Like any father, I spend much of my time thinking about my children’s relationships (or lack of) and happiness (or lack of). Not that I think they need to be in relationships to be happy; such a thought or expectation would be negative and counter-productive (none of us NEED romantic relationships; it’s that societal expectation which leads to much unnecessary unhappiness and poor mental health). The thing for me is that covid-19 is inextricably tied up with young people’s loneliness and lack of opportunity.
The headline figure of course is that over 150,000 people in the UK have now officially died of covid-19, the UK being the first country in Europe to reach this desperate mark. How many have been affected by long covid is, to be honest, inestimable, and how many more will die from the disease is unimaginable.
What is indisputable is that covid-19, and its attendant and necessary restrictions on society, is having a huge adverse impact on young people’s lives. To say it is destroying those lives is not hyperbole. Young people looking for friendships and romantic attachments have no real and safe opportunities to pursue such goals in the only effective and possible way of doing so, in person. Gone are the days when a random meeting might bring new friendships, when a coincidence (although I don’t believe in coincidence) could lead to a shared life. Gone are the light-heartedness of youth, the carefree existence youth can be, where every next moment might be a moment of joy and revelation and newness. Confidence is undermined, personalities stopped from growing and flourishing, minds from maturing, and loneliness has become the default way of living. It is a great sadness.
There is nothing any single individual can do about this. I cannot, on my own, change the world. I am growing bitter at governments’ refusals to be equitable across borders, across races, and across economies. I am angry at the way in which altruism seems to have become a dirty word. I am angry at extremists at both ends of the spectrum, libertarians by any other name, filling the world with spiteful misinformation, misinformation spread at the expense of others, spread with the single goal of disrupting any progress we might have made towards global equality. I am angry at those who try, at any cost, to exert power over those they think they are superior to.
For some, the result of this all is that they don’t consider life to have any purpose nor any hope. Some argue that Doomsday is upon us and them, and that because of this, there’s no point fighting for justice, fairness, or goodness. They have lost all hope. They consider themselves alone now and for always.
When our children were born, we realised how lucky we were to have them, how fortunate we were to have been able to have them. Those four moments of birth are the happiest moments of my life, where I was filled with unbridled optimism for the future, when I thought of the unlimited potential of these small, screaming beings, and of the changes they might bring to the world I knew. I still hold that hope, any parent’s hope, but I despair for them, and for everyone else, in this age of contagion, in this age of ruthless self-centredness, where the stage of our ambitions has shrunk to minimal proportions because politicians lack understanding and wisdom, and where equality is only an empty word in a litany of unmeant and broken promises. But I will not give up, and I hope none of you will. The world is worth saving.