Y Does Not Equal Q

Posted on October 13, 2007. Filed under: Generation Y, Social Activism |

The past few days have been a little bit of an eye opener to me. From the conversations I have heard and the blogs I have read it seems Baby Boomers think of our generation’s activism lacks courage and noise.

First, I attended a discussion with about 50 Grand Rapids women of all generations. We first heard from Twink Frey’s Visiting Social Activists, brought to us through the Center for the Education of Women at the University of Michigan. After hearing from some phenomenal social activists, we all sat in a circle and discussed the issues facing the Grand Rapids Community and Nonprofit Sector.

There were more than a couple women who expressed their concern about Generation Y’s activism, and how they do not feel they we are being loud enough or making a big enough statement, Generation Y relies on technology too much. All though many felt this concern, I left feeling good about the conversation we had. We all seemed to agree that we (Generation Y) are working as hard as our predecessors in the 60s and 70s, but we were focused on different issues and did the work in different ways.

As a follow up to the conversation one of the participants sent an article she had come across to a few of us. The article, titled Generation Q is written by the New York Times Op-Ed Columnist Thomas Friedman. Freidman describes Generation Y as Generation Q, aka Generation Quiet. He bases his findings on a few college visits he made and a discussion he had with his Generation Y daughter.

All though Friedman states,

“college students today are not only going abroad to study in record numbers, but they are also going abroad to build homes for the poor in El Salvador in record numbers or volunteering at AIDS clinics in record numbers. Not only has terrorism not deterred them from traveling, they are rolling up their sleeves and diving in deeper than ever.”

He still believes Generation Y is missing the big problems, that we are not standing up for what is really going to matter in our day. He feels that as an up and coming Generation, Generation Y “much more optimistic and idealistic than they should be.” and his “baffled because they are so much less radical and politically engaged than they need to be.

Friedman takes his point too far by saying that Generation Y does not care about the big problems. The big problems he considers to be Social Security and Health Care. Both of which I also see as big problems, along with AIDS, poverty, homelessness, hunger, and global warming.

I think just a few weeks ago I was having an extensive conversation about Social Security with my boyfriend and how we better start planning to save money to make up for it. It is not that we have given up on the idea of Social Security, we just have not come up with a great plan to replace it yet. I have faith that the best plan will come along with more strategic planning.

As a generation we tend to target individuals rather then large masses, we are more strategic with our plans and it may seem that we are quiet, but instead we are creating large networks of individuals that are interested in the same causes. Together, online we are creating plans to target the right people and develop plans that will work well into the future.

As a Generation Yer I want to stand up (on my blog) and say that I am not quiet and I care about more than my Facebook and MySpace and MTV. These are only tools I use to create the network I will need to make great change in the future. Soon the Baby Boomers will step aside and Generation Y will be prepared to lead.

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