When I was a kid and I uttered that oft bemoaned phrase
“It’s not fair!” my mum would always reply
”Life ain’t fair!”
How right she was. As one gets older one realises more and more the fundamentally unfair nature of life. The fairness of who gets the last home made orange lolly from the freezer, you or your slightly younger brother, or who has to clear the table after tea begin to pale into insignificance in the face of the total lack of equality between people’s life experiences.
My kids are still at the stage where that ice lolly is the most important thing. Even though they are approaching adulthood (in a long and tedious way which seems to involve two steps forward and 20 back) they are still mostly stuck in their own small world.
And generally what a privileged world that is. However it seems that whilst teenagers are able to rationally understand the general unfairness of the experiences of minorities or refugees or those unfortunate enough to be born in countries torn by war, poverty or famine (or all three) they are simultaneously completely and utterly fixated on their own situation.
And recently we have been playing a lot of the ‘unfairness game’; that is who has been most affected by the current pandemic.
On the face of it none of my children have been particularly impacted by the pandemic. No one we know has even had it let alone been ill or tragically died. Both their parents still have jobs. There has been food on the table. Love and reassurance a plenty. Birthday gifts. A staycation. On line school.
But these things mean nothing to my teenagers. Subconsciously they are probably appreciated although outwardly one would never know. Because these are things they expect. Take for granted. And maybe that is the way it should be.
What they focus on is what they have lost. Exams, school learning, social lives, sport, tours, music, the summer following exams and the adventures planned. Pointing out that they have it better than a lot of others does not help. And it feels like a real loss to them.
And actually it is. These things are not important in the scale of climate change or catastrophe in the Lebanon but they matter to millions of kids.
And I think what they have actually lost most is their sense of security. The sense of continuity. That events will follow a pattern, a time line. And their futures, which seemed mapped out to some extent, are now clouded and unsure even down to whether they will actually go back to school in September or on what basis, or even where.
And all those kids tomorrow and next Thursday getting exam results face an uncertainty no other cohort ever has and I hope (for my next child’s sake) never will. The endless debate and arguing is unsettling and treats these cohorts of children as statistics rather than human beings.
So actually although in real terms the unfairness of their current situation is small, in relative terms it is huge.
I/ we need to remember that.