On Social Activism: The Young are Here
Time compels each generation to create new inevitabilities for the next. For the Gen Zs, it came with the Internet and social media. To thrive, we needed to suspend ourselves in the newfound fury of notifications. While the torment of perpetual artificial availability snatched ‘real’ experiences from us, it also established intimate links with issues and causes—global and local — for they always resided at our fingertips. Such heavy and uncut engagements grafted thoughts and perceptions too early in us latched to the hopeful desire to bring about a change.
Social activism is tough, and Gen Zs acknowledge that. People like Greta and Amanda exert remarkably unprecedented influence on us because owing to the Internet, their words, ideas and actions are always at our immediate disposal. Such exhaustive access surpasses linguistic, geographical, cultural, and other abstract boundaries, equipping us with the international knowledge of events (which we do not even realise to be our power).
However, if there is anything that the Internet survival has taught us, it is that experimentations can bear extraordinary results. Gen Zs wish to go beyond what is expected by journeying through peculiar paths. But young folks often find themselves grappling with the bars set for them by other, older people in higher positions and structures, hinged to their apparent resistance to change and newer methods of impact building. Years are no insignias of commitment, and yet, the ceilings seem to be placed too low for us.
Young folks demand ‘true’ participation in change curation and buildup. So, trusting them is paramount. To the Gen Zs already inducted into the change-making circuit, comfort and safe spaces must be supplied while also replenishing them with more curiosity. Curiosity leads to confrontations with and examinations of one’s privileges (or lack thereof) and contexts. It builds larger pools of empathy in individuals, igniting stronger commitment levels. It is essential to keep guilt out of the purview of young volunteers when they are not able to achieve what they seek. It must be reiterated, time and again, that it is not ‘their responsibility’ to save the world.
Also, as opposed to popular belief, I uphold that the willingness to work for others can be cultivated. For the people outside the realm of social activism, I have found that laying the reality bare is pivotal. Very often, the folks who do not engage with socio-political causes do not have the facts with them. They are unaware that help is needed, and urgently. Making young people ‘confront the world as it is’ puts them in front of more windows than just mirrors — bursting echo chambers.
People in power fail to recognise how confident and limitless their faith can make young people feel. Gen Zs urge for avenues where freedom and expression of thoughts are expected, intensive (creative and inclusive) deliberations are encouraged, listening is mandatory (for we can spot performative actions from afar!), spaces to execute ideas are established, and accountability of actions is placed. Our hopefulness about the world must not be looked at as our naivety.