The government’s attempt to blame young people for the second wave was typical boomer narcissism.
(Photo: Financial Times)
By Conrad Whitcroft – Contributor
Lockdown has done a great deal of damage to our own mental health, economic prospects and future happiness. Yet the total number of Coronavirus deaths for under 65s has been 6,011. For those under 40, only 241 of us has died from the virus. For young people, lockdown did not occur out of self-defence, but for the generations that have come before us. So much for ‘Generation Me’.
The “Don’t kill granny'” campaign temporarily launched by the government as a precursor to the second lockdown ignores the fact that the entire reason young people have obeyed these rules, to whatever extent, has been to prevent infections and deaths amongst older people. If under 30s were genuinely as selfish as the government and the media imagine we are, we would have told older people to stay inside whilst we are able to go about our usual lives; with the added benefit of not having to give up our seats on public transport or deal with boomer customers complaining about “kids these days”.
The lockdown was presented as a moment of national unity and indeed it was, but not against a common threat. Lockdowns, social distancing, the abolition of live music and the mutilation of the pub have all been put in place to protect an already fragile minority. Young people’s lives have been irrevocably changed and students have had an expensive education downgraded to a series of Skillshare-style seminars with lecturers who were barely able to work a PowerPoint in peacetime, let alone a full zoom meeting in the Rona Wars.
On top of this, students have the stress of hostile landlords, many of whom are in the very age group we locked down our lives to protect, demanding full rent payment when the jobs that students typically take are cancelled and many students moved back home to be with family during the crisis. Apparently, the fact that housing is an investment – not a guaranteed return – didn’t make its way through to our distinguished property-owning elders who are now expecting yet another free lunch.
Outside and beyond the student experience we have the nightmarish world of the young professional to look forward to. In this recession, deeper than any we have seen before, young people are fired first and rehired last with 16-24 year olds making up 14.6% of the unemployed but only 9.4% of the population. Furthermore, the massed unemployed clamouring for ever fewer jobs is making our recent entries to the labour market redundant before we even start. Such problems do not grace the elderly who were recently given a 2.5% pay rise. The Triple Lock is bolted tightly to the door of state support, a “No Young ‘Uns” sign nailed firmly on the mantel.
You may be expecting a paragraph on the tragedy of mental health exacerbated by lockdown but even I know my limits and such a serious problem requires its own article. I would instead like to pay homage to the fantastic work done by mental health charities and workers as well as friends of mine who have had the courage to talk publicly about their own mental health struggles. I hope that solutions can be found to this crisis and that its exacerbation caused by lockdown will swiftly end.
On other health issues, we have let down young people who are suffering from long-term diseases; sacrificed as their well-being has been traded for that of another cohort. Brain tumours are the biggest killer of under 30s after suicides whilst Crohn’s Disease and ulcerative colitis are predominantly diagnosed at a young age. Scans and diagnostic procedures have been delayed in exactly these areas.
All of our laudable skills and contributions are wasted by a failure of the state to comprehend that its children are its legacy. Instead we are waved aside; expected to pay off our parents’ massive public debt, fix a shattered economy and revive a traumatised generation. The tools to do this, however, are suspiciously absent. When this problem comes to fruition our present leaders (yes even “young” Rishi) will be too retired or too dead to care.
The future looked bleak for young people before 2020 – student debt piling up by the day, wages stagnating and our best route to home ownership found in National Lottery tickets. Yet this year has done the seemingly impossible by bringing a whole host of other problems to be heaped on top of us like the overly laden mule that the boomers have treated us as. With this example, I tremble to wonder what we will expected of our children.
Aside from a very unlucky few, comparable to the victims of drowning or freak accidents, COVID-19 cannot lethally infect my generation. Lockdown has – and for us the cure has been much worse than the disease.