If you’re a young person anxious to know whether the “purity of your left-wing principles” will survive into middle age, says James Marriott in The Times, listen to what language is being spoken around you. If it’s English, your “youthful socialism” has a better chance of remaining uncorrupted. In Britain, America, Australia and Canada, millennials are “defying ancient political laws” by failing to become more right-wing as they age. But elsewhere in Europe, the traditional “political migration” away from the left continues. The reason is that in our world connected by social media, the critical cultural divide is “language, not geography”.
English-speaking Twitter is dominated by America’s culture wars: everything from Black Lives Matter to Supreme Court decisions. Because of this, US “progressive ideas” have spread to us Brits and completely infiltrated our politics. But on the continent, where internet discourse is primarily non-English, they’re spared the relentless US wokery, meaning commitment to “American morals” is much weaker. Younger French voters, for example, lack a US-style “progressive consensus”: last year, 49% of 25- to 35-year-olds voted for the nationalist Marine Le Pen. This discrepancy is why Emmanuel Macron can rebut liberal ideas much more strongly, and why there’s no need for a German word meaning “woke”. As the former Portuguese diplomat Bruno Macaes puts it, “American and European civilisation are diverging”; the US is pioneering a new, woke culture that is “incomprehensible” to much of the non-English-speaking world. Our shared language means that “we in Britain are along for the ride”.