We think of ancient Athens as one of the world’s great civilisations. That wasn’t always the case, though. Deep in the Bronze Age, Athens was probably the weakest, most shameful of all Greek city states. It possibly even sacrificed its own children in the interests of Athenian adults.

There’s hints in the old myths. The best-known legend about Bronze Age Athens is Theseus and the Minotaur: the story of how King Minos of Crete demanded Athens send its young to the island in tribute to be eaten by the monstrous half-man half-bull creature in its labyrinth.

In one of Athen’s few mythical acts of heroism, Theseus is sent by the city to free the young captives and slay the Minotaur. The myth perhaps contains some kernel of truth, symbolising the submission of Athens to the Minoan empire in the second millennium BC. However, visit the current Minotaur exhibition at Oxford’s Ashmolean museum, and you might suspect the legend comes close to literal truth.

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When I was there, the sight of the unearthed bones of a teenager lying on a sacrificial slab made me wonder if Athenian tribute really did come in young souls as well as city gold.

Britain has become rather Athenian of late. Not that we’re entering some golden age - don’t be silly - rather we appear to be sacrificing our children, or at least their futures, and the futures of our yet-to-be-born grandchildren. How else can the headlong dash towards ‘maxing out’ oil and gas by Rishi Sunak’s government be seen?

The move has little political cover. Rather than making our energy supply more secure and cheaper, most oil and gas will be exported for profit. Amid much discussion about the Rosebank oil field near Shetland, little mention was made of the fact that it’s Norwegian-operated.

According to Britain’s slowing life expectancy figures, someone like me - aged around 50 - has about 30 years left. So it’ll be 2050-ish when I wave the world goodbye. Optimistically, I might - I stress ‘might’ - avoid the worst horrors of climate change. Though as the Mediterranean burns like a roman candle every summer these last few years, that’s perhaps the definition of the "audacity of hope". The disaster creeps upon us.

But my children won’t avoid climate catastrophe. And I shudder to imagine what world my as-yet-unborn grandchildren will inherit. We should all sleep troubled in our future graves at the thought.

It’s little wonder then that so many young folk today - particularly Gen Z, born in the mid-to-late 1990s - feel that the older generations are waging war on them. That may be a very crude way to look at what’s unfolding, but it’s an entirely understandable position for someone in their twenties.

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Look at what’s been taken from them. Older generations had it all, in many respects: free education, full employment, cheap housing, good health care, gold-plated pensions, nationalised public utilities. I was the very last of the "full maintenance grant kids". The state effectively paid me to go to university, due to the level of my parents’ income. Bingo: social mobility sees children from the working class go to some of the country’s best universities and become doctors, engineers, writers, lawyers and academics.

Today, our children - even in Scotland where there’s no tuition fees - are saddled with brutal educational debt. Young folk have slender chance of getting on the housing ladder unless their parents are loaded. So they get sucked dry in the rental market.

Their wages barely cover their needs as we’ve gifted them a world of precarious employment and unpaid internships. They’ve grown up in a nation where the healthcare system we older folk once cherished is now an international laughing stock. A decent pension must seem like winning the lottery if you’re under 40.

Worst of all, the votes of the older generation ripped the young out of Europe - depriving them of an identity they’d grown up with, and trashing their dreams of studying and working abroad. The lives of our young have been made smaller by the decisions of their elders.

We - all of us from 40 up - must take responsibility for this. I didn’t vote Brexit, or support the destruction of the NHS, or smile when workers’ rights were undermined, or say "hey, pull the ladder up after me, please, I just got my free degree but don’t want any young spongers getting the same perks as me". I did none of this, and nor probably did you, but it happened on our watch. We were in the voting booths, not our kids.

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And yet here we are - the older generation - raging about heat pumps and low emissions zones; sneering at young people, terrified for their future, taking to the streets over climate change.

What must we look like to them? It’s easy to find out. We’ve all got young folk in our lives. Just ask them. They’ll tell you older generations look like selfish bloody idiots, sacrificing their futures for our suicidal self-interest.

It is, however, maybe not quite so simple. Are older generations deliberately laying the young on the butcher’s slab? Or is it government: politicians who for years courted older voters at the expense of the young to maintain power? It’s easy to be seduced, after all.

Are we - the older generations - just suckers and patsies who collectively put the X in the wrong box, and while caught up in lives of endless consumption looked the other way too long, gifting power to the most rotten amongst us? And now they send our kids to the Minotaur. Are we just stupid, lazy bystanders to disaster?

It’s more comforting to blame politicians than ourselves, that’s for sure.

Here’s two facts. First: a firm founded by Rishi Sunak’s father-in-law reportedly signed a billion-dollar deal with BP two months before hundreds of new North Sea oil and gas extraction licences were opened up.

Second: Conservatives received millions of pounds in donations from climate deniers and parties with interests in the fossil fuel industry ahead of backing this raft of new North Sea energy licences.

Who wields the sacrificial knife over the young? You and I? The governments we elected? Both?