The Youth Of Today

I’ve started writing this blog fifteen times, this is my sixteenth attempt to write on the subject of “the youth of today.” Ironically, I am on a train from Southampton as I pen this missive, having just contributed to a “thought leadership” event on Generation Change, discussing the challenges to organisations as a result of the changing shape of the workforce and the obsession with trying to reshape the workforce to attract and retain Millennials.  As an academic/practitioner I challenge the notion that Millennials are any different to what other young people coming into a workforce want but instead what we are experiencing is a societal change.  But I did learn something from a millennial about millennials and that is that they have strong self-identity, thrive on collaboration and want to fix things, not just put a sticking plaster over it.

So why the difficulty in writing this blog?  It’s not for lack of things to say it’s because the societal shifts we are seeing are painful.  What was, is in tension with what will be, and the youth of today are being blamed for it, but their approach is just a natural conclusion of an era which has dominated social discourse for decades.  The rise of populism, political uncertainty and disturbing increase in ‘otherism’ is the backlash from those who have not changed with the times trying to hold onto societal certainties that have already gone.

For the last decade we have assumed that society was becoming more inclusive and more tolerant, and whilst true, it didn’t mean that intolerance and discrimination disappeared. It just went underground for a while, and now we are experiencing the fight to the death.  We won’t be celebrating the death of discrimination any time soon, if anything we are now engaged in a fight to make sure it doesn’t gain back ground it conceded many years ago.  The creep of liberalism has woken up a beast we long thought tamed.

The youth of today are intolerant of discrimination and they must be looking on at our political leaders and wonder what kind of hell on earth the older generations are creating for them. The atrocities linked to hate crime and terrorism are being quietly approved of by those who seek to sow division and fear in order to retain their grip on authority and power.  The issue they have is that society, and younger people are less prone to respecting the authority they wish to exert.  The youth of today see that their future has been mortgaged by the greed and selfishness of the current leaders in society.  I have been listening to that anger, whether on matters of discrimination, equality of opportunity, tolerance, climate change and a rejection of individualism and find myself, as many do, in agreement of them.  As a Gen-Xer I am now entering the realm of leadership where we are tasked with traversing the change and needing to lead the youth of today into a better future, a more tolerant society and a final slaying of the beast, which is awake.

I end with a personal struggle I have been grappling with since 2016 because I think what I have learnt is pertinent to what the youth of today really teaches us, that is that there is a growing conviction that there is a better way for humanity to live life, one where we work together and celebrate our similarities, rather than focus on our differences.

I have been a Christian since the early 1990’s, “saved’ as part of the evangelical movement of which my Church in the town of Wrexham is part.  The evangelical doctrine is not particularly tolerant of homosexuality, preaches the prosperity gospel where if you are poor it’s because you are unworthy of God’s blessing, and has it’s roots in South Baptist churches in the States, so a prevalence of White leaders.  In 2016 a ‘big wig’ in the movement wrote a FB post urging his followers to vote for Trump using biblical text to justify the proclamation, which knocked my certainty in my church off it’s axis.  The continual support of the evangelical alliance after Charlottesville appalled me, and when the leaders of corporate America demonstrated more moral leadership that the evangelical leadership my heart broke.  I have a certainty in my belief that God is far more inclusive than evangelical doctrine allows, and increasingly struggle with the “God loves you but…” messaging of my “church”.

On Monday evening I watched a film called “Come Sunday” on Netflix (a film based upon a true story) and cried tears of relief, as I feel I now have a roadmap to have a Christian faith and be part of an inclusive church.  The film ends with Cartlon Pearson, a Black bishop in the US saying “I spent a lot of my life living in fear of God, and I preached that fear…. Why is it so hard to let go of that fear?  Is it because if God loves unconditionally, maybe we have to?  Is that it?  What is it about loving each other unconditionally that scares us so much?”

I think that sums up the youth of today.  They look at the divisive populism, hate crime and terrorist who justify their action by preaching fear of the changes in society and then challenge us to explain why a more inclusive society is so scary.  Then they challenge us to become personally responsible for our own attitude toward inclusiveness.  That attitude gives me hope for the future.

By Carrie Foster

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