(THIS ARTICLE IS MACHINE TRANSLATED by Google from Norwegian)
One of the admonitions we have become accustomed to hearing during the pandemic is that we must make sure «keep R below 1». This means that the reproduction rate of the virus must be kept down, so that each infected person is statistically less infected than one other person. This prevents it from spreading exponentially. It immediately makes sense to society.
But it also leads to a phenomenon that we have come to know all too well, namely the extensive self-isolation that has been the norm in most of the world for a few years. And it has drastic mental consequences.
It now makes sense to talk about coronageneration.
One of the very vulnerable groups in this regard is the young generation, where precisely this abrupt restriction of social contact breaks strongly destructively into a wide range of norms and aspirations, all of which relate to the important phase in which one learns to know in a new way by interacting with other people. So where we have so far had Generation Z as a benchmark for development, it now makes sense to talk about Coronageneration.
The British sociologist Jennie Bristow, together with her daughter, has written a clever and endearing little book about the phenomenon. It has become a deeply personal account, which gives the arguments a particular weight, but the author then also puts on the researcher's glasses, and puts the whole thing into a larger societal perspective. What does this mean for the young generation here and now, and how will it shape the future?
As a useful frame of reference, the book uses the AIDS epidemic back in the 1980s. It put a natural fear in the young generation, which not least had a skewed relationship with the parental generation, which had had the privilege of being able to practice sex without fear of possible consequences.
But AIDS, on the other hand, also appeared as something relatively concrete. One could only protect oneself, or abstain from sex. Covid19 came to stand as a diffuse threat in a completely different way, and when the first closures came, the young reacted almost with pleasure, because time off from school and canceled exams could not be anything other than a good thing. A professor of political science, Matthew Flinders, suggested that the widespread apathy was due to the fact that the new norm has already become a crisis for some time. SARS in 2003, bird flu in 2005, MERS in 2012, Ebola in 2014, combined with the financial crisis, massive refugee flows, violent revolutions in the Middle East and Greta Thunberg's shrill doomsday voice, had largely immunized the population against something as abstract as Covid19.
The young generation could not possibly take this seriously. Therefore, the British authorities launched what can best be described as a scare campaign. The book quotes an opinion poll, which in mid-2020 showed that almost 60 per cent of the 18-34 age group regarded the virus as a serious threat, despite the fact that their risk of dying from covid19 is almost vanishingly small.
This has created a new reality, where large parts of the population at the beginning of the 21st century live in a state of permanent anxiety. Emma, the daughter, thus writes about her feeling of being out in the community, about people in the supermarket, who "were not only afraid of the disease, but of each other. And I think people were even more wary of young people, simply as a result of the prejudice against being young."
The British authorities launched what can best be described as a campaign of intimidation.
This is the youth's dilemma and difficult situation. By being cut off from the important rite of passage, which lies in such apparently banal things as the big graduation party in high school, the young people do not feel that they are entering the adult world. And this adult world has become one fear society, where sky-high housing prices and poorly paid work make it extra difficult to find a place in life.
The baby boomer generation has, through overconsumption and irresponsible waste of resources, left the entire Western world in debt.
In addition, the great responsibility for the baby boomer generation will fall on the young people of today. It is probably the most pampered generation of all, who through overconsumption and irresponsible waste of resources have put the entire Western world into debt, and they even live longer than expected. As an inevitable consequence, the young generation feels let down, and seen from that point of view, the enormous changes that the pandemic has already created in our society can easily lead to open war between the generations.
There is possibly a positive element in that, the social competition to be popular and well-liked in schoolns daily life can be said to have stepped out of power as teaching has become digital. And in the same way, there is no longer the same prestige in doing well in an exam. In this way, a different feeling of togetherness has arisen, because pandemic demands collective responsibility. It is something which, in a positive light, can create an increased sense of responsibility towards, for example, the climate and the environment – and the other sins of the baby boomers.
Seen in the broad perspective, however, this generation runs headlong into the wall, when at some point they enter a job market, which has changed drastically and no longer offers the same opportunities that previous generations had. It creates fear and anxiety, and precisely because there is a generation that has not been through the classic rites of passage, the individual here will lack a sense of community and will be completely alone.