Maybe you have no clue who Greta Thunberg is.
But it’s possible you’ve heard some talk about her. About how she sails in a boat across continents in order to stay environmentally friendly. Or possibly about her recent speech given to the UN summit of world leaders where she called out each and every one of them for not doing enough to stop climate change.
If you haven’t seen her speech, I definitely recommend checking it out. It’ll blow your mind how one young girl can move so many people far older than her while speaking with absolute maturity.
Despite her ability to command an audience, many older people scorn her and talk down to her as though she’s simply an irrelevant child. Dinesh D’Souza, a US right-wing political commentator, even likened her to a girl on a Nazi poster.
First, anyone that old should not be throwing playground insults at a girl who’s simply speaking her mind. Second, this goes to show just how powerful the false beliefs about our generation are.
When you hear millennials or gen z, so many people automatically think of words like “lazy,” “privileged,” and “immature.” The stereotypes about our generation filter through every aspect of life.
But when I hear these stereotypes, I’m simply shocked. How are we privileged when we’re dealing with monumental threats of climate change, gun violence, and continued racism; problems that the older generations who have the power to deal with, simply aren’t doing anything for?
Rather than feel angry, I feel confused and concerned for our future as a nation.
There’s a disconnect between the older generations and the younger. We’re facing a myriad of issues that seem unsolvable. There is so much going on even outside of America that it’s hard to figure out how to tackle it or who to blame.
Still, this often seems to play out in complaints about how much the younger generations do have. We have iPhones and computers and other technology that makes things easier. We have new kinds of cars and science takes us further and further each day.
But while we do have all these things, they don’t solve the larger problems we all are facing. We cannot point at these things and claim that all younger generations should just be happy they have them. We can’t look at our world from a narrow perspective and say an entire generation has it good. That all of these people are living lovely lives and should be grateful for them.
We have to acknowledge what’s wrong with the world. Many young people are attempting to do just this through acting against climate change, marching against gun violence, and protesting discrimination.
It’s hard to understand claims that we’re spoiled when we do have reason to complain – you can’t use a band-aid to stop a boat from leaking. You can’t then point at the band-aid and claim that the passengers on the boat are lucky to have that while ignoring the water pouring out.
So many young people have turned to activism because they want to make the world a better place. They want to turn it into a place where everyone’s grateful to be alive. Where nobody has to complain again because we’ve solved the world’s issues.
Of course, solving every issue in the world is pretty difficult. That’s why activism is just about doing the best we can with what we have.
And that’s why I think activism shouldn’t just be for the younger generations.
Right now, that’s all people associate activism with. They assume activists are twenty-somethings holding up signs and lobbying political leaders. There’s a stigma around these people – the same stigma surrounding millennials and younger people altogether. That these activists are just wild, unintelligent, young people who already have so much. Why should they be complaining?
That leads society to scorn activism altogether. Activism isn’t fundamentally a bad thing – its purpose is to act and make the world better for everyone. People don’t seem to understand that it’s more than just a phase that all college-aged kids go through.
It’s a hope. A wish for a better world.
And just because you’re older, it doesn’t mean you can’t still wish for something better.
Younger people shouldn’t be scorned for complaining and trying to fix things. And older people shouldn’t be so afraid of being grouped in as an activist.
We need to stop segmenting everybody into groups that make it easier to create stereotypes and separate them from us.
More importantly, we need to take action today, so we can all look forward to a brighter tomorrow.
Also published on Medium.