Zach Petroff | Opinions Editor
Oct. 20, 2022
Everyday there seems to be a new headline that shakes the foundation of this country. From the faltering economy, climate change and being on the brink of a second civil war, there seems to be a large ominous cloud hovering over the American landscape.
I am often asked why I have such a positive outlook on what appears to be a bleak world.
My answer is simple – the next generation.
According to the National Association for College Admissions Counseling’s Journal of College Admission, Gen Z has now replaced my generation, Millennials, on college campuses. They are beginning to enter the workforce, the housing market and civil service.
The months leading to my return to college were filled with anxiety and self-doubt. Visions of ridicule from a hipper and more relevant group of people plagued my sub-conscience. I could not stop picturing Steve Buscemi’s meme, the one where he is an obvious old-man poorly portraying a young person with the underneath text of “How do you do, fellow kids?”
It was hard for me to fathom, as a combat veteran, how I could be scared of a group of young people.
Perhaps it was my experience with the older generations. There is this cyclic coming-of-age/rite-of-passage ritual when one age group becomes relevant. As if by design, it seems natural to not get along ideologically with the previous generation.
Perhaps it was the fact that I absolutely loathe Boomers. I find myself often blaming them for a lot of the current economic and cultural issues. On the surface they appear to be a selfish and self-absorbed group of people. While I don’t have the same amount of hatred toward Generation X – I do find them to be a major disappointment, a natural assumption, given the fact that they were raised by what I consider to be the worst generation in American history.
Perhaps it was during my time in the workforce where I was constantly reminded how my generation represented a soft and lazy group of people who only wanted handouts. The economy doesn’t work for us because we’re too busy eating avocado toast and drinking Starbucks to handle the market.
Yet, to my absolute delight, that has not been my experience with the current Gen Zers. They are kind, open-minded and conscious of the feelings of those around them. Sure, there are perhaps a few misplaced good-intentions, but they have been truly genuine and considerate.
And while there are many things that I don’t understand about their generation, their practice of linking their self-worth to social media, their musical taste and their million communication methods, I still find myself appreciating their kind and progressive nature.
I realize that my experiences are purely anecdotal and my few personal experiences cannot apply to an entire demographic. However, my affection toward this generation seems to coincide with the findings of research that is being conducted.
Roberta Katz, a senior research scholar at Stanford’s Center for advanced study in the behavior science explain Gen Z as “self-driver[s] who deeply care about others, strive for a diverse community, is highly collaborative and social, values flexibility, relevance and authenticity and non-hierarchical leadership … has a pragmatic attitude about the work that has to be done to address those issues.”
The future generation is inheriting a world that has not been handled with care, and while they are not the cause of the problem, they will play a key role in the solution.
As the first generation to never not know what the internet is, they have immersed themselves in the social media landscape, utilizing technology as a new form of social activism.
In 2020, Gen Z took to TikTok to sabotage multiple Trump rallies by ordering a ton of free tickets with no real intention to show. They have found a way to use their creativity to bring awareness to their causes.
There cannot be enough said about Gen Z’s eagerness to make the world a more accepting place for others. They have championed the causes of those whose voices are not prevalent. The embedded injustices and prejudice that are often accompanied with race, gender, able-bodied persons and alike are being forced to the forefront of the culture war and challenged as these young people try to create a world for everyone.
This may be due to the empirical data that suggest that this will be the last generation in which the majority will be non-Hispanic white.
According to the Pew Research Center, a bare majority (52%) are non-Hispanic white – significantly smaller than the share of millennials who were non-Hispanic white in 2002 (61%).
Things are likely to get worse. We as a nation are approaching a crossroad. Intolerance and ignorance may appear to rule the day, but like all things, this too shall pass.