Gen Z, the Resilient Generation

Weltschmerz, in German “world pain”, is a literary concept that describes the feeling of disappointment or sadness about the differences between the ideal world one imagines and the real world that exists. This feeling can be particularly pronounced in young people who have high aspirations and hopes for the future but are faced with challenges and obstacles that make it difficult to achieve their goals.

In 2021, the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report listed ten immediate risks, with “youth disillusionment” being the most easily ignored, listed as number eight. The report states that the impact of young people facing a second worldwide crisis within a decade can range from temporary disappointment and disillusionment to long-lasting damage and missed chances (Advani, 2021).

Additionally, it must be kept in mind that young people have been among the most affected groups by the economic crisis resulted of the Covid-19 (OECD, 2021), and the consequences of the pandemic have further aggravated overall youth disillusionment. But even prior to the pandemic, Generation Z faced risks to their stability, employment opportunities, and mental well-being due to the climate crisis, inequality, violence, and other societal disruptions.

Therefore, to safeguard the future of an entire generation, it is crucial to take steps to avoid the current challenges draining their potential. It is also important to provide outlets for young people to find hope and inspiration. In this direction, 2022 was declared the European Year of the Youth, emphasising the essential role of young people in Europe in creating a more sustainable, equitable, and peaceful future.

Yet, contrary to the prevalent belief, young people under 30 are breaking away from conventional political norms and placing greater emphasis on public engagement, driving cross-border justice initiatives, and changing the way politicians interact with citizens. For instance, the success of the Fridays for Future, Exctinction Rebellion (XR) and #MeToo movements reflect that young people are no longer willing to wait for decision-makers to act in the future, rather, they are taking proactive measures and utilising non-violent direct action and civil disobedience to drive the implementation of innovative, radical solutions right now (Heszterényi, 2022).

The emergence of online activism, especially during the pandemic, represents a significant change in the way we conceive political participation, and it highlights the need to broaden our understanding to encompass non-traditional forms of youth engagement beyond electoral means, such as grassroots activism, petition signing, school strikes, boycotting, clicktivism, and digital advocacy (Heszterényi, 2022).

These developments serve as a clear reminder that when young individuals are given a seat at the table, it can lead to transformative change. This could be seen at the UN COP-27 held in Egypt in November 2022, which marked a significant milestone as it was the first time that youth voices were given an official platform at a United Nations climate change conference. This is particularly noteworthy as Africa is facing immense pressure, given that 70% of its population is under 30 years of age, and numerous vulnerable communities are on the frontlines of the climate crisis (Limb, 2022).

It is crucial to ensure that the youth are given genuine opportunities to contribute, dialogue based on the values of authenticity, mutual respect, open communication for effective collaboration. In this line, we wanted to make our bit and we have created EUtopia

Our project’s goal is to enhance this already existent young critical thinking towards progress and instil confidence, responsibility, and a desire to believe in the possibility of building a better tomorrow through intercultural dialogue, political participation, and social activism. By studying a replicable model, the project seeks to identify activities, paths, and tools that can foster trust within young people. The ultimate goal is to develop concrete practices and tools to support young people and local youth workers to work together, outline utopias, and define concrete steps to achieve them.

References:

Advani, A. (2021, June 18). Youth disillusionment is a global risk, but it can be mitigated. This study on Gen Z shows why. World Economic Forum. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2021/06/youth-disillusionment-global-risk-gen-z-resilience/

Heszterényi, R. (2022, November 22). Europe’s youth is far from apolitical. European University Institute.  https://blogs.eui.eu/transnational-democracy/europes-youth-is-not-apolitical/

Limb, L. (2022, November 10). Children’s COP: Young people given a ‘seat at the table’ for the first time in Egypt. Euronews. https://www.euronews.com/green/2022/10/20/childrens-cop-young-people-given-a-seat-at-the-table-for-the-first-time-in-egypt

OECD. (2021, July 6). Young people’s concerns during COVID-19: Results from risks that matter 2020. https://www.oecd.org/coronavirus/policy-responses/young-people-s-concerns-during-covid-19-results-from-risks-that-matter-2020-64b51763/

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