Every single generation thinks the previous one has messed up. They think they’re the ones who are going to turn it round, sort out the mess.
For example, Millennials were told they could be anything their little hearts desired, no limits, no discipline, no judgement. The reality is they have no pension, no house, no skin in the game. But they can put photos of their pot plants on social media.
And GenZ? You could say they have generally received better parenting advice than Millennials. They know it’s hard out there. They know there’s no secure job – not even a secure industry; they know it’s down to them as individuals as the teams are broken up with no thanks or reward; they know the threats, from Covid to AI. Perhaps they know too much.
Being permanently plugged in to the internet, they hear about the global horrors and worries on a daily basis. Today? A raised warning level of earthquake on the San Andreas Fault. Death of a plague victim in Chinese territory. An avalanche of job losses announced with many more to follow.
There are physical worries, the result of us living on a planet which is very far from stable. And there are now the social and environmental worries that swirl around the globe like hurricanes and storm fronts. Extinction Rebellion, BLM, FF and many more take these worries and make them movements. They make people angry. And of course GenZ blame previous generations for making a mess of this world.
Watch videos online and your heart can break – the orang-utan desperately trying to protect its tree from loggers in Borneo dragging it down to plant palm oil trees; HS2 trainline in the UK which will damage or destroy 108 ancient woodlands, five internationally protected wildlife sites and 33 legally protected Sites of Special Scientific Interest; the seas filling with microplastic now struggling with discarded PPE masks and gloves.
GenZ aren’t doing this, their predecessors are, the ones who think they will profit from this. That, generally speaking, is us. GenZ are the ones who want to put a full stop to it all, to help heal the planet. And, being GenZ, they have plans as to how to do so. But life is very far from simple, something older people in the world have discovered first-hand and GenZ have yet to discover.
In a recent Insights post, we flagged up a letter from a Dutch GenZer to his father. In it he said this: ‘I personally believe that the discontent that Gen Z is feeling comes from what we have inherited. We didn’t start the industrial revolution, yet we are reaping what was once sowed. We didn’t ask for the earth’s oldest forests to be cut down to make way for animal agriculture, yet we are left with the damage. The realisation that the actions of the ones who came before us have a direct result on the ones who are yet to be born, weighs heavy on us all.’
Who could argue with that, right? But the industrial revolution is what allows GenZ to have the lifestyle they currently have, the long lifespan they have, the opportunities they have. Working in a Victorian factory was very tough, but not nearly as tough as most of the alternatives available at the time.
And there’s this constant narrative that the world is getting worse, and we’re doomed unless (insert easy solution here). The facts don’t support that. That’s a sentence to annoy GenZers, just there. But try this.
All these things are down across the world: child labour, deaths from disaster and war, HIV infections, hunger and child mortality (dying before their fifth birthday) – this last one is down from 44% in 1800 to 4% in 2016. There isn’t a country in the world where it is going up.
Going up? What’s going up? The number of women given the vote, the number of girls in schools (global literacy is up from 10% in 1800 to 86% in2016), democracy is up, as is access to water, electricity, immunisation programmes and much much more.
Notice the starting point for when much of this data started to rise is 1800 – during the industrial revolution. Don’t like those facts because they contradict your world view? Sorry, they’re internationally acknowledged statistics from the UN, WHO and others and are collated in ‘Factfulness’ by the excellent Hans Rosling.
Some people will react badly to being told positive news. Note that positive news doesn’t say the problems are all sorted, merely that we’re making progress. We mustn’t stall our efforts, but our efforts are reaping rewards, so we must keep going - and take renewed energy from the visible results. But some don’t like that. (We'll set aside the vested interests of those like some charities and NGOs who have good reason to talk up the problems.)
Consider this, young GenZer. The Stoics – if you don’t know them look them up -but here’s another lesson. What Wikipedia says about them is wrong, they give a cartoon, child-like shallow version which is simply incorrect. The internet is not always right. So the Stoics thought that ‘Anger Is Ego’. Namely, if something is not how you want it to be, then you get angry – whether that's someone’s opinion, the speed of the car in front, the democratic vote result. The world should be how you think.
You want the world to change to align with your worldview. It doesn’t seem to occur to a lot of people that humanity isn’t going to suddenly change to accommodate their personal view, so the best way to stop being angry is to change your worldview so it aligns with reality. Then you are in a position to make realistic change in a calm and reasoned and informed manner. You're more likely to be successful as making a noise is not the same as making a change.
If they work that out, GenZ are going to be unstoppable.
GenZ Insight: How To Make Your Organisation A GenZ Magnet
Authors: Graham Scott and Guy Ellis
Publisher: The Message Medium
Pagination: 132 pages
Price: print £14.99 ($19.99); ebook £9.99 ($9.99)
Publication date: 31 July 2020
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Ellenor McIntosh, co-founder of Twipes, is an award-winning Forbes ‘30 Under 30’