This Nov. 28th Rolling Stone piece by Tessa Stuart made me think of this quote out of Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities:
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”
Doesn't this resonate for the moment we're all experiencing right now? I know it does for me.
GenZ youth are a clear force in state and national politics. Born sometime around 1996-2012, they are between the ages of 10 and 27. Many of these are our students in our classes in high school or college. They're the younger ones in our graduate, especially master's, programs.
They're unlike any previous generation. They are, for example, the most generationally diverse age-generational cohort in U.S. history (e.g., as compared to Boomers, Gen X, or Millennials). The generation following them, "Gen Alpha," will be even more diverse. Key quote:
“Young people are the reason why Biden won in 2020 and Democrats up and down the ballot won in 2022 and 2023,” says Abhi Rahman, national communications director for the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee. “If Gen Z continues to vote, we’re on the cusp of the most progressive era in our country’s history. Republicans know this as well, and that’s why they’re doing everything they can to stop young people from voting, including the fight for restrictions that we’re seeing play out in states like Wisconsin today.”
Yes, they are progressive and within GenZ, this attribute applies more strongly to females than males (Twenge, 2023). I can't help but think about reproduction rights and resistance to macho, misogynist culture playing into this. GenZ youth are also "digital natives." At least in developed countries, they only know this digital, online world that we have created for them—for better and for worse. Appropriately, they've normalized greater openness on mental health and illness. That's also a good thing so that folks don't suffer from stigma or fail to get the mental health services and supports they need.
The pandemic, curiously, gave not only a bump to Boomers and Gen X-ers with expanded computer skills like Zoom conference calls, but GenZ did, too, albeit from a different, more skillful starting point.
We also got pronouns from GenZ. The right, and some on the left ,decry this, but it's probably because this generation, more than any other prior generation, has simply shown more of themselves and who they are by virtue of social media. I've been studying this for awhile. I find it all so fascinating. Pronouns are not at all about political correctness, but about inclusion in being one's full self and that's a great thing.
What works for GenZ is the one-on-one. They pay attention to people they know and trust and who are authentic with them. So they take in information not just differently, but, I think, with a modicum of healthy skepticism. Tik Tok, specifically, I hear, is also huge for information sharing within this generation and for younger millennials—and for strategizing their next moves, too. Incidentally, older Millennials prefer Instagram and Facebook. I got this specific information from a friend who works at the UT library.
My message to GenZ and younger Millennials is the following:
First, you are genuinely feared. This Rolling Stones article attests to this.
Second, no matter what, do not let the GOP or anybody or anything try and keep you from voting. Your vote is precious, now more than ever. If all of you vote, you WILL get the outcomes you seek and you WILL position the planet for its most progressive era in human history.
Third, yes, we need world peace and I'm with you on prioritizing the environment.
Fourth, your best resistance to oppression is to resist anyone or anything that seeks to take away your right to an abundant, fulfilling life—even as you always seek justice so that all may share in this abundance.
Fifth, get grounded in community and build ethical relationships that nurture your sense of self and that speak to the value you add just by being exactly who you are.
Finally, always be ethical and responsible in your uses of power, considering always a role that caring adults, family members and elders play, or can play, in your life as mentors, advisers, and role models. Your thriving depends on your being in community. It's great for your health!
Much love and cariño to all of you in these worst and best of times.
Twenge, J. M. (2023). Generations: The Real Differences Between Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X, Boomers, and Silents—and What They Mean for America's Future. Simon and Schuster.