Illustrations by Hannah Robinson
As the much feared second wave of COVID-19 begins to materialise, the government has been desperate to find a new place to point its finger. It seems to have settled on young people, blaming us for socialising, and for taking advantage of the government’s own “eat out to help out” scheme, which offered a much bigger discount than you’d ever find on Unidays. Playing the blame game, however, is not only divisive and accusatory but insulting to today’s young people, assuming that we are reckless and selfish, when we may be dealing with this new normal for our entire adult lives.
In these very trying times, young people need support, guidance and understanding, both from the government and our surrounding community. Many of our lives have been thrown off course. The university experience we signed up to, in the process signing ourselves up to thousands of pounds of student debt, is beginning to look unrecognisable compared to our expected experience.
The job market we will graduate into is shrinking, and we will likely be in the midst of a recession, worsened by Brexit (which the majority of us did not vote for). Additionally, the climate countdown clock will be several years closer to the point of no return. It can be overwhelming, for young adults, trying to find their feet and decide who they are and what is important to them, to do all this with these three major world-altering issues constantly looming. Our friends are our support network, and it feels as if they are being shut away from us as well, as the rule of six comes into effect.
I only hope that we can take the lessons we have learnt from this crisis with us, as we become the main workforce, the largest voting group, and the next world leaders. It is undeniable that the world you grow up in shapes your values and outlook, and young people all over the world are seeing institutions, previously assumed to be in control and unquestionable, struggling to cope with the challenges of the 21st century. We are losing faith in the well-established status quo, and I hope that this awareness and development of critical thinking follows us into adulthood, allowing us to clear away outdated and unfair systems, and replace them with new ways of living, focussing on the environment and social justice.
The constant blaming younger generations for society’s problems is not a new phenomenon. Throughout history young adults have been seen as lazy, dependent and narcissistic, despite there being very little evidence to support this. But today’s young are anything but. Greta Thunberg, an obvious but fitting example, has mobilised people the world over to act against climate change. Young people are organising themselves and others, to speak out and protest against racism, climate change and unfair policies, and there is no reason this can’t continue into adulthood.
Of course, taking partial blame for a coronavirus spike, or being labelled as lazy is in no way as serious or upsetting as the loss of life we have seen over the last six months. But blaming young people, who will suffer the effects of this crisis most, helps nobody. We will be the ones righting wrongs for years to come.