Young Canadians have been blamed for being irresponsible during the pandemic for going to parties and bars. But there’s more hype than truth to these accusations. The deadly virus has been spread by people of all walks of life.
Young people are sacrificing the opportunities of a lifetime. This is a time to build professional networks for future careers. Relationships have been delayed at a time that they are looking for lifetime partners. Families are being put off for better times.
As an older person, the sacrifices I make are minimal –stay home and watch Netflix. Sure, I miss going to shows, bars and restaurants but these can hardly be characterized as sacrifices compared to what young people endure.
Government response has been geared to protecting the assets of older people, particularly wealthy old people. When stocks crashed in the self-induced pandemic recession, central banks pumped money into markets to preserve share worth and property values.
Economic relief is geared toward protecting the wealth and income of the top 10 per cent in society -those with homes, accumulated wealth and a defined-benefit pension- not for young people.
Young people have been hard hit with job losses and increased exposure to the virus. They’re more likely to live in shared accommodation and work in jobs that require a high degree of face-to-face contact. They are more likely to rely on public transit. And when they work in office buildings, it’s in relatively cramped conditions.
But what is clear is that if governments are determined to “return to normal,” the bulk of new infections will likely occur among young people for the simple reason that they inevitably engage in more social interaction than older people.
Despite receiving an unfair share of the blame for spreading COVID-19, young people have received little credit for leading protests against injustice.
Many young people are deeply idealistic, calling for such things as democracy, racial equality, climate action, human rights and justice in policing.
In Kamloops last summer, young people organized a protest in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. They called it BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Colour) to reflect the overall injustice of racism.
The Tiny House Warriors in Kamloops, led by Indigenous youth, have protested the building of the Trans Mountain pipeline on unceded Secwepemc Territory.
The Idle No More movement, founded in 2012 by Indigenous youth, was in reaction to the Harper government’s removal of protections for forests and waterways in Bill C-45.
“Let’s be brutally frank here,” says John Rapley, political economist at the University of Cambridge, “As a disproportionate number of elderly people died, young people might actually face improved economic prospects.”
Young people have the most to gain when this pandemic sweeps the globe. Older people are more likely to die from COVID-19, which could improve the economic prospects of the young; fewer people drawing from pension plans, more houses on the market which would drop the price.
Young people have borne, and continue to bear, the brunt of isolated social interactions. They lead movements against racism, brutality and colonialism with little appreciation for their efforts.