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Jakarta Post

The (post-Millennial) kids are all right and we should let them lead the way

  • M. Taufiqurrahman

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Wed, September 25, 2019   /   10:51 am
The (post-Millennial) kids are all right and we should let them lead the way Youth climate activist Greta Thunberg speaks during the UN Climate Action Summit on Sept. 23, 2019 at the United Nations headquarters in New York City. (AFP/Johannes Eisele)

Every generation has its own myth and a degree of self-importance, and the only thing that unifies disparate members of any generation is a universal scorn toward those who came before and after them.

It has become a favorite pastime for everyone to mock those who aren't part of their demographic group and touting the supremacy of their ilk. But more than anyone else, it was members of Generation X who has perfected the art of putting down others.

Members of Generation X, those born between 1965 and 1980, like to think that they are the only ones who can save the world and without them, the world would be worse off. From Kurt Cobain and Jony Ive to Larry Page, Gen X claims that these people were responsible for creating genuine arts and life-changing technological inventions that changed lives for the better. One spokesperson for Generation X, Jeff Gordinier, even wrote a book titled, X Saves the World: How Generation X Got the Shaft but Can Still Keep Everything from Sucking.

It is this feeling of self-importance that drives Generation X to pour scorn on Baby Boomers, whom they accused of being reactionary, out of touch and being responsible for destroying the planet. In the United States, while Baby Boomers were responsible for the civil rights movement, antiwar protests and Jimi Hendrix, they were also responsible for bringing in a conservative president like Ronald Reagan and in the subsequent years, allow the unchecked forces of capitalism to control every aspect of their lives.

In Indonesia, people who were born in the same demographic category with Baby Boomers put up with the New Order regime for almost three decades, and when push came to shove, it took Generation X students to rise up against Soeharto and precipitated his downfall in 1998.

Bringing down Soeharto remained the biggest achievement of Indonesia's equivalent of Generation X, those who grew up during the tail-end of the New Order and witnessed the pauperization of the masses and the wholesale injustice that was visited upon their parents, friends and neighbors.

The superiority of Generation X won't likely be challenged anytime soon, especially after it became apparent that the new generation, the Millennials, failed to live up to our expectations. The stereotype has been that Millennials are a narcissistic and self-centered bunch who are only interested in their own well-being and prefer only to do things for short-term gains, like traveling, exotic dining and selfie-taking.

But as we think that all hope was lost with Millennials, in recent months, we are emboldened by the surge of participation from young people, the post-millennial generation, who not only insist on having their voices heard but are also demanding political and business leaders to take major steps to mend damages caused by the older generation, be they from Generation X or Baby Boomers.

In Hong Kong, thousands of young people show up every week to fight street battles against what they perceived as a possible encroachment against civil liberty and individual freedom, which has become the fabric of democratic life in the territory.

In the former British territory, students have been instrumental in mobilizing demonstrations in the past few months and university campuses have been the breeding ground for student activism for years.

The ongoing worldwide climate protest is another battle fought by the post-millennial generation, and judging by the number of young people who showed up for street protests in major cities across the world this week, we have every reason to believe that the movement will gain momentum.

At the center of this climate protest is 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, who has spoken passionately about the need to stop the warming of the planet, lest members of her generation inherit an uninhabitable Earth. In an emotional speech dripping with disgust and contempt on Monday, she heaped scorn on world leaders by delivering a line aimed squarely at Baby Boomers: "Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are at the beginning of mass extinction. And all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!"

And then, of course, there are the massive student rallies that are currently taking place in Indonesia's major cities, which are reminiscent of the 1998 protests that ended with Soeharto's resignation.

It apparently takes a confluence of bad things to spur these young folks into action. Fearing that some of the democratic gains made in the past 20 years could be reversed with the passing of the new antigraft law and the deliberation of the Criminal Code amendment, coupled with the annual haze problem and the riots in Papua, students from universities around the country began to mobilize, and just like the climate protesters and rebels in Hong Kong, they want to make sure that they have a say in how the future for them will be decided.

We may have doubts about whether these youth-led protests would bear fruit and that tomorrow, they may retreat, go back to classes and once again worry about their grades. Regardless, now we know that a new generation of socially and politically conscious youths have arrived at the scene.

As Baby Boomers beginning to retire, members of Generation X are too afraid to take risks from the comfort of their cubicles and Millennials are too busy taking selfies, we can take comfort from the younglings leading the way.

Over to you, post-Millennials!