I’M part of the young generation of hot-headed, hypocritical, high-horse preachers, so it came as absolutely no shock to me that when coronavirus grew into a global epidemic they would fail to understand that it would affect their liberties too, and that the new rules were not just for the old to ensure the young’s continuing freedom of action.
Before the outbreak, ageism was already a prominent issue within the west, especially in the UK where studies show that more than a third of Britons admit to being ageist.
Funnily enough, though age is an ‘identity’ one cannot influence, it does not fall into the many ‘isms’ that make up hate crime. Despite reports over the years showing that elderly people are much more likely to be discriminated in the workplace, and even in health and social care, not much seems to be done in protecting them in making sure their latter years can be as happily lived, or even as productive in different or the same ways, as their former. We should be honouring our elder generation, not dismissing or categorising them, but this has been made hard by the government’s coronavirus advice particularly targeting the old.
Many of those who distinguish themselves, or are categorised as, ‘Generation Z’ are whiny, selfish, egocentric people, and I have had the misfortune of growing up with them. Though these teens and twenty-somethings live in much more than their ancestors – a world of civil rights, technology, prosperity and freedom – they seem to have the most to complain about and demand the most protections for themselves.
To make matters worse, this generation have spent more of their time indoors than any other, but when the Government ask them to temporarily isolate, what do these people do? They moan about that as well. ‘So what if I go outside?’ they ask, with no care for their elders, ‘it won’t affect me, I’ll survive the bug.’ Imprisoned by their own individualistic, vacuous minds, they seem to have lost some of the human empathy of previous generations. A 2010 study https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-athletes-way/201610/how-empathetic-are-americans-gender-and-generation-matter by researchers from the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research did indeed find higher levels of narcissism and lower levels of empathy among college-age students compared with earlier generations of young adults.
Something that highlighted this, just before the Government ordered the closure of pubs on Friday, was a Sky News item about those still drinking outdoors. The reporter found a small group of young men. They made sure to giggle over how this was a ‘one for the road’-style drink, grinning in the light of the camera, apparently equally ignorant of their own foolishness and of the potential harm to others. Even if they were aware, they made it pretty clear they would remain untroubled. It didn’t seem to occur to them that while their selfish, half-witted behaviour was unlikely to pose much danger to them, it would to their elders. I felt I had never come across people as out of touch and as selfish as my generation.
‘Don’t judge’, ‘don’t discriminate’, ‘be compassionate’, this new generation say, yet it is clear they do anything but. Too often these youngsters pride themselves on social movements of ‘fairness’ and ‘equality’, forgetting which group stood and fought for these rights in the first place. This is the generation that demand the correct use of gender pronouns, but it seems the only ones we ever hear falling from their tongues are ‘me’ ‘myself’ and ‘I’.
Millennials and Generation Z have been raised as self-absorbed, hedonistic oddities who find pleasure only in helping themselves, as Jean M Twenge has argued in her book The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement. We are in the midst of a global crisis: if there’s one thing we might gain, it is teaching the young the importance of community, civility and care for others. Humans are not naturally selfish beings: we should pride ourselves on the giving nature and kindness we are all capable of.
Finally, I say this to young people everywhere: value your good health, which is a privilege being denied to many, and, most importantly, treasure your elders – they won’t be here for ever.