EACH generation seems to enjoy assuming a certain superiority over subsequent ones. We may find ourselves prone to thinking: ‘We had it harder in our day’ or ‘They don’t know they’re born’ when we consider the young and all that they seemingly take for granted.
On March 29, lockdown restrictions ‘eased’ – albeit barely. Swarms of youths took the opportunity to escape the confines of their homes and soak up the sunshine.
Hundreds of students descended upon Nottingham Arboretum to let off steam. Can you blame them, after months of being isolated at home or policed inside student accommodation blocks?
Apparently some of the meaner members of society can. YouTube videos capturing the frivolities are rife with commenters bemoaning the students, for instance: ‘God help us if this is our future’, and baseless claims such as ‘now it’s proven they contributed to the second wave’.
The New Puritans were ready with the ire to be meted out to the students presumably on what they saw as their lax adherence to the government’s inconsistent social distancing guidelines, or their disregard for the completely arbitrary ‘Rule of Six’.
Some of the revellers may well have engaged in unseemly behaviour, as reports of littering and skirmishes suggest. But how many more were just desperate to escape their cramped university halls, meet friends, get some Vitamin D and perhaps even satisfy their innate biophilia?
Over the past year, I have been party to numerous conversations where older individuals have been quick to blame teenagers and young adults for their liberal interpretation of the Covid doctrines; many uncritically suggesting that the reason for the continuation of restrictions – and the supposedly unremitting pandemic – is due to the carelessness and selfishness of the young.
Even if these would-be Covid marshals or true believers have uncritically accepted the message that if others stay at home this somehow keeps them safe, does that make locking up the young a reasonable demand?
What if the young and not the old happened to be at greater risk of Covid-related illnesses? Imagine if pensioners were told: ‘No more cruises, coach trips or National Trust visits for you, because we need to protect the young.’ Would the old be willing to make the same sacrifices on another generation’s behalf?
If roles were reversed, would no pensioner complain: ‘We worked hard all our lives to enjoy our twilight years’ or ‘Why can’t the young shield themselves, so we can make the most of our retirement?’
If Covid had struck 50 years ago, would those who now direct their sanctimony at the fledgling generation have been willing to forgo the tribulations and exhilaration of youth?
Remember, this was the flower power generation who (till now anyway) have fondly recalled their late teens and early twenties, newly free from the shackles of post-war austerity and parental control.
Today’s youth can’t win. Often criticised for being emotionally incontinent, vanity-obsessed social media addicts, over the last year they have been prevented by their elders from healthier and more outgoing activities. Hypocritically, it’s now fine to prevent any possibility of their developing any sort of character, sociability or perspective in the ‘real world’.
A year of missed opportunities is far from insignificant at any age, let alone when you are trying to consolidate your identity and find your place in the world. Yet those who came of age in the era of psychedelia and free love seem all too willing to deny the young any semblance of the diverse range of life experiences that they enjoyed.