Gen Z’s New Definition of Freedom

The Bridge: Do Z-llennials see freedom differently than the rest of us? Every generation has its challenges, but Gen-Z is rising to meet theirs. They’re growing up in a world that they seem uniquely equipped to navigate, and it might be up to the rest of us to pay attention and follow their lead.

May You Live in Interesting Times

Millennials grew up in a post 9/11 world, many of the younger ones not remembering a time where you could jog from the airport curb all the way to a gate to say goodbye to family as they boarded. TSA, the Patriot Act, government wiretapping – all implemented as measures of safety – became an accepted trade for our security in America. When these measures became permanent, no one argued. We watched our nation go to war, we celebrated the downfall of terrorist leaders and cells, and we promised ourselves we would never forget.

When the death of a key Al Qaeda leader was announced earlier this week, the expectation might’ve been a new trending Tik Tok topic. However, it wasn’t – signaling a possible frame change in Gen Z’s priorities. And maybe for good reason: by some estimates, only ¼ of young people are even eligible to join the military these days. So are their priorities elsewhere?

Z-llennials have been continuously boxed in – first after September 11th, the proliferation of the internet, and further when the global pandemic shut borders and razed the economy.

But they adjusted, and we’re seeing the ripples worldwide. Our young Gens are smart, capable, and aware – but this set of skills doesn’t necessarily generate more for society, unless society can adjust just as quickly.

Even China is seeing the results of “involution”, or societal shrinkage. It’s leading to frustration and anger from young people who were promised the opportunity to contribute and prosper and have instead been faced with collapse, overwork, and uncertainty.

The Rise of New Freedom

To say that Gen-Z is apathetic would be unfair and untrue. They certainly have their priorities in order – they just don’t align with previous generations. They’re resilient in their own way, and socially responsible to boot.

Young people are ready and willing to make a name for themselves in this shrinking world. They’re skilled at cultivating their online identities and getting their points across in a meaningful way. They can even reach out and touch the celebrities that they see as harmful, or the politicians that pose a threat to their livelihoods.

In the face of a frightening future, Z-llennials are stepping up to make a difference. We can all learn something from the brave way they’re navigating the most uncertain of times. Whether it’s climate change, agriculture in peril, or harmful political policy – we appear to be in capable, compassionate hands.

the focus // vista x L. Aguayo

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