What it means to be part of Generation Z

What it means to be part of Generation Z

Juvenoia; which is the hostility, or fear directed by an older generation towards a younger one. The general belief that the current generation is better than the one to come. Remember this, ‘cause it will come into play later on.

But for now, you must be asking yourself, what is Generation Z? How do you know what generation you’re in? Well, I trust that you people are smart enough to do your own research, but Generation Z, for simplicity’s sake, is the generation following the Millennial Generation. You know, most of our parents and uncles, and some cousins. It’s a generation that is conservative in nature, being involved in major political affairs, such as the Cold War and the Iraq-Iran War. For Africans, it’s also a period associated with freedom! Independence! and the subsequent rise of incompetent, ruthless, and corrupt leaders. It’s no wonder many people are so mad at the Millennial Generation, they appear to have successfully fucked things up, almost to an irreversible state.  If you were born sometime between 1997 and 2004, good news, you’re part of Generation Z! As cool as it sounds, it doesn’t seem to be going well for us. I jokingly often write in my journal that we are the “Generation of Fear”, primarily being the ones scared. Before many of us could even experience fear…boom! The Columbine Massacre, which shocked the world, the Y2K scare, which many thought would end the world, the horrific 9/11 attacks, and the Great Recession. As we grew older, we witnessed the Iraq War, and more terror attacks than had ever been seen. And not just terrorism from Islamic factions, but gun violence and mass shootings too. The Garissa University attack in Kenya leaving 150 people dead, the kidnapping of girls by Boko Haram, the Paris bombings, and most recently, the possibility that a racist and misogynist like Donald Trump might become president of the most powerful country in the world.

Yes, it seems we are a failed generation despite not having reached our potential. I, for one, am still not in college, yet I seemed to have disappointed the majority of my onlookers and relatives by becoming a rebel and not striving to be an engineer, doctor, or lawyer. I instead have a deep rooted love of quiet, books, photography, and technology. Maybe because of this, the juvenoia directed towards me is rather strong. I feel constantly berated by my elders for my own life choices, choosing happiness, and a little bit of money, over the money alone. Some people might argue that juvenoia is a good influence on us youngsters. It’d do us some good to listen to our elders for once. Wrong! And this is especially true for us Africans, especially considering that our elders are the corrupt and unreliable leaders who have contributed some part to the general state of things on our lovely continent.  I think that their juvenoia is terribly misplaced, considering we are more educated, well informed, and knowledgeable than them. We may not have their wisdom, but the ability to change our destinies and break the cycle of tribalism, hatred, racism and poverty is in our hands. Basically, what I’m saying is, stop giving us so much shit. This isn’t all our faults.

We may not be even near to perfect. The media makes us seem like a bunch of unruly animals, what with all the teen pregnancies, and drug abuse among teenagers, and the thousand other things said about us. But really, who can put all the blame on us? I’m not trying to make us unaccountable, but when you see what we see, you’d understand. Oh the glitz and the glam! The rappers with their jewellery and cars, the models marrying said rappers. The celebrities who sniff lines of coke and win Grammies and Oscars and the reality stars who are able to rise to stardom from saying, or doing things that would ordinarily warrant quite a lot of shame. We are the recipients of a world that has seen the most organised drug trafficking, human trafficking and crime…yet. Not to mention the generation that has been introduced to all sorts of new substances, all at reasonable street prices, and introduced to the worst sorts of radicalism, all accessible through your favourite media platform.

Cyber bullying, ebola, police violence, riots, child porn, drugs, zika, terrorism, radicalism, mass shootings, increasing suicide rate, anxiety, been there, done that. Fear, fear, FEAR stress, stress, STRESS….are you scared yet? Good, because we’re still here.

We’re not only hanging on, we’re becoming better for it. Our generation is the first to, for the most part, be alright with same sax marriage. We are the least racist generation in a long time. We’re independent, wanting to become entrepreneurs and carve our own paths. We’re the generation with the most friends outside of our sex, religion and race. More educated and open minded, we’re very serious about change for the better. At least, those who can manage to do so, even in the smallest ways. We’ve been exposed to the worst of it, and we’re moving forward. “Kids these days,” they say disapprovingly. Yes, kids these days. Us. We may be young, but we’ve got big plans. We dress differently, and listen to, admittedly, awful music(at times) and we think differently. But if we’re fixing some of the messes you made, and some you couldn’t fix, then it might be time to change that tone.

We’re the generation of Crisis, after the Unravelling, and we were born to not be just another statistic to scare the next generation into behaving. We’re the harbingers of change, and revolution, to inspire the next genration. It’s time to start moving.

Alone, but not Lonely

The Friday before last, I was issued a challenge that I could not resist. During a seminal discussion at the African Leadership Academy, we were challenged to give up social media until Monday morning. Well, not exactly, as the challenge was split into four parts. Level 1, no FaceBook, level 2, no FaceBook or Instagram, level 3, no social media, and Level 4 no tech whatsoever. The challenge was to make us realize that we’re never truly alone, even if we’re physically alone. What with all your friends at your fingertips, it’s easy to reach out to them during any situation, whether you’re bored or down. And that puts us in a state of disconnect…from ourselves. We don’t truly know what it is to be alone, and so when we are alone, we equate it to loneliness. We panic, we fidget, and finally reach for the closest piece of tech to help lull us into calm.

But being alone, does not mean being lonely. I for one did the level two challenge, including in it Snapchat and twitter, and even 9gag. In the end, I was incredibly surprised at how little I needed my phone during the three days of the challenge. Being a huge geek, and very tech savvy, I thought I would break down within 5 hours of waking up the next day. However, I was able to go through the weekend with barely a hitch. Looking back on it, I shouldn’t have been so surprised. Growing up, I was the type of kid who would immerse himself in a novel for hours on end, and growing up, even sleeping at 3am because of it. Whenever I was actually free, and not engulfed in the hustle and bustle of a busy life, I cherished the opportunity to be alone, and with my thoughts. No doubt many people found it utterly strange, but it was a solace for me.

I think a little time for reflection is important in today’s world. To just…disconnect for a bit. Once you’re free from all the background noise, you might be alarmed at the peace, and the clarity of your thoughts…and I don’t think that’s so bad.

Ignorance, And what Becomes of It

As I write this to you, 25000 ft in the air, I am currently contemplating three things. What my last words would be if this plane crashed and I was in it, which method is more favourable to me, the Epicurean, or the Stoic, and what new piece of knowledge to digest when I land. I, by nature, am a curious creature. And that isn’t to say that I am a foreign being unknown to humans, but that I am one interested in the workings and mechanics of many things. I have, much to the disdain of my parents, opened, and shabbily put together various pieces of equipment and technology, ranging from watches, to laptops. However, my curiosity does not stop at the practical level. It has always been surpassed by theoretical knowledge. The type that stems from the ancient pages of books, some new, and some long forgotten.

As a young child, I was raised mostly by my grandmother, and various relations on my mother’s side. Tough as nails, this woman was very strict on what I watched, especially cartoons. While this didn’t stop me from finding rather mischievous ways to get my daily dose of Samurai Jack and Courage the Cowardly Dog, it did mean that more than half of my time was spent       watching National Geographic, History and the Discovery Channel. While, at first, this was a very tedious exercise, I began to grow rather fond of it. Very quickly learning how the universe was most likely formed and of the Allied victory against the Nazis during WWII, I had by the age of six, a rather large well of knowledge. Most of it seemed utterly useless at the time, but I was still pleased that I knew four times more about the world and its history than any of my peers.

Ancient History at the time was my absolute favourite. It was almost like being transported to a whole other world. One which had grown, prospered and died. Probably one of the reasons my favourite subjects are the arts and humanities. And despite my absolute loathing of mathematics and the sciences, I would never miss out on an opportunity to learn about the universe or our planet, even dabbling into the basics of quantum physics and the like. For a long time, I took this for granted, at least until my first year of high school.

It wasn’t so hard to notice I was more versed in real life knowledge than my peers, taking a more pragmatic approach to many other things. Thus, when presented with a plethora of conspiracy theories and myths, it was extremely easy for me to shrug them off. Unfortunately, I had to deal with their ramblings, and that made me wonder why I was so different. Now I realise that the vast amounts of information I had amassed over the years had both contributed to my general knowledge, as well as made my friends seem a tad bit more stupid. I had to deal with their irrational behaviour, and that, I’m sad to say, did influence the way I looked at them. They just seemed more childish and, well…ignorant. And that’s the sad truth. In my case, I’ve always known there are millions of people more knowledgeable than me, but I always try to learn to my greatest capacity. In that way, I always feel like I can hold my own in a conversation, be it with a learned scholar, or an adamant geek.

Ignorance, is the bane of a species that has survived, thrived and conquered due to our ability to learn and adapt to the problems that we face. Ignorance breeds hatred, and mistrust among us. Look at the slave trade and segregation based on sexual orientation, race and religion. We align ourselves with one point, rooted to the spot and never bothering to consider other options or possibilities. We believe that our knowledge is unparalleled despite other voices that rise up, or evidence against us. Worst of all, we pass this way of thinking to other people, especially those close to us, and this creates a cesspool of filth and ignorance. Bigotry and racism.

We never question the small things that we take for granted, and unwittingly create a dark pool from which a number of nasty things can fester due to our ignorance. To the enlightened soul, this darkness is akin to poison, and must be avoided. Which is probably why a learned man will speak with an uneducated one with a curled lip. However, this can be avoided by doing something simple. No, you need not read Gray’s Anatomy, or every Shakespearean work. You need only question. And by doing that, you open yourself up to possibilities, and facts and theories. After which, your curiosity will entice you to do a little research and you will sound, at least, a little more intelligent, and can engage in conversations with more people. But most importantly, you will begin to understand. Not just about our beautiful world, but about cultures, and history, and people. You won’t think that all Africans live in trees, or that depression is a first world problem. You’ll have better empathy for other people, and a little more love because of it.

Stamping out ignorance, won’t single-handedly solve the world’s  problems. Nor will it make every person better. But I do hope it broadens perspectives, and that’s what everyone should be doing in the 21st century.

Until next time.

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