Updated: Apr 18, 2021
A look into the responsibility currently falling on Gen Z
By: Lily Patterson
Image via AP News
Generation Z has lived through many unpredictable events, including a dodgy political climate, mass protesting, and of course, the COVID-19 pandemic. But today’s trials and tribulations are far from being Gen Z’s only concerns. Today’s youth are being handed an overwhelming amount of problems from previous generations and they are facing the immense responsibility of righting the world’s wrongs. Though this responsibility falls on Gen Z’s shoulders, every generation feels the result of this neglect and has something to say about it.
The first step for Gen Z in repairing the tremendous amount of social, political, and environmental issues facing the world is to identify and prioritize what needs to be compensated for. Bridgette Riley-Patterson (she/her), a member of Generation X, points out the flaw of focusing heavily on the betterment of those who are privileged and feels that today’s youth will have to take on that challenge. “Until equal representation and voices are inclusive, decisions will not focus on the betterment of the many,” she comments. Dr. Roderica Morris (she/her), another Gen X-er, directs her attention towards a wide array of issues. “I believe social justice and inequality, climate change, an extension of voter rights, immigration, and higher education/student loan structure are some of the most pressing issues facing Gen-Z,” she adds. Jacy Jarman (she/her) voices her concern over Gen Z’s responsibility when it comes to environmental damage. “We realize that we need to make some big changes in order to save the earth before the damage we have done becomes irreversible,” she explains. Once these issues are brought to light and fully realized, it falls on Gen Z to take real action. But are the youth of today fully equipped to battle all of these crises?
While understanding which problems need to be solved is an important step towards arming Gen Z with the ability to tackle these issues, they’ll need more than just acceptance to make big waves. Andrea Ortiz Ortega (she/her) sees the hardships Gen Z has already had to face as a strength “...That gives us a fresh and different perspective on the world, which might allow us to do what the previous generations were unable to do,” she says. Nick Mahlstadt (he/him), a member of Gen Y exhibits a similar optimism. “A broader and expansive world view can limit the nationalism and individualism that hampers progress in addressing issues that affect us all,” he says, commenting on how the diversity of Gen Z can result in good progress. Dr. Roderica Morris finds herself optimistic as well, yet has a justifiable air of caution. She expresses her pride in the fearlessness of today’s youth but adds that “The magnitude of the issues facing this generation I think at times can be overwhelming.” Alternatively, Bridgette and Michelle find themselves less confident. “Whereas I am hopeful, the Gen Z generation has been the recipient of a declining education system,” offers Bridgette Riley-Patterson. “Taking responsibility will become daunting,” she adds. Michelle Mando shares this attitude, explaining that “Many of us are in our own little bubble and while we might know there is a problem, how to solve it is too great of a challenge, so we ignore it.”
Currently, Gen Z has a lot facing it, and the question of why this is has been consistently posed. The real issue behind this heavy responsibility is that people across generations feel like many problems could have been resolved prior to Gen Z. Jacy Jarman says that she expects some of these abundant problems could have been solved sooner. But she also adds that “...some of the issues weren’t being talked about in the ways they are now.” Nick Mahlstadt also contributes to the idea of these issues not being new, but rather more apparent. “Whether it be racism, sexism, climate change, etc. they aren’t new to Gen-Z… previous generations didn’t fully acknowledge these issues thus making it a problem for Gen-Z to solve,” he says. Dr. Morris touches on climate change to exhibit her feelings towards previous generations’ neglect. “We've known for some time now the "countdown clock" and where we stood. The science has been clear on the steps we could've taken to reverse the damage we've done and continue to do,” she explains. Gen Z-er Grace Schroder feels this way too, addressing previous generations for their missteps when it comes to climate change by exclaiming “I was not forced to stumble and stress over all of my science classes just for you not to listen to scientists.”
The rejection to focus on and troubleshoot problems before now also has a personal effect on members of every generation. Knowing that Gen Z has such a wide variety of problems that they are responsible for remedying forms mixed feelings. Jacy Jarman speaks from experience as a member of Gen Z, saying “I think the fact that so many people want to help fix issues around the world is great and I’m happy to be a part of that group. However, I think the pressure that gen-z feels is not good.” Grace agrees, speaking out about the pressure and anxiety she has felt by the burden falling onto Gen Z. Dr. Roderica Morris sees this pressure as well, but maintains her hope. “As a parent of a Gen-Zer, I can see the "weight of the world" on his shoulders already. Not only are you all dealing with a wide variety of issues, but now you also have biothreats as another factor that will further complicate and challenge the strides you all are making and will continue to make,” she says. As a millennial, Nick also feels cautiously optimistic about where this generation stands at a personal level. “Gen-Z appears the most focused on addressing these very big issues with policy, activism, and social arrangement at a larger scale than previous generations… So, personally, I’m hopeful that Gen-Z can do it but based on history I have guarded optimism that Gen-Z will do it,” he states. Bridgette Riley-Patterson shows her remorse by simply claiming “We have left them a difficult world.”
Regardless, it’s not all bad. Most can find a silver lining when it comes to the problems conglomerating at Gen Z’s feet. Andrea, Jacy, Grace, and Bridgette all view Gen Z’s growing acceptance as a positive to this new responsibility. Dr. Roderica Morris also sees a positive when it comes to generations coming together. “ I think it is going to take the help of those of us in Gen-X to help… You've got us in your corner and we're here to mobilize, plan, and ensure change is affected,” she says. Nick brings up the positives of this generation’s newfound awareness, stating “...We clearly see the effects on our friends, neighbors, cities, countries, and the world and I hope that drives change to see the light of day.” Michelle Mando adds that through inclusivity and technology, Gen Z can start to make a difference. “Gen Z has a lot on its plate. It has seen so much change in the world through the years,” she comments.
Generation Z has a lot facing it, but they’re met by overwhelming support from previous generations. Despite the pressure attempting to weigh Gen Z down, guarded optimism is predicted to take them a long way and because of today’s youth, the future is starting to look a little bit brighter.
Written by Lily Patterson