When I think about Gen-Z, two characteristics pop-up in my head – memes and movement.
Gen-Z is making changes around the world and forcing big industries to work better for them. Experts claim that this generation is the most diverse, most liberal and most ‘disrupted generation’ ever.
But this narrative, according to me, only focuses on the western side of the story. The scenario is completely different in our country.
While we are at par with our western counterparts when it comes to memes, we lag behind in movements. There is no collective identity here.
In the US, Gen-Z is called the generation of ‘plurals’; they don’t just think about themselves, but come together as a collective identity. They want to talk about everyone and include everyone in their stories. “If we don’t get a seat at the table, we’ll flip the table” has become a popular phrase.
Yet in India, we’re still fighting for the table.
We fight over limited seats but fail to ask the leaders to create more seats. Students don’t shy away from criticising the reservation system, but criticising the authority that made us fight for those seats in the first place is radical?
We’ve stopped thinking about the welfare of other communities. Even in the spirit of our nationalism, we fail to notice the massive human-rights disruption In Kashmir. Ironically, it is the western front that has advocated more for Kashmir.
“Oh, but there are so many of us. How can they increase the seats? Not everyone can be a doctor or an engineer.”
That is where we are wrong.
What we’re failing to understand is that it’s the government’s duty to create job opportunities for their citizens. India’s population is expected to be 34% of youth by 2020. For any other country, this would have been a huge asset, if only utilised properly.
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This brings us to our second characteristic: movement.
Teenagers from all over the world are coming together to disrupt society. They hold companies accountable. They hold leaders accountable. From Great Thunberg to Nadya Okamoto to Zulaikha Patel, you can see it for yourself everywhere.
Big corporations are even targeting their ads to include issues kids care about, and this has even proved to be a good marketing strategy.
But none of this is happening in India.
For decades now, our system has been successful in keeping students away from anything outside of school work. Our institutions rarely encourage students who do things beyond academics.
Colleges in India are only concerned about students’ grades, and this never gives them an incentive to do something else.
And so our generation represses what they want to do, and creativity is rarely fostered. While corporations like Swiggy are using the tactic of targeting this generation with smart memes and great advertising, they’re failing to take social responsibility.
We need to take a step back and see just how interconnected memes and movements are.
Adults make fun of our generation for being this dependent on social media. But their nagging cannot stop the fact that the power of Facebook, Instagram and Youtube is so great that it’s more or less governing election narratives. And it is upon us to now use such power to our own advantage.
We need use social media to get our leaders to change. We need to spread awareness and even hold them accountable.
This is our chance to break the cycle.
To me, the first step seems obvious: Get out and ‘disrupt’ the system.
Indian youth have long shied away from being political. Activism is discouraged here, you’re told that you’re always at a risk. But in an age where nothing stays hidden for long anymore, now is the time more than ever to start speaking up.
Talk to your local leaders. Talk to your representatives. Talk to organisations around you. Sign petitions. Start petitions. Tell the government you’re done fighting for only yourself, you want everyone to get better opportunities.
We really cannot grow until we all grow together.
Diya Chordia is the 17-year-old founder of We Talk Back, a non-profit working to break societal stereotypes. An ambassador for Postcards For Peace, she is unapologetic and likes voicing her opinion.
Featured image credit: Pariplab Chakraborty