Sofia Overton sets out how Generation Z is in a near constant state of anxiety as existential crisis after existential crisis seems to unfold.
This is not the best of times, but the worst of times. This is not the age of wisdom, but the age of foolishness. This is not the epoch of belief, but the epoch of fake news.
As a teenager, I can testify to this, for I haven’t been born in an age of contentment. I, and millions of teenagers like me, am part of a generation that has never been better informed, but also never felt more hopeless.
From Brexit to the climate emergency to COVID-19, our formative years have seen a deluge of life-changing, pressing issues that have now become the backdrop to our lives and our futures. Each of these seems to offer up an existential crisis greater than the one before and none promise stability.
We have never understood a time without the threat of terrorism. The fire evacuation exercises at my school are accompanied by instructions on how to hide in case a gunman shows up. Of course, the ‘boomers’ were born in the wreckage of the Second World War, but at least they could find hope in the promise of peace afterwards. For me, peace is in short supply.
Then there’s the awkward conversation about Brexit. It’s my generation most at risk from the mess created by my grandparents’ generation – the one that voted to Leave. We had no input. Some will say we were too young to have a say, but from where I’m standing, the boomers closed an essential door to Europe – a door that they always had open. It is left to my generation to come up with the innovative solutions to ‘make Brexit work’.
Global warming is the biggest existential threat mankind faces. You’ve given us an inheritance of a world on fire. Thanks. I asked my fellow classmates who they blamed most for this ugly gift. Over half said it was the boomers. That post-war generation pumped this planet for oil and chocked the skies with smoke. But we also vented our fury at Generation X. The difference between them and their parents is simple – they knew the consequences of their actions.
The list of those culpable is long. Government officials choosing to dismiss scientific fact in order to gain power. Companies marketing lies to ensure profit. These manipulative words persuade us all to carry on destroying our planet. That spontaneous family trip to Hawaii? Go for it. You’re worth it. The Sunday roast? Tradition! Ignore the impact meat production has on global warming. And these politicians and board members have all been supported by a press willing to turn a blind eye to inconvenient truths.
Finally, there is the latest horror of the Coronavirus. This global pandemic is a consequence, in the end, of our greed. The unnecessary eating of wild animals started it. The mass popularity of global travel spread it. And my generation – Generation Z – has to face the consequences of it. We can no longer visit our grandparents. We can’t even go to the supermarket without seeing aisles of food sold out. We can’t even sit our GCSEs.
Imagine what these disturbing realities will do, collectively, to the minds of my generation? Because none of it is our fault. We all know that, had Government officials around the world taken control of climate change and mass travel and all the rest earlier, we wouldn’t be facing this cataclysm.
When I asked them, most of my school mates said they were pessimistic about the future. And can you blame them? We have lived with wave after wave of global issues causing deep anxiety, all of it amplified on social media, and all of it steeped in a sense of hopelessness.
We know we will never have it as good as our grandparents or parents. Our personal safety, our economic future, our environment and now our health are all under attack. Ours is the inheritance of loss. Because we’re not Generation Z. We are Generation World War Z.