Snowed In

Rumors are swirling that Quebec will soon begin a new lockdown. What is left to be closed, one might ask. Starting in October, restaurants could only do takeout and delivery, bars closed, and people were asked to not gather in groups. We were promised that this was temporary, a provision that would allow us to see our families at Christmas (well, some of us. Emigres like myself have been asked not to travel). This was, it turns out, a lie. As Christmas approached, public health authorities told us we hadn’t been good boys and girls, and were being punished for our intransigence. Not only could we not gather for Christmas, but further lockdowns would begin starting that merry day. Schools, stores, and the like would close. Only essential businesses would stay open. And construction, of course. We couldn’t risk property developers losing money. There is nothing more essential to a functioning state than empty apartments. That, it seemed, didn’t slow the spread either. So now construction will mercifully stop. There’s also rumor that a curfew will be imposed. What exactly a curfew will change is anyone’s guess. Bars and restaurants can’t serve guests and house parties are verboten. Unless covid is secretly spread through solitary midnight walks, I cannot comprehend how this will help things. Especially since, as the government admits, there is extreme “lockdown fatigue”; it turns out you cannot ask people to only associate with two other people for months on end without any changes to the situation. It does, however, contribute to the government’s narrative that irresponsible young people are causing the spike, with our refusal to seal ourselves in cement until everything is over. Never mind that schools were the main spreaders for this second wave, because the government absolutely fucking botched their reopenings. Or that long term care facilities make up almost the rest of the outbreaks. Admitting this would mean the government fucked up, not the people. And god forbid we cast aspersions on the government.

I admit this all sounds bitter, like something an anti-lockdown conservative or maskless idiot might say. Certainly, there are individuals acting carelessly; someone I went to high school with regularly posts photos from maskless club nights and boat parties. But for the most part, people take precautions seriously. I have yet to see anyone under fifty maskless indoors (I have, on the other hand, seen plenty of “responsible” middle-aged people wearing them around their chins). As I wrote on Twitter, my generation (23-35) has sacrificed a year of our dwindling youth to save a generation that has left us a fucked economy, a destroyed environment, and a toxic political system. And we would do so again, because it was the right thing to do. But it is worth acknowledging that it was not easy. We did this despite being significantly worse equipped for a lockdown than older generations. We are less likely to be married, less likely to have homes, less likely to be surrounded by greenspace. Over the past decade, we have moved into small apartments in more industrial areas, since this was a) what was affordable and b) where things were happening. Now, nothing is happening, and we are stuck in those “sheetrocked boxes [we] increasingly call home” which “somehow feel both dead and new,” staring at whitewashed walls and billowing smokestacks. This, as one might imagine, is terrible for one’s mental health, explaining why nearly 50% of Quebec’s university students are now experiencing anxiety or depression. In the U.S., 64% of the 18-24 demographic has anxiety or depression. For “my” cohort (though technically in the 18-24, most of my friends are older), it’s a measly 40.4%. For those between 44-65, it drops to 20% and then 8% among those above 65.

And yet, despite this, the New York Times runs op-eds about how selfish we are, how terrible it is for 88-year-olds to be stuck in their rooms. Certainly it is. I cannot express how awful I feel for my grandparents, trapped in their apartment above Atlanta, lonely and isolated. Old age is supposed to be when you are surrounded by those you love, grandchildren hugging you as your sons and daughters help with whatever is necessary. I do not wish to sound callous about their struggles. But there is something deeply offensive about articles where octogenarians declare that “because of [young people], I’m stuck in my room.” No. You are stuck because of a deadly pandemic that unfairly and disproportionately effects the elderly. We, the supposedly carefree and reckless youth, on the other hand, are stuck in our rooms because of you, because we care enough about the health of an older generation that we are willing to live like ascetics. If we are all in a lonely place, it is not because one generation or another has been particularly self-absorbed, but because governments across North America have been incompetent at best and malicious at worst, exposing us to the ravages not only of the virus, but a rapacious capitalism that cares not a whit for anyone’s well-being. Media narratives may try and tell us otherwise, but the story of covid is not that of the young failing the old, but the system failing us all.

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