Once again, the resurgence of the ‘young people are irresponsible’ narrative has reared its ugly head. With Matt Hancock’s latest demand for the younger generations – “Don’t kill your gran” – somehow I am not surprised.
In the advent of the ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme, I knew. I knew those pesky Tories would come for us in the end. And they almost succeeded, but not on my watch kids.
Has my mother finally fallen prey to the charming eloquence of Tory rhetoric?
The other day, I was sitting with my family in the kitchen, having a couple of glasses of wine after dinner was winding down. My mother was not so cheerfully reminding my 22 year old brother that dating and meeting friends without a metre distance weren’t in line with government standards. She also asserted that he should be wearing a visor in his workplace, a large pub in central Brighton. His response was, quite justifiably, that he had not been given a visor and that the government hadn’t banned pubs, and most of the establishments he has been to did not have the space or resources to enforce social distancing.
The conversation inevitably became heated. The confusion and frustration in my sibling’s voice was palpable. And this was the moment the ‘facts’ started getting thrown around.
“Most of the new covid cases are in young people,” claimed my mother. Well, my brother couldn’t really dispute that. All he knew was that what he was doing was acceptable, socially and lawfully. And inevitably, the blame game started. My father is considered to be in a somewhat risky position in terms of covid, but not enough to stop him commuting to London five days a week.
“What if you gave your father covid and he died, then?” asks my mother. And to this there is no response, especially since my dad was in the room, awkwardly watching this exchange take place.
Here lies a problem, and a big one at that. Once again, the younger generation have been shoehorned into a narrative that perpetuates the age-old idea that we are irresponsible, that we do not comply with the government on a continuing basis. And this is completely unjustified.
The Eat Out to Help Out memes are indicative of a clever marketing ploy
Alarm bells began ringing for me on the eve of the 1st of August when the Eat Out to Help Out scheme was gearing up to commence. I want to talk about this because it’s easy to think of Sunak’s scheme as apolitical in some senses.
Eat Out to Help Out consisted of a discount per head in most restaurants, Monday to Wednesday, to ‘save the economy’. Now, if you think this wasn’t geared specifically to young people, especially students, then I’m sorry to say but this is an oversight.
We cannot allow the government to blame their poor form on an outdated stereotype
Now, let’s get to the meat of this – Matt Hancock, he’s every young person’s arch nemesis this week. I don’t say this lightly: hold him to account. Don’t allow this character assassination of a generation take the blame away from the shortcomings of a government who has failed time and time again to implement clear and proper guidelines for anyone. Good old Matt is the culprit of this very calculated scapegoating.
When we talk about politics, we undoubtedly utilise statements and statistics from the articles we read or the radio we listen to on a daily basis. I myself quote Eddie Mare on the daily, most of the time without realising, I expect. The mainstream media is the source of news for most people, especially for the older generations.
Mainstream media has ingrained itself so heavily in our lives, that some of the narratives that arise out of them don’t even feel that political anymore. And it is so easy to fall into this trap.
You caught Covid? That’s on you mate
“Don’t kill your gran by catching coronavirus and passing it on.” This is the quote of the week, and before you start thinking about how eloquent our friend Matt here is, let’s talk about the implications of this bizarre statement.
Firstly, Matt implies that if you give a relative the virus, you are responsible for “killing” them. A violent word which implies deliberation and intent – outrageous. It suggests that there is no responsibility to be placed on the government and their shameless encouragement to save the economy. I would honestly liken the government’s pushy approach to going out to pubs and restaurants to some sort of national service. It was what we were supposed to do, so why are we being slandered for it?
But the most problematic thing about this is that Hancock suggests that if you catch the virus, it’s your fault. Oh dear. This blatant shifting of blame shouldn’t wash, but it has. My mother hates Hancock, but she is perpetuating his narrative, and this worries me.
It’s time to slam the stereotype, kids
The ‘younger generation’ has always and probably will always be an easy target. Some young people lack the interest or resources to criticise or defend themselves in the wake of any sort of widespread backlash, as we risk falling into the stereotypes set out for us. I personally feel pretty powerless to defend myself against the classic ‘what if you kill your gran’ statement, as this is so vulgar a discussion that it is hard to give a response without seeming uncharitable or thoughtless.
But Hancock knows this, his campaign against young people is far from misguided, politicians know how to spin us a trail of yarn, fooling most. Don’t allow yourself to be pulled into those half-baked truths. Be mindful and critical of the motivations here. But most importantly, don’t kill your gran.