THERE is a long history in Ireland of putting people in intolerable situations and then blaming them for being in that situation.
Our current manifestation of this is young people and Covid.
As we all keep an eye on those rising figures in ICU and worry when this will ever end the young have been getting the blame for being, well, for being young.
Of course, a lot of people doing this complaining, about nightclubs and bars and gatherings in the street were, we can only hope, at one time young themselves.
Perhaps, though, they were a different kind of youth. The scary, sensible ones.
After all, if you don’t make mistakes when young aren’t you only storing up trouble?
I thought of this the other day after bumping into a man I hadn’t seen since the first lockdown. Coming out of a shop I noticed, as we all do now, that he wasn’t wearing a mask.
Now this fella is the average, affable, kind of man you’d meet in many a small Irish town, more interested in fishing, for instance, than politics.
We got to chatting and it wasn’t long before he offered his opinion on the pandemic all being a hoax and a conspiracy. Hence his not wearing a mask. Not forgetfulness but refusal. He wouldn’t be getting the vaccine either.
At the time it wasn’t long since I’d heard about a relative in Cork city getting a pretty rough diagnosis.
Like so many others vulnerability would now be her default setting. I couldn’t listen to him for long.
Unlike the young, this man, older than me, far old enough to know better, was deliberately, pointedly, putting others at risk. Never mind himself. He was making a considered decision.
What young people, by contrast, are making are, at worst, thoughtless decisions.
They are, perhaps, being reckless. But isn’t that what young people do? Isn’t that what we all did? After all, the restrictions around this pandemic began back in the spring of 2020.
It is now the winter of 2021. In that time some young people have missed out on a whole year of truly formative experiences.
A whole generation of Irish young people didn’t even get to properly finish and leave school. Are they going to cut loose when they get the chance? Of course, they are. Wouldn’t you?
Listening to the representatives of night clubs and bars and festivals arguing for the relaxation of restrictions did sound hollow.
I would have had more respect for them if they’d just argued that they’d had a tough time of it and needed to get their businesses back up and running.
Talking about culture or the social good, well, it was hard not to be cynical.
But for the people bursting to get out, to get inside those doors, the young people. Well, shouldn’t we really cut them some slack?
We did, after all, cut all those middle aged men who went to Cheltenham, when it really wasn’t a good idea, some slack didn’t we?
We did cut Leo Varadkar slack for going to a concert in London over the summer and he is only just hanging on to his youth.
Being a covid denier is, well, to be blunt, idiotic.
Being eighteen and idiotic on a night out is just to be eighteen.
We have a generation behind us who have diminishing chances of ever owning their own home in Ireland, diminishing chances of reliable, protected, employment, diminishing chances of avoiding the worst of climate change.
As the pandemic develops and hopefully becomes something we live with, blaming those who missed out on so many fundamental experiences is as about as mean-spirited as it gets.
I was a young pub going teenager in the 1980s. I was by any reckoning exceedingly foolish. And it was great. Even in the 80s which was a grim time if you were a kid from an inner city area.
But for all that I think today’s young Irish people have it harder.
They may have material things we only dreamt of but they also face a harsher, far more demanding culture.
I truly believe it is harder to be young now than it was when I was young. Then put a global pandemic on top of that.
Ireland’s young people. Give them a break.
After all, we gave ourselves one, didn’t we?