It doesn’t do to dwell in the past. Generally comparisons are unreal and unfair. Societies were different, beliefs were different, fears were different. So comparing my life as a young man in the 1970s to the life of someone in their 20s today is a pointless exercise.
But history gives us one important lesson. Times change. They definitely changed when the great plague wiped out a third of the population. They changed when whole streets of young men and husbands were wiped out in the first World war. They changed when the male workforce went off to the second World war and women proved they could do the job and began a slow march to equality. They changed when our coal, steel and other manufacturing industries were wiped out by the lack of raw materials, technological advances and internal market forces.
I don’t recall any furlough scheme for the miners and steel workers. We invested half heartedly in their retraining, but there was no outcry when many spent the rest of their lives unemployed. We find ourselves in a new situation where hospitality jobs are under threat, which is odd because pubs have been closing at a stupid rate over the years and we haven’t batted an eyelid. The equivalent of those lost jobs probably exist in the coffee shops of today.
There is a change that is often overlooked. In my home town there were four places where you went for coffee in the 70s, today there are over 20. Where there was one nightclub there are now a dozen. Where we would go out once a week, it seems essential to go out several times a week and probably drink more than we did. This is not criticism, this is observation. And I observe that, if we add multi car families, multi tv houses, gardens with bbqs, mobile phones, satellite TV, wardrobes full of shoes and casual clothes, weddings that costs thousands of pounds, obligatory foreign holidays… that we are generally a more affluent society with greater disposable income, more money to spend.
So, while I have sympathy for and feel we should support those people who are in danger of losing their jobs, we should remember that times change, situations are transitory, economies recover, jobs are created. No one suggested we should all burn more coal or put steel railings around our houses, that we shouldn’t defend our country, which is why we need to bite the bullet and concede that, currently, these jobs do not exist and propping them up is no guarantee they will ever exist in the same way. Times change.