Naomi Law explains why she is optimistic about our “Generation Y” despite the challenges we have to face.
On Christmas day I listened to my 21-year-old brother advocate his standpoint on reformist left-wing politics to a room full of family and friends raised on force-fed traditionalism. Whilst they gobbled plates of turkey and ham, my brother lengthily moralized them on the environmental effects of the animal agriculture industry. At midday, whilst my parents gushed over the Queen’s reference to the Gospel of John in her annual Christmas speech, my brother questioned the role of religion in a modern society of acceptance.
That day I realised that when my brother envisions his ideal future, it is one of progression. My brother is in the pursuit of liberty.
Malala Yousafzai had been blogging for three years under Taliban rule about the importance of female education when her bus was hijacked and she was shot in the head. Two years later, she was announced as the co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. Malala is in pursuit of something similar, but different from my brother. Whether it be through her defence of ‘free compulsory education for every child all over the world’, or the call for women to be ‘independent and fight for themselves’, Malala is amongst many of the world’s visionaries in the pursuit of equality.
During Christmas break, I travelled to Berlin with my brother. We stayed in a small hostel in the heart of the German capital that housed two refugee families from Syria in exchange for their cleaning services. Following a night of heavy snowfall I was in the bathroom brushing my teeth. A young girl, no more than twenty, suddenly ran to the window and began crying. She eagerly told me that this was the first time she had ever seen snow. The young girl, after overcoming her initial excitement, informed me her name was Malia. She is one of the 950,000 refugees taken in by the German nation. I cannot come even close to empathising with the strife that Malia must have faced to escape the horrors of civil war at such a young age, yet the pursuit of opportunity I observed in her was incredibly touching. It was clear from my short interaction with Malia that the future she envisioned was one of prosperity.
In 2015 I read two journalistic stories that have remained in my mind detailing the stories of two individual’s in the pursuit of social justice. The first individual, Emma Sulkowicz, a student at Columbia University, after reporting a fellow student for her rape in 2012 proceeded to carry a 50lb mattress, the type used in Colombia’s dorm rooms, wherever she went on campus until her rapist was removed. Her quiet voice, initially buried by campus rape culture, became a symbol of nationwide reform regarding sexual consent. The second individual, Daniel Maree, 25, started the ‘Million Hoodies’ movement following the death of 17 year old African-American Trayvon Martin who was fatally shot by Florida policeman George Zimmerman. Maree built a global following through the use of social media and the movement drew 50,000 individuals in cities across the nation to stand together in the face of racial discrimination and gun violence. These individuals did not become passive bystanders, but rather exuded justice in the place of the systems that had failed them.
The question I am posing is: what do these people, from such variant walks of life, have in common? They belong to ‘Generation Y’. They are ‘Milennials’, or the group that we as students belong to following the ‘Baby Boomers’. As individuals we may be striving for different values, as the people I described above are, yet as a generation we are all in pursuit of one thing – change. We are hungry for liberation from the confining viewpoints of our predecessors and the ability to achieve more than our current society’s definition of ‘happiness’.
In my opinion ‘being happy’ is both a small-minded and worthless pursuit. We are programmed to regard happiness as the summit of a mountain; we push our burdens to the top in order to watch them tumble back down. This obsession with achieving happiness renders life a constant struggle to claw our way back to the top. I have observed a refusal of this from Generation Y. I am proud to be surrounded by people that prize the attainment of liberty, equality and freedom as their goal. Not only this, but they strive to make these values as accessible as possible to others.
When I was fourteen, my best friend in high school collapsed in our classroom due to a brain haemorrhage. I watched as Zahraa progressed from laying in hospital, unable to move and talk, to achieving a miraculous recovery. She is now training to become a paediatric nurse and commit her life to those who face similar adversity. I have grown up with my friend Ewan since we were eleven years old. A year ago he waved farewell to his family and friends in the UK and moved to Thailand as a missionary, serving on outreach programmes in impoverished neighbourhoods.
Following an accident last year here in St. Andrews, my friend Jack was left in a coma for three days. From ‘being unable to stand up and write’, he progressed to running the Reykjavik marathon, raising over £3,000 for Headway, the brain injury association.
We are the first generation who will be poorer than our parents. In the UK, unemployment is at it’s highest rate ever; at 5.6%, global growth has slowed to 2.4%, marriage has become a broken institution, our democratic system is innately flawed and only 19% of the American population say they trust their government, with these figures descending at an even greater rate in impoverished countries.
Yet I am proud to be part of a generation that strives with a dogged optimism towards individual, social and political change. When I envision the future of my peers, I truly believe that we will be the generation to finally achieve the change we are so desperately pursuing.