Editorial: A Generational divide

Last Updated on Thursday, 18 March, 2021 at 1:35 pm by Andre Camilleri

Schools are locked up and playgrounds silent. Teenagers, while away their days watching endless TikTok videos. University students haven’t met their peers, grimly aware that the experience falls far from the “best years of your life” promise. Twentysomethings sit at home, the sands of youth trickling through the hourglass. The French writer Georges Courteline quipped that “it is better to waste one’s youth than to do nothing with it at all”; today’s youth are being denied even the pleasure of wasting it.

We are rightly concerned about the effect that the past year has had on children and young people: educationally, socially, economically. But increasingly, there is an ugly undercurrent to this concern — anger that “the young” are being punished because of “the old”. Young people are quick to blame the elderly that attended a Hamrun Tombla, and the elderly scorn those who attended White Rocks. One may ask the difference here.

As if dealing with a pandemic wasn’t enough, from the very outbreak of Covid-19, institutions, political leaders, social and traditional media alike seem to have used the pandemic to pit one generation against the other. Young people are being portrayed as reckless, careless, or simply unbothered by the pandemic. Older people are being labelled as vulnerable, useless and in need of protection.

As Europe enters into another wave of this devastating virus, it’s important to remember that we all are in this together. As cliché as it may sound, we all have a part to play to overcome the spread of infection and look after each other. This means rather than scapegoating certain generations. We need to value people of all ages.

After all, sooner or later, this pandemic will be over, and we’ll be left with dealing with the aftermath: new waves of unemployment for young and older people; less public revenues due to a new economic crisis; threats to social protection and health care systems that cater for all of us – young and old alike – in times when we are most in need.

The young blame the old, the old blame the young. By allowing people of all ages to play their part in this recovery, we can rebuild our society on firmer foundations, and this is where the government must start stepping in. Paying attention and responding to the persistent, detrimental ageism that affects so many must be the first step towards ensuring that human rights apply equally to people of all ages. Whether we live in times of crisis or not, we all age, and we all hope to do it in dignity.

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