Is Millennial/Gen Zer angst with the status quo driving protests such as the anti-Hijab uprising in Iran and The Great Resignation in the United States?
If so, what is that is making the Millennial/Gen Z age cohorts so angst-ridden? Is it due to the Pandemic upending their careers and otherwise taking a toll on their mental health? Or is it that the Pandemic and Putin are the “coming of age” zeitgeist affecting these generations? Every generation has such momentous events as markers, and the Millennials/Gen Z are no exception. For instance, if the Vietnam War marked the Boomer years, and 9/11 was the inflexion point for Gen Xers, it can very well be the case that the Pandemic and Putin have “seared” the psyche of the Millennial/Gen Zers.
So, what is precisely driving the Millennial/Gen Zers to go to such lengths where they revolt against everyone and anyone?
For instance, The Great Resignation was explained as the post Pandemic workforce’s rebellion against what they saw as the pointlessness in pursuing careers that did not hold much meaning for them. Moreover, the Pandemic and its toll on the mental health of all of us might have prompted those especially vulnerable (in this case, the Millennial/Gen Zers) to prioritize their wants and expectations from work and life. So, perhaps this “realization” that work is not everything, coupled with the supposed freedom of becoming Gig workers and Freelancers, could have been the deciding factors. Indeed, the “stress and burnout” epidemic afflicting large numbers of the workforce worldwide and the high incidence of mental health issues at the workplace are indicators that the Pandemic has not been kind to us, and more so for the youth.
However, the anti-Hijab protests in Iran are an altogether different ballgame.
First, this is the Gen Zer way of telling the world they have arrived and marked their place in the current status quo. In other words, this anti-Hijab uprising is as much about being “pro-choice” (much like those protesting the Roe vs Wade ruling) as it is about announcing that their time under the Sun has come. Despite open violence and even deaths, the fact that the anti-Hijab protestors are not deterred shows their determination to live life on their terms. Moreover, these protests are mainly being driven by young women and teenagers, which means that a generation that is Digital Natives know how the West lives and so aspire to the living standards as well as the freedom that the images broadcast from around the world on their TVs and Smartphones, signify. This is the “cultural revolution” that the Middle East badly needs (more so when the failed Arab Spring is a lesson learnt).
Is the Millennial/Gen Zer angst driven by Technology and the Rage against the Status Quo?
Yes! as I mentioned earlier, these age cohorts are Digital Natives. They were born or raised with a “digital” device nearby, making them tech-savvy and global citizens. In a way, the combination of the iPhone revolution and globalization have made them truly global, no matter where they are. So, they relate to teen or youth icons such as Greta Thunberg, who advocate for what is the equivalent of “total revolution” against the status quo. Indeed, the Millennials and especially the Gen Zer age cohorts do not see any point in persisting with a “system” which they view as having failed miserably in terms of Climate Change and other extreme outcomes, leading to the very radical Extinction Rebellion and other such forms of revolts. So, in a way, technology has made them connected, and globalization has made them aware of events far and away.
Where is this leading to? Are the Millennials/Gen Zers being pushed over the edge?
Hard to say as there is much to be cynical about and hopeful about. While the Boomers “settled down” after the initial “sound and fury” during the Swinging Sixties, Gen Xers became engrossed in their careers after the “tumult” of 9/11 and the subsequent Middle Eastern wars. However, I have a nagging feeling that “this time it is different” as the Pandemic and Putin have raised “existential” issues to all, and more so for the Millennial/Gen Zers who have their lives ahead of them. So, in a way, this can become a “do or die” battle reshaping the world beyond what was intended. Of course, it is also the case that the intended outcome is just that, and the point is to “save the world”. Perhaps, “this” generation is the one that finally “changes” the world, for good or bad, so there is hope and hopelessness here.
To conclude, the Pandemic and Putin are not only era-defining events but also represent a marked departure from the status quo, where “business as usual” simply does not work anymore.