on the cake — the dole!’ Or, as Wham! so succinctly put it, ‘I may not have a job/ But I have a good time/ With the boys that I meet down on the line.’

But what makes Yuffies different is that we’re not electing to be unemployed; it’s not a political thing. We’re beyond anger, politics and collective action, united only by the fact that we feel victimised and a bit pathetic. One thing we are good at, however, is living a reasonably high life, well beyond our pathetic means. It’s scrounging, yes, but it’s a useful skill and one I suggest you recommend to any unemployed graduate children. It’ll get them out of your house at least.

When I left university my student council tax exemption came to an end, and I found myself living alone and completely penniless — too strapped to buy proper food. So I began to survive on the free samples in supermarkets (a routine which, for a time, saw me ejected from the Waitrose in Westfield shopping centre more regularly than the rubbish). But the food was healthy and nice, much better than living off sliced white.

And what to do at night? Well, my friends and I became art-world parasites, crawling from gallery opening to gallery opening, turning our noses up at people in pubs for doing anything so tasteless as, y’know, paying to get drunk.

If you buy your clothes at secondhand shops (which I’d also recommend — old tweed jackets, cords, silk ties) you fit right into the opening night circuit. You get to know the regular crowd and after a while they think they know you too. They become friendly and invite you to other parties — you become almost legitimate. Then the art crowd begin to imagine that you too are an artist, or a hip young critic. All you need to fit in is the ability to talk pseudo-intellectual drivel about conceptual art as you knock back gallons of cheap white. Which is, after all, what we’ve been educated to do, and is basically my idea of paradise.

I was so broke this summer that I often couldn’t afford a bus fare, and would regularly stumble the five miles back home from Mayfair. I once spent the night in the exit of Hyde Park Corner tube station — very Yuffie to slum it in Knightsbridge. But there’s a more sober point to be made here: if you’re used to wandering the streets in the early hours, you notice that the genuine homeless, in the subways and shop entrances, seem to be getting younger and younger. They’re a reminder also that, however hard done by you might feel, no one with a decent education and a family to fall back on has anything really to complain about.

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Show comments
  • Jackthesmilingblack

    Graduate, then ship yourselves somewheres east of Suez. Seek your fortune in the colonies, British pals.
    Jack, Japan Alps

    • terence patrick hewett

      Let you have computers at Rampton do they Jack?

      • Jackthesmilingblack

        Still playing the sore loser after I called attention to your lame-brain thinking, Terry?
        Did the “Jack, Japan Alps” slip by you?
        Always the same, with your experience and exposure you try to help the less fortunate, only to invite insults and abuse from sorry-@ssed losers washed up on the UK beach with the rest of the garbage.
        Jack, the Japan Alps Brit

        • Toby Esterházy

          Let you have computers at Broadmoor do they Jack?

          • Jackthesmilingblack

            Take a number, $hithead.

          • Toby Esterházy

            1945.

  • Pootles

    All rather sad – welcome to the globalised world so beoved of the TUC and the Institute of Directors, Labour, Tory and Lib Dem. Mind you, I suppose the generation of 2014 isn’t quite so badly off as the generation of 1914…

  • tolpuddle1

    Yuffies can hardly be described as “failures” – they’ve simply reached adulthood at the wrong time (apart from Deutschland, I can’t think of a right place). Quite apart from the 2007/08 financial crisis, the West has been in underlying decline since about 1956.
    Playing the blame game isn’t a solution – but neither is being downcast.
    The world is changing constantly, and there is much more change to come – which those who are young will be much better equipped to cope with and handle than the rest of us.
    I won’t advise you to “walk on, walk on, with hope in your heart” – but floating along one day at a time, as cheerfully as you can manage, is often the best policy.
    “Give no thought for the morrow” (Jesus of Nazareth).

  • tolpuddle1

    The Yuffies mustn’t let themselves be bullied by those who call them whingers or other harsh names. They have every right to feel disappointed.
    But they can’t stay on Planet Disappointment – they must move on and, perhaps, become a Great Generation.
    Christian Faith would help them with this (and with all their other problems); it isn’t a magic wand, but it does help people considerably,

  • La Fold

    Pffft! They should stop their bloody moaning. I can remember labouring from half 7 in the morning to 4 in the afternoon before going to night classes 3 times a week just to get a qualification.
    In recent years after being paid off I have delivered kegs of lager, furntiure removals and worked on building sites carrying breeze blocks up a scaffold. A bit of back bone is what is needed.

    • Jackthesmilingblack

      Young people today, they think life comes out of a packet with a plastic toy.

      • La Fold

        Ive worked with many very intelligent and motivated young people but they just seem to lack any sort of intiative.

        • Jackthesmilingblack

          A pun based on the Python the four Yorkshire men. “We had it tough…” It really is heavy going working with ROM, two-dimensional, humourless rubes.

          • La Fold

            takes one to know one treacle.

      • Kennybhoy

        Many of them do actually…

        Nice phrase incidentally.

    • Fergus Pickering

      Your qualification didn’t do you much good then.

      • La Fold

        Oh fergus, I still dont deliver kegs of lager you dry lunch.
        I was pointing out that after I was made redundant I was willing to do a bit of hard graft to keep myself in the game not to sit and moan that there are no jobs out there.
        But you’re right, my degree in mechanical engineering has done nothing to help me cut out a lucrative trade as a freelancer in the oil and gas industry.

  • The Laughing Cavalier

    Yuffies? Meh, what about us Offies?

    • MaryW

      Excellent point TLC! Offies (Over fifties failures?) are in a far worse position. No-one wants to employ them however much experience they’ve got.

      Perhaps you’d write a letter for next week’s mag: letters@spectator.co.uk

  • sarahsmith232

    you stole my cultural connection! I would say, anyone wants to have any real understanding of what shaped the 80s/90s slacker generation forget bothering with spending hours in the British Library, all you need to know is captured perfectly in a 3minute 1980s pop vid’. that Wham Rap touches on every main aspect, all of societies ills perfectly revealed. there’s more actually, from another v.popular pop culture reference in the 70s. I presume there’s going to be others making the connection.
    Labour needs to wake up to all of this. the Tories have got the right idea, make it easy via the welfare state for people to escape a deskbound and slowly dying 20s and kids, no matter their background, will go for it. the boy writing doesn’t want to end up tethered to a desk looking forward to a relatively well paid but crushingly mundane, feeling like never ending existence. he’s preferring to remain unemployed, prob’ using the recession as cover to the mum & dad. the benefitis system makes this all too easy.

  • La Fold

    Ive just noticed that the middle two in that line up are Ms Dynamite and one of those tobies out of Busted. Their careers are going that well then eh?

  • terence patrick hewett

    What degree did you take Digby? If you had taken electrical engineering, electronics or mechanical engineering you would be employed. But if you took a degree in SFA as seems to be the case, what do you expect?

    • Jackthesmilingblack

      But then the exact disciplines require a brain and self-discipline.

      • Fergus Pickering

        Well, not much of one. Science is easy-peasy. Come now, do most scientists strike you as intelligent?

        • Kennybhoy

          Applied science…?

          • Fergus Pickering

            There you may be right. Applied scientists are plumbers, car mechanics and, t some extent, doctors.

      • Toby Esterházy

        A scientist who trolls on the Internet pretty much every day since the year 2004 under various aliases?

        • Jackthesmilingblack

          Let`s see, SE962582C, SE9, Karla, Karla`s Man, Toby Esterhazy, Guest …
          Various aliases, you were saying?
          I`m guessing you switched user name after being banned, right? Face it, you are a disruptive element. Tell me Jock, when you`re out and about in downtown Rochdale, do people literally cross the street to avoid the local nutter? Just the opposite for me, they cross the street to have a word.
          Jack, the Brit, Japan Alps

          • Toby Esterházy

            Are you talking more about yourself, now? Mad!

          • Jackthesmilingblack

            Let me give a recent example of Toby’s writing skills:

            “Seeing that you are Japanese and a Japanese, of which that you apparently, if not clearly and obviously, are, should you not had been in Siam/Thailand some sixty-five to sixty-nine, 65 to 69, years ago, back in the years 1941 to 1945, instead?!”

            Isn`t “a couple of cans short of a six-pack” the expression I`m reaching for? And there`re plenty more examples.

          • Toby Esterházy

            Let you have computers at Bethlem do they Jack?

          • Jackthesmilingblack

            You wrote it all right. Previous existence, schizophrenia or just a common or garden liar? I lean towards the latter.
            How about this? Are you going to deny this as well? Is that the cock crowing for the third time?
            “The only “Alps” that there are, and that that one knows of, or I knows of, are in the European Continent, in the Swiss Cantons and Confederation in Switzerland, in Liechtenstein, Austria, Slovenia, and in France and Italy, the French and the Italian Republics, and not out in Japan nor out in the Far East.”
            Native English speaker? Gimme a break.
            Thirty seconds on the web would confirm the existence of the Japan Alps; North, Central and South. But Jock was never interested in facts, just psychotic delusion.
            Jack, Japan Alps

          • Toby Esterházy

            Yes, I absolutely do. The one above is obviously one very disturbed madman.

          • Paul Schlachter

            funny. you guys are arguing about who the idiot here is but here you are arguing like 5 year olds, on the internet, not even knowing who the other is. like teenagers on youtube. this… proves the point of the article. the world is doomed… or changing…

          • Toby Esterházy

            I know.

          • Jackthesmilingblack

            You`re an immature retard with serious mental health issues. Any publication with ethical standards would have banned you years ago, but sadly the Spectator believes in keeping the looney around for laughs.

          • Toby Esterházy

            Keep swearing!

          • Jackthesmilingblack

            You lying bastard. And I say this with all due respect, because no respect is due.
            Headaches getting more frequent, are they?
            Did you ever sort out Achilles heel from Achilles heels? And What about Filipino and Filipina? Distrusting everything you`re told must make you a desperately slow learner. But I think we already know that.
            Jack, the Japan Alps Brit

          • Toby Esterházy

            Pedantry on Autism and OCD.

  • Nick_Tamair

    ‘Too simplistic’ – who let that through?

  • george

    Your name is Digby Warde (with an E) hyphen Aldam? Are you kidding me, as Americans say?

    I’ve no doubt you do a good line in scrounging.

    P. S. Has The Spectator given up on hiring adults for its magazine, or what? I for one prefer to read the insights of someone out of the school choir cardigan.

    • Toby Esterházy

      Originally a family of untitled minor landed gentry from the 18th. and 19th. centuries.

      • Jackthesmilingblack

        Any history of sanity in your family?

        • Kennybhoy

          LOL

    • Jackthesmilingblack

      Essentially the UK MSM including the Spectator has been gelded by HMG D-notices. With the exception of the BBC, note how they hardly mention the main story of the week, namely the NSA tapping the phones of at least 35 heads of government, plus the Pope, UN, NATO … Way to go, Ed, exposing Obama as a barefaced liar. Priceless.

    • Fergus Pickering

      Many double-barrelled names simply men that the preson’s parents were not married. Digby is going a bit however. But he may have been called after the sidekick of Dan Dare, a northerner as I remember.

      • george

        He could be called Dudley Do-Right for all I care, as long as he’s not yet another squeaky-voiced editor’s pet just out of boarding school, who’s been given the job because he drives a Range Rover when he doesn’t need the work in the first place. Feel free to place skeptical quotation marks around the word ‘work’.

        • Toby Esterházy

          Aldam is a surname from the North of England. It can’t be THAT posh!

        • AsterMonophthalmus

          More than likely. Certainly (Take my word for it if you want, I’m not going to say how I know).

      • Toby Esterházy

        If one of their name-bearing ancestors managed to get himself immortalised by having a street in Rotherham, S66, named after him, “Warde-Aldam” is probably not one of the modern double-barrels!

        I suspect that Aldam is an old Lancashire way of rendering Oldham.

  • sabretruthtiger

    All of gen Y think they are gods and goddesses gifted with supreme intelligence. Few people are and I’m sorry, no matter how many movies and TV shows you see with hot women scientists and girls beating up 200 pound trained male bad guys, the reality is that despite being good-looking and told by your mum that you’re special, you simply are probably not. It’s a cutthroat world out there and even intelligent talented people have to work their asses off in lower level jobs.

  • Jez

    Do you also play synth……?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o_5uVdy5YmA

    I feel this video link could be of great help here.

  • Abu Nudnik

    Sounds like the poets’ scene in Toronto. “Went to an opening.” “How was it?” “Not bad. They had a cheese ball.” “I meant the art.” “Oh, that!”

  • James Lovelace

    For goodness sake, when I graduate in 1983 from a very large British university, the careers office’s job sheet was 2 sides of A4. Two years earlier it had been about 30 sheets of A4.

  • Richard Mehlinger Jr

    “They’re a reminder also that, however hard done by you might feel, no one with a decent education and a family to fall back on has anything really to complain about.”

    The unemployed and the poor–yes, you are poor–don’t have anything to complain about, because they aren’t living under a bridge? Give me a break.

  • AsterMonophthalmus

    “They’re a reminder also that, however hard done by you might feel, no
    one with a decent education and a family to fall back on has anything
    really to complain about.”

    …So because there is always someone worse off, you should just shut up? Yeah not really sure about that reasoning.

    I also happen to know that the authors’ claims to have been living a penniless life on the breadline after university with nothing to fall back on are more than dubious…I would urge him to show some self reflection and cease the nauseating parallel he is trying to create with his background and brief experience (no doubt with a heavily cushioned ‘penniless existence’) with those of the long termed structurally unemployed and recent working class and middle class layoffs from the recession. Few of the many in that situation would thing it’s so ‘romantic and fun’ as you seem to imply.

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