Without using marketing descriptors such as Generation Z or Y, the aim here is to reflect on the Young Generation between the ages of 14 and 20.
When we talk about the condition of this Young Generation, we must bring two aspects to the fore:
Society is in a transitional phase from a long-standing fixation on increasing production to a reluctant prioritization of the habitability conditions of the planet.
Many of the younger people already understand this, and hopefully, many of the older people do too. But the social and economic reality is still focused on increasing production - now in the guise of sustainability.
So, the wrong thing keeps happening, while the right thing is already obvious.
As if that were not enough, a lot of lip service is paid to social change by social elites, while at the same time, assets accumulate more and more in the hands of the upper decile. A minority that emerges even richer from severe social crises. The life chances of the younger generation are narrowing more and more due to this unequal distribution. Regardless of whether one considers ecological or economic prospects.
This brings us to the second point: The young generation has already greatly lowered its expectations of the older, responsible generations, both materially and morally, as well as ecologically.
Just to remind you, the ruling generations are largely responsible for today's problem status through their maximalist greed. The battle cry of the 80s "Greed is good" exemplifies this, as does the 50-year-old knowledge of Exxon and other fossil corporations of the destructive climate consequences of their exploratory bonanza. The emergence of dangerous clown politicians, the ranking of societies under the profitability dictate, lobbying of the wealthy for their privileges up to the democracy- abolition etc. All this is well known. The necessary changes are also. But they take place only in homeopathic doses, or not at all.
So, the young generation is confronted with appeasement and empty promises - from corporations, managers, the church, teachers. And the parents. The politicians? They acted, as the saying goes, flexibly.
The misbehavior of the supposed role models continues. They are not role models. They speak - as Karl May says - with forked tongues. They say one thing and do another. And that's what young people see day in and day out; it's the reality they follow in the digital media - their preferred access to social participation.
At the same time, they are shaped by heroic narratives that they internalize through gaming and media worlds. These worlds are Manichean: good competes against evil, which is the only way to make it exciting. In reality, however, the often hypocritical self-contradiction of "yes", but continues to prevail, which must seem particularly questionable to them against this background.
They must therefore assume that this compromised world is precisely what the previous generations wanted.
The fact that this is not so, that a large part of the older generations had and has quite different ideals, is rarely an issue. History, especially economic history, is written by the victors. Only, from a planetary and also moral point of view, yes, even from an economic point of view, they are now more and more often the losers. Their beliefs have not worked, they have ignored or even overreached a large part of the societies. And this is now so clear that, from the point of view of the young, they should step down.
But they don't. They continue to play the game of enrichment at any price as well as the theater of self-congratulation. They pull glass ceilings up a few inches. Perhaps they practice quotas for women, but these lead women into the same capitalist dilemma of destruction in which men are already stuck.
The young generation sees all this. How should they react to it, that was our initial question, how should they feel about it?
What else is there besides participation resignation or doublethink? Some of them will certainly choose these strategies of adaptation. But what do the critical ones among them do?
I am surprised again and again, by how few of them revolt, how many knowingly take the well-trodden path of destructive competitive thinking, although from all horns resounds:
We need material and planetary justice and above all moderation. It can no longer be a matter of ruining the planet and society in the struggle for monetary success. Redistribution and a change in thinking that is willing to do without are long overdue.
So has the young generation allowed itself to be tricked after all?
I think it's different: On the one hand, they no longer believe in universal rights and replace them with particular claims. Within their own bubble of reference, they try to achieve their goals. Other things seem secondary. This can be called resignation, but it is probably above all pragmatism. When pragmatism becomes mediocrity would have to be clarified.
More and more often I encounter the attitude If my normal life feels okay, average is okay for me. You have to be able to afford high goals - hero fantasies are just lived out digitally. Pragmatism - bend for success - was already the fanfare of the previous generation. So who should be surprised that the next generation is adopting it?
The younger generation strives for balance in their (working) lives. No wonder, when they have seen what careerism has done to their parents.
But when does balance become cowardice? A courageous act is always an abandonment of balance.
Self-protection and protection of others become strategies for stress reduction. What is it worth at all to dare hard confrontations for ideals? If then I do something small, I have my compost bucket and ride my bike.
Timidity spreads, while the few energetic environmental activists are partly already declared terrorists by the media. How would it be times not only with a school strike day but with a general strike day for the planet? Does not take place so far, because there is obviously not enough cohesion, courage, and problem consciousness for it.
Everyone must know for himself is the new battle cry of inaction.
But everything must be constantly renegotiated and re-evaluated, right? Actually not, because we know long ago what must happen first. But the knot just doesn't burst and no savior comes with the (light)sword to cut it.
Everything must change so that it can remain as it is - this well-known saying of Guiseppe Tomasi's "Gattopardo" describes the dilemma: the privileged keep their privileges and stage sham changes with which they distract the rest of society, which ultimately has to pay the price.
Some call our time the "Digital Biedermeier" others "The age of diminished expectations".
In any case, it characterizes a young generation that lives in a permanent state of waiting for meaning under partly unpredictable circumstances and therefore doesn't want to hear any more bullshit. On the other hand, they jump at the biggest bullshit - such as aesthetic self-optimization or flexing with ostentatious luxury. This generation remains trapped in contradictions. That's precisely why they want to feel that their counterparts will stand up for their promises even at the risk of their own failure. That is the touchstone of credibility. Only those who do not elegantly - or, in most cases, clumsily - get off the hook stand for something.
After a phase in which staging displaced reality, the Young Generation finally wants the world to become more honest, more modest, and more predictable. And that, unfortunately, also paralyzes them. Because they will not get the change without a hard confrontation - also with themselves.
Perhaps it's quite simple: If you want to find your own truth, you have to be able to engage in conflict and endure it. If you can't do that, you're left with the truth of others. And unfortunately, that's often not quite true.
The new appreciation for rationality, for sound arguments, and for factual product advantages instead of emotional sales is certainly a first, decisive step on the way to the Young Generation's own truth.