Snowflakes of the Last Generation
“Young people today have no respect, they don’t know how to act and are self-obsessed.” Sound familiar? You may have heard that kind of talk from a parent or grandparent.
It turns out that such statements go back a long way back to 3,000 BC or earlier! In public discourse today, rather than complaining about the “youth” (youth being a temporary life phase) people refer instead to the “latest generation”. Recently I heard two decision-makers of my own age group making disparaging comments about “Generation Snowflake”, how most younger people today crumble under pressure. They themselves, in contrast, thrive under pressure, unspoiled by helicopter parents.
OUR DEBT TO THE NEXT GENERATION
There is a converse generational narrative that I frequently hear concerns “our debt to the next generation”. People talk guiltily about how we are using up the resources of 1.7 earths – borrowing from those in the latest generation to support our lifestyle. Interestingly, these two narratives about the “latest generation” have in common that they say something about the generation preceding.
Then there’s also the radical activist narrative about the “Last Generation” protest movement, whose members view themselves as representing ‘society’s will to survive’. Those supposed weaklings of “Generation Snowflake” taking to the streets, enduring both verbal abuse and the elements as they sit out in the rain for hours, gluing their hands to the asphalt. So which is it? Are they too weak or too tough? Are they resigned, or radical? Do we owe them a debt? Or are they making a big deal out of nothing?
The ”Snowflakes of the Last Generation"
would crumble under pressure. They themselves, in contrast,
thrive under pressure, unspoiled by helicopter parents.
WE REACHED THE END OF THE ALPHABET
To me, it seems that when we reached the end of the generational alphabet with Gen X, Y and then Z, we gave up on our cross-generational efforts to secure a better future for us all. They now call younger people Generation Alpha, restarting at the top of the alphabet. And this restart comes with an urgent mission for the “Alphas”: to spell out, as it were, to the rest of us how we need to rethink and turn the corner into a new era. It is likely our task, in turn, to work together with those of the latest generation to set the right course based on a positive, shared vision. Before the train we are on – whose speed we have only accelerated – derails entirely. The snowflake name-callers and climate activist haters of my generation need to hear this warning.
A study conducted by the Hamburg-based ‘future foundation’ Stiftung für Zukunftsfragen has shown clearly that optimism is waning across all generations. More than two-thirds of people have a bleak view of the future. The reality is: all of us are afraid; we all feel helpless. And we are remarkably in agreement that economic growth will not be effective for resolving these anxieties about the future of our society and civilization.
To me, it seems that
when we reached the
end of the generational
alphabet with Gen X, Y
and then Z, we gave up
on our cross-generational
efforts to secure a
better future for us all.
THE NARRATIVE OF THE 'GOOD ANCESTOR'
We furthermore should all be clear on the fact that many views and notions will be fundamentally changing, across generations, as Gen Alpha grows up. These include the narrative of success and growth, which will have to be revised for a world that will either be more oriented around values of cyclicality and regeneration if it is to have any future at all.
These “snowflakes” of the “last generation” are good at the hacks necessary to maneuver our civilization back out of the dead-end road we find ourselves in. Those of the generations younger than us are much better adapted in general to the world as it is today. They know things that we have yet to learn – that a collaborative, cross-generational approach will be unavoidable if we are to make it. When a narrative becomes obsolete, we need to be able to recognize that. Such as the belief that the winner is he who can take the pressure – no matter what it takes or what the cost. Thus for starters, I have a positive take for you on relations with Generation Alpha: the narrative of the “Good Ancestor”.
This article first appeared in the 12/22 issue of "absatzwirtschaft".
Image references: Image 1: "Header" // Image 2: "Snow" // Image 3: "Boxed Water"
Author: Europa Bendig
STURMundDRANG founder and General Manager Europa Bendig has been consulting on innovation processes for NGOs and international enterprises for 18 years, primarily in the luxury goods, health, services, beauty, living and social businesses. She specializes in cultural codes and narratives that give brands and portfolios cultural relevance and promote customer loyalty.
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