Trainspotting’s classic ‘Choose Life’ monologue inspired an entire generation and has been seen plastered to the wall of student bedrooms ever since. “Choose life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. Choose washing machines, cars and compact disc players. Choose fixed-interest mortgage repayments. Choose a starter home. Choose…mind-numbing spirit-crushing game shows.”
The Renton character’s scathing put down of consumer society in 1996 reflected that he’d not chosen life; he’d chosen heroin.
Twenty years later in Trainspotting 2, Renton’s off the heroin but he still finds time to disparage, albeit with tongue slightly in cheek, modern life in 21st Century Britain. This time the monologue’s slightly different. “Choose life. Choose Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and hope that someone, somewhere cares…..Choose reality TV. Choose a zero hour contract, a two hour journey to work…”
Gone are the references to CD players and TV game shows; Renton’s 2017 bête-noirs have been replaced by social media and reality TV.
And something else – did you spot the omission? In 21st Century Britain, there’s no mention of mortgages or starter homes being consumer items young people aspire to, no matter how brain-washed they are by modern society.
It’s a telling reflection. Sadly for many young people today, home ownership is something of a fairy-tale. But it needn’t be.
The activity of putting money aside for the future isn’t included in either of Renton’s diatribes although I wouldn’t take this as a sign of his approval for this form of consumerism. Not that many of us would crave his approval.
Indeed, if Renton and Spud had saved or invested – at least part of – their ill-gotten 1996 gains of £16,000 and £4,000 respectively, then 20 years later both of them would have been, materially at any rate, in better places than we see them in the follow-up to Danny Boyle’s original classic.
While there’s much about today’s consumer society that’s not attractive, if you’re a parent or a grandparent, you do want the best for your children and grandchildren, including life’s material comforts.
Owning a home could be part of this too. While, as this BBC report shows, some young people are bucking the trend and managing to save for a deposit, for many the high deposits required means home ownership in their 20s or early 30s seems a forlorn hope.
However, parents or grandparents putting a regular sum of money away each month from the time of the child’s birth to when they’re 18 or even older, perhaps in a Scottish Friendly Junior ISA, could give a child they love a great helping hand in adult life.
Trains in Leith might be now impossible to spot but with a bit of help, home ownership for young people won’t also go the way of the dodo.
The value of investments in a stocks and shares Junior ISA can go down as well as up and the amount originally invested is not guaranteed.