On Wednesday October 14th during his speech on television, President Emmanuel Macron spoke of “terrible sacrifices” in view of the situation experienced by the youngest in the metropolises affected by the curfew (see extract from the de l ‘intervention here).
The next day, many newspapers echoed this statement from the President of the Republic, titling for L’Opinion: “Pandemic: the trial of the ‘sacrificed generation’”, and for La Tribune “Coronavirus: young people experience themselves as the sacrificed generation of crisis”. Le Parisien has chosen the angle of consternation among young people, who according to the daily are determined not to let the curfew spoil their student evenings (see article here)… Last Liberation decided to devote its front page to the curfew effects, with a tinge of despair, classifying young people as the first victims of this hardening of the rules of social life.
Facing this new concept of “sacrificed generation”, taken over and over by the media and social networks, and which will undoubtedly have been the buzz of the week, let’s take the time to ask the right questions and put into perspective the roles attributed in this story to young people: expiatory victims or potential actors.
It is hard for the young people but they are not the only ones to suffer, far from it:
- let’s think of all those restaurateurs or other entrepreneurs who are about to go bankrupt and see a lifetime work ruined, without hope of being able to start again, or all the cultural sector and event professionals whose activities will be paralyzed for the second time in a few months,
- let’s think of these sick elderly people who tell themselves that they are going to die without having gone out or without having seen their family: who suffers the most, a young person who cannot go to drink a beer after work or an elder who dies isolated in his or her nursing home?
- without even going that far, it is not just young people who like to go out and have fun, and let’s think of those grandparents who live alone and look forward to school holidays to welcome their grandchildren and will not be able to because of protection measures,
- finally when we dare to speak of a sacrificed generation, let us think of the young people who were 18 years old or more in 1914, let us think of those who mobilized in 1938, came out of the German prison camps in 1945, let us also recall the fate of those who made 36 months of military service in Algeria between 1956 and 1962.
To consider that Covid-19 does not concern young people and is a problem of “old people” is furthermore wrong for at least 4 reasons:
- among infected young people, some are not asymptomatic and suffer a lot during and after their convalescence: many are those who, 6 months after being affected, still have not got their taste or smell senses back!
- if hospitals are full of elderly people with Covid-19, there will be no more beds to accommodate other patients, operations will be delayed and ordinary illnesses less well treated, this is what happened during containment for long-term treatments but there are also emergencies outside of Covid-19, accidents, heart attacks, strokes…which affect all generations indiscriminately,
- there will be no serious and lasting restart of economic activities as long as the epidemic continues in an uncontrolled way, therefore no reduction in youth unemployment as long as we have not regained control over the sanitary situation,
- if the chain of contaminations is not quickly reduced, the time will come when it will be necessary to close schools and universities with all the disastrous consequences that this could have for the intellectual and social development of those concerned. After the 3-month break last spring, we would then rightly speak of a sacrificed generation; durably and perhaps even irreversibly. To be able to continue drinking beers with friends in the evening, do we have to take this risk?
It is in everyone’s interest that the epidemic stops and, for this, everyone must make an effort, we must agree to reduce social life for a while, and in particular its most dangerous forms in terms of contamination. And from this point of view, it is not necessary to be a doctor to understand that, contrary to what the media tell us, we risk less in public transport, where almost everyone wears a mask and no one is talking to each other, than sitting for several hours in a cafe within a meter distance between each other and without a mask, speaking loudly because of the surrounding noise. And it is clear that it is easier to control risks in the business, by getting collectively organized under the responsibilities of companies, than in a family reunion.
In short, it is time for the media and all those to whom they speak to put the issues into perspective, contextualize them, instead of going where the wind blows. And to admit that without a minimum of collective solidarity, and in particular intergenerational solidarity, there is no possible life in society.