Thursday, February 22 2024

In the alphabet of generations, they are the last. We are talking about the young people born between 1997 and 2012, who make up the so-called Generation Z. They come after Generation X, those born between the 1960s and 1970s, and Generation Y, the 1980s and 1990s also known as Millennials.

Generation Z is the generation of young people who experienced September 11, 2001, either directly or indirectly, and who were initially called the Homeland Generation, precisely because it was thought that having grown up in a climate of terror, they might be the least likely to discover the world, to travel. And instead, they have proven to be the most resilient generation compared to their predecessors, better disposed to change, the most sensitive with respect to ethical and climate issues, even if in some respects, they turn out to be the most fragile.

‘I mobile first’: activism and participation beyond censorship

United by being ‘mobile first,’ 2.0, born and raised in a hyper-connected world, a great many Gen Z youths got cell phones around the age of 10, and since then they have never stopped using them to communicate, have fun, play, read, study, train, work, and even protest. Yes, because studies confirm it, Gen Zs want to value life, defend human rights, promote inclusion, and inhabit a more humane world. But does this common sentiment apply only to young people in Western countries? Certainly not. Across all Continents, accomplice also to globalization, Generation Z is making its participation felt in cultural demonstrations even of open protest, organized especially online, in those countries where censorship is still in force, as in Iran and China, for example.

Generation Z in Iran

Let us look at the case of Generation Z in Iran, where there is a shared activism via social media, polarized on emerging themes and issues through hastags created ad hoc to capture attention and interest. Thanks to the pervasiveness of the network, Generation Z manages to circumvent even the gags imposed by autocrat regimes. We all remember the worldwide mobilization for Mahsa Amini’s death on September 16, 2022, when the 22-year-old Muslim woman of Kurdish origin was arrested because she did not wear her headscarf properly. Three days later she died in the hospital. Despite censorship, thanks to Iran’s Gen Z youth, who mobilized starting from the web, everyone could see what was happening in Iran and the whole world mobilized, along with millions of Iranian girls and young women who put their lives on the line to protest the regime and the absurd death of a young woman over religious formalisms. The regime tried to suppress the protest first by restricting and then by preventing access to the Internet altogether, but by then the reasons for the protest had gone around the world, and everyone knew. In fact, social media was the weapon used to defend rights and denounce abuses, to awaken consciences, to nurture courage.

Generation Z in China: young people rebel against inhumane labor

China’s youth are, through the web, making known to the world the difficulties they experience on a daily basis; it is precisely the power of sharing that is nurturing the ground on which activism and civic sense made up of protests and proposals is maturing. Recent research from the University of Oxford has shown the tangping phenomenon, which literally means ‘lying down,’ now viral in the People’s Republic of China, is a movement that originated in 2021 following a post on Weibo, China’s most popular social networking site, and describes the general feeling of discouragement and disillusionment with contemporary Chinese society and the world of work. “Such feelings prompted the author of the post and, along with him, many other young Chinese people to ‘take a step back’ from society, resigning themselves in the face of a hyper-competitive socioeconomic environment and enjoying life.” It’s a form of protest born via social media that shows the cultural turnaround that is taking place in China where young people are rebelling against the pressure charge due to excessive competition aimed at production.

Gen Z: family and friends the real priorities

The Internet enables young people oppressed by dictatorships to rebel against censorship in their countries and to demand loudly that their civil and human rights be respected. In recent years, this phenomenon has been particularly evident – as we have seen – to both Iranian youth and their Chinese peers, many of whom have shown and continue to show dissent from, for example, the regime’s labor policies when they mean grueling work hours, exploitation and denial of workers’ rights.

But the fact of the matter is that for Generation Z – and in particular part of it from China and Iran –it is as if, thanks to the Internet, they have had an awakening of consciousness that was not possible for their parents and grandparents.

This realization is also confirmed by a recent Deloitte research Deloitte Global GenZ and Millennial Survey 2023.” Deloitte is considered one of the Big Four accounting firms in the world. According to this study, conducted on a sample of more than 22 thousand people in 44 countries around the world, there are few differences among the world’s zoomers. The research confirms that extra-work life has an increasing importance for young people. Friends and family continue to be, even for Generation Z, what ‘gives the most sense of identity’ to the person ranking among the absolute priorities, with 64 percent, then before work (49 percent) and all other possible activities.

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