climate strike birmingham 2019
by Howard Green

Since Monday, people living in England are no longer allowed to meet in groups of more than six. Although this is not hugely practical given that many employees and students are being required to return to work and study, these new restrictions show that our incompetent Government is prepared to occasionally act in service of public health rather than into the hands of the free market. But it’s very apparent that these restrictions are aimed at minimising social gatherings amongst young people, who have unjustly been the subject of blame for the recent upsurge in COVID-19 cases.

The truth is that no singular group is to blame for the spread of disease. The extent of the devastation COVID-19 has caused in this country is in large part a result of government inaction. But this hasn’t stopped government ministers and the media from creating a prejudicial blame game. When the amount of cases began to rise in Leicester and the North West, the media attempted to correlate the spread of the virus with Eid celebrations. In a similarly racist vein, many have also tried to blame Black Lives Matter protesters, despite evidence that the protests have not significantly contributed to spikes in cases. As the summer draws to a close, we have a new narrative: young people are to blame for the recent surge in cases.

Of course young people have been out more since the government’s ambiguous easing of lockdown restrictions. With restrictions being lifted, we have been able to socialise in person once again. Not only this but our government has been offering incentives for people to go into public areas, in particular the Eat Out to Help Out scheme. No doubt some young people have acted more responsibly than others during this period, but that is also true of people in every other age group. The government called on consumers to revitalise our domestic economy; now that cases have spiked again, as predicted by many, they have turned around and blamed us for doing what they encouraged us to do.

Politically engaged youth populations often bring about radical change, and therefore represent a threat to the current ruling class.

This government is scared of young people – and so they should be. After the recent exam disaster and the issues of racial and environmental injustice that have been highlighted this summer, young people know that it costs us if we do not stay politically engaged. Politically engaged youth populations often bring about radical change, and therefore represent a threat to the current ruling class. The allegations from government and media that young people are to blame for spreading the virus are used to paint us as irresponsible and deligitimise our political action. In the age of radical youth protest, this is an attempt at suppressing our voice and maintaining the status quo post-virus.

While it is clear that this government is not on the side of young people, it is still important that we follow the new advice. These restrictions may come too late and may not be strict enough, but we still have to abide by them. Yes, we have to make social sacrifices to save lives, but we know this is the right thing to do. The government, meanwhile, are making a different kind of sacrifice: sacrificing their citizens’ safety for the sake of a false economic recovery. And as they continue to enable deaths by the hundreds, they blame others for their failings. It’s shameful, tyrannical behaviour – and it shows that it is our rulers, not our young people, who are the truly irresponsible ones.

Featured image CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 Nick Wood

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