How and Why The People of Our Generation Are Rising Activists

Daffodil Buchert, Opinion Writer

The generation most commonly known as Gen Z, is typically defined as the people born between the mid to late 90s, the 2000s and early 2010s. Gen Z is our generation, known for it’s knowledge of and reliance on technology, love of memes, uncertainty of the future, its caution of politics and media, and its active role in change. Gen Z is also commonly recognized as the most nihilistic of the generations, often seriously joking about the state of politics, climate, and life in general. I would argue that our nihilism has had a profound impact on Gen Z’s impressive acts of activism, and vice versa. 

One example of this theory is the Climate Strike and Fridays for Future movements. The motive behind these movements is the terrifying concern that climate change will be unstoppable in 11 years, unless extreme actions are taken. Millions of people protested in September that the government take more initiative to protect the environment instead of profiting off of its destruction. The protests were based off of the true, but nihilistic, belief that the world will be permanently destroyed in 11 years. The necessity of skepticism in this scenario lead to one of the largest acts of activism for the environment ever.

Another example of this phenomenon of nihilism driving activism is the March For Our Lives movement. After a horrific school shooting on February 14, 2018 in Parkland, Florida, thousands of people participated in such march to act as a plea for stricter gun control laws. Student’s did this to show that fear for their lives and weren’t going to sit around and just let it all unravel.

The dictionary definition of nihilism is “the philosophical viewpoint that rejects, denies, or lacks belief in any or all of the reputedly meaningful aspects of life.” In the case of activism, this could be taken more as a hopelessness in the state of the world, and a belief that important things, such as people’s lives, or the environment’s welfare, don’t matter to people with power. This definition makes the theory that activism has increased “nihilism.” While there have been many successful  movements that have changed laws, the unresponsiveness of politicians, and other powerful figures have increased the hopelessness of people that things that matter to them don’t matter to the people in power. This can lead to the belief that things won’t ever change for the better.. Archbishop Desmond Tutu phrased it as such, that young advocates have “an unshakable belief that children can — no, must — improve their own futures.”

Many of today’s greatest examples of this are commonly millennials or better known as Gen Z.Malala Yousafzai, who won a Nobel Peace Prize for her work, Emma Gonzalez, Jaclyn Corin, Matt Deitsch, and David Hogg, who collectively won the International Children’s Peace Prize last year, and Greta Thunderburg, who motivated millions of protesters to take the streets in September, and then spoke at a UN conference about climate change, challenging politicians head on about the growing environmental crisis. All of these activists, who have accomplished amazing things such as the influence of law changes for their causes, were born in the years of  Generation Z. Activists throughout history that we are taught about are often decades older than activists today, such as Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, and Rosa Parks. Generation Z’s collective dread of the future has caused us to become more vocal about what we believe in and what we fight for.

Something else that affects today’s activists is that they already live in a world where everything has seemingly plummeted for the worst.Some of Gen Z were alive to witness the attack on the Twin Towers, the Columbine and Sandy Hook shootings, and the beginning effects of climate change. Already, Generation Z has experienced enough to make anyone hopeless and pessimistic. Our generation is terrified by what they’ve seen, and what they have yet to see. This spurs their determination to be a part of the community, and have a say in politics, law making, and the government. 

If you look at any social media platform, you are sure to find many  posts talking about how angry they are about the world today commonly written by the people of Gen Z. You are also sure to find memes, jokes, and observations about the anger that they have towards politics, the economy, and other generations. We as a collective generation have developed a very negative outlook  about our future. The belief that our future is doomed has led us to do something about our future. As we continue to witness elections, global summits, and lawmaking, let’s continue this phenomenon. We should try to make things better because if we don’t, no one else will.