Voices of the Future: We need to redirect our anger away from ordinary people on ‘Freedom Day’
The flurry of over-excited headlines on the PM’s so-called ‘Freedom Day’ has felt like an information overload on an outdated desktop. As lockdown ended on Monday night, media outlets rushed to long queues of students and young people, eager to socialise, enjoy newfound freedoms, and make good on their promise to never schedule a ‘Zoom quiz’ ever again.
Punters in Leeds City Centre waxed lyrical about their need for freedom and socialising. Personally, I felt my heart swell at the mere sight of large groups partying together, encumbering that irreplaceable feeling of messy joy that comes with mass nightlife.
However, a focus on young people and their decision to go out on Sunday night also riled up a lot of upsetting sentiment. One look at the comments on YouTube and you see cynicism about the opening of clubs, whilst having the blame piled on young people for an incoming disastrous third wave.
One poll by Ipsos MORI for the Economist found that a quarter of people said that clubs and casinos should never re-open, and almost a fifth support a 10pm curfew.
The most recent U-turn from the government regards whether Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Prime Minister Boris Johnson should self-isolate, after positive lateral flow tests took 157 minutes, a record even this government ought to be ashamed of. Ultimately, decisions and failures in this pandemic have come from the top down, with the government laying it on thick with cringeworthy ‘Freedom Day’ spin, opening up all public facilities and still not implemented a functioning test and trace system, or statutory sick pay for those who need to self-isolate. The latter I have seen for myself, with two housemates losing out on money after their employers were unwilling to accept the extenuating circumstance of a global pandemic.
Despite this, I am endlessly optimistic that we can avoid a socially corrosive dichotomy between re-embracing our social lives and expressing caution about a reckless unlocking of the country. The pandemic has affected many people in different ways: young people have missed out on making new friends and embracing every facet of a new city, immunocompromised, and elderly people live with caution as a virus that threatens their ability to live their lives swoops the world.
Working in education, I have seen the first hand the cripplingly unstable effects of a virus that forces us inside. I have seen children struggle to re-enter education, lacking the social and educational confidence to excel, and falling behind due to no fault of their own.
As restrictions ease, clubs re-open, and many people re-embrace the giddy highs of normality, all I urge is that we all try to keep reactionary thoughts at bay, reminding ourselves what it feels like to be excited about an admittedly uncertain future - most importantly, laying the blame at the door of those who make the important decisions.