For many of us in this year’s graduating class, it feels like an understatement to say that those giving us advice on our current and upcoming challenges are out-of-touch. Whether we got nudges from family members to get our SAT score up (even if it’s optional), or prods from our teachers, or even congratulatory comments from well-meaning counselors, the limited scope of awareness, the business-as-usual attitude, was evident. As if the world, our world, were not in crisis, as if our world would be the same as it was for their coming-of-age. The scope of our upcoming challenges as a generation is insanely greater. And even some of us are not as aware as we should be. Rising national student loan debt and the inequities of race, gender and economic status around it, generational wealth inequality, and devastating climate change are the tip of the iceberg of our obstacles (pun intended) as Generation Z, not to mention the political climate in the United States regarding new massive voter suppression laws, slow-to-change gun laws, viscous bipartisanship and blatant subjugation of ethics for power.
And the world? Well, the Middle East’s ongoing war (Israeli-Palestinian) over the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the military genocide of Rohingya Muslims and Rakhine Buddhists in Burma (Myanmar) and military murder and imprisonment of more than 30 of their poets, the ensuing Global Warming, yes, my second mention because a hunk of Antarctica just became an iceberg, are concerns we must embrace and solve! And there are so many more concerns, as if that’s not enough. Perhaps (hopefully) some of you already had other issues come to mind while reading this. So, how can the generations before us even begin to grasp what overwhelms us? They can’t, but they don’t have to either, so, business-as-usual, see?
Generation Z has recognized the broken elements of our economic system, while older generations have failed to even consider our proposed reforms, like a universal basic income, the Green New Deal, and tuition-free college. Our grievances in this respect have always been wholly justified, and they have been exacerbated by various state governments’ reactionary attacks on last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests, and other forms of social strife. We have even been led to question ourselves: Is the system really broken, or is it working exactly as it is supposed to?
Interpreting the material conditions of today’s world from the perspective of young Americans, we must remember that our resentment is rational, despite our place of relative privilege. As we become the leaders in the coming decades, let us not forget that future generations are going to suffer unless we produce solutions. Let’s get a Secretary of State who won’t support regime change and war crimes. Let’s get an Attorney General who won’t prolong the War on Drugs. Let’s get a United Nations Ambassador who is willing to listen to the victims of American tyranny. We cannot inherit the greed and lack of awareness previous generations perpetuated throughout our lifetimes. So fellow seniors, let’s remain hopeful but let’s do so while being conscious! Of our nation, of our world, of the egregious shortfalls here and around the globe. And let’s not exploit the system we are about to inherit, and certainly not operate it in the way we are supposed to. Let us be the generation that asks and acts. The one that does make the world a better place.