Generation Z: The End of Respecting Elders?


Ivy Hammett, Guest Writer

As issues like climate change and racial inequality become the stars of current media coverage, more young activists like Greta Thunberg are standing up to protect the planet’s future. Despite these noble attempts to bring change for the better, our generation–“Gen Z”–is still characterized as disrespectful and entitled by older generations. I get it, really: we’re not afraid to stand up to authority to uphold our values, which is uncharted territory. However, a willingness to speak up is exactly what this world needs: if we don’t put our foot down and say, “This isn’t okay”, then who will? Who else will change the broken public education system, which orders 30 kids with different learning styles to cram into a room for 90 minutes at a time and expects them to soak up knowledge at lightning speed? This system has spent years teaching us the golden rule: “Treat others as you would like to be treated.” As a result, we’ve put you under a microscope, questioning whether you–our parents, our teachers, our doctors, and our employers–really practice this philosophy that you’ve preached so vigorously.

Would you like to be told that your identity is “just a phase”? Would you like to be called overly-sensitive just for lobbying for your own safety at school, but called lazy when you don’t speak up for yourself? Would you like to be mocked for a dependence on technology that stems from a growing culture of consumerism, fed by older generations, in which having the latest tech is the norm? No, I didn’t think so. Despite this, I don’t know a single one of my peers who actively disrespects older generations. We pride ourselves on our open-mindedness. However, when you’re told with notable distaste that your identity is nothing but a trend you’ve borrowed from your friends; when older relatives are proud of you not for thinking critically but for stagnating and blindly agreeing with them; when your fears of crippling debt are so misunderstood and belittled that the only advice you are given is, “Stop going out for coffee!”; when your protests are pushed out of sight by the school administration and your teachers trash-talk the protesters; when older generations become backseat drivers in your life, trying desperately to live out the plans they never got to fulfill themselves; when you, at the age of 16, wonder whether you could ever in good conscience put children into this disintegrating world, but would never be able to convince the doctor to tie your tubes until you have children and a husband or a life-threatening condition, because when faced with the inequalities between men and women, previous generations chose inaction and complacency–it becomes increasingly difficult to uphold our respect.

Every last drop of reason in my mind tells me to remain respectful, not to judge, and to stay level-headed–but there remains a part of me that questions why you demand respect from us without giving it. We will not play along with your naive, rose-tinted visions of politeness, simply because now is the time to act, not to coddle each other and pretend that we have done nothing wrong as a species. Yes, we at times throw caution to the wind and are ruthlessly, unapologetically disrespectful–this is, regrettably, a byproduct of our efforts to steer the human race away from disaster. Our disrespect is merely a splash, generated by our arms, which are frantically treading water to keep our heads above the surface. Will you, despite your reservations about the chill of the water, be willing to help us stay afloat?