Dear older generation,
Young adults are depressed at the state of the world. It's been a rough few years with the pandemic, and now the war in Ukraine with news of murder, rape, and violence. Social inequality is increasing, the job market feels uncertain, and the climate crisis makes me wonder if there will be any world left to worry about anyway. To make it worse, there is a constant stream of media coverage, and lies from those in power who want to keep the rest of us quiet. You seem to be taking this too calmly. Why don't you revolt? Don't you care?
We do care, about the world and about you. That's why I'm writing this letter to you and other young adults anxious about the world and the future. "I" represents three "older generation" friends and myself in this synthesized letter.
I understand your feelings of frustration. Sometimes I even wish I could become a hermit, and hide in the hills! However, I don’t think the world is a terrible, hopeless place. Things have been worse, much worse, in the past. I studied history, and I think what I learned made me optimistic about humankind’s trajectory. Yes, there is daily injustice, greed, and suffering, but look at the gains that have been made: society is overall healthier, wealthier, and more equal than in the past; there are a lot fewer wars; crime and mortality rates are much lower; and discoveries in communication, technology, science, and medicine have proven beneficial to our overall living standards. We tend to overlook how miserable humankind had it thousands of years ago where basic survival was a daily existential crisis, or many hundreds of years ago when life span was short due to war, hunger, maternal and infant mortality, or disease, and people’s only hope was the promise of an afterlife. Consider Western history: there was no possibility of education or socio-economic mobility for any but the tiniest fraction of the world’s population and the concept of tolerance was at best only reserved for the handful of people you personally knew that looked and thought like you. And throughout history, in almost all cultures -- if men had it bad, women generally had it worse.
But, there has been change for the better. There is more choice in terms of the work we choose to do, the people we choose to love and the breaking down of sex, class and racial differences. There is more opportunity, and the experiences we have can be richer.
You're right to revolt. My generation is older, we've lived longer and experienced more, which can make it harder for us to take risks. Your role is to step up and demand better, as each generation before you has tried to do in the past. Put your indignation to good use and act to make a difference. Push for change and be the activist voice to find solutions. This may sound scary but can be exciting. I'm not saying it will be easy. The problems we face are big and won’t be solved by one person or all at once. They are more likely to be solved by ordinary people like you, working together to make a difference during your lifetime and your children’s lifetime, one day at a time.
Get involved in an issue important to you (politics, teaching, science, business). Share your thoughts, feelings and impressions through art (music, theatre, painting) and help all of us feel less alone in the world. Help and support your family and friends, or volunteer to help those less fortunate than you. Maybe you'll choose to make a difference through friendship, parenthood, or loving a partner. Then you'll personally be contributing to making the world a better place. It doesn’t all rest on your shoulders - others will do their part too.
As you grow older you'll see breakthroughs in climate issues, war, and politics that will give you hope. For the climate, I think a solution will be found -- whether it will be enough to reverse the damage (like with the ozone layer in the late 20th century) remains to be seen -- but in any case, we will adapt as we have done in the past. I have a great faith in the ingenuity and adaptability of mankind.
As for employment, it's normal to feel lost when you're a young adult. You know you have to make your way in the world but you may be stuck doing entry level, uninteresting work. Even if you choose a profession you love, you'll still have to struggle with the foolishness and greed of others, the difficulty of expressing oneself clearly, and other frustrations and fears. You'll have to do things you don’t like sometimes or work with people you don’t like. Your parents, grandparents have experienced all of this - and tried to manage as best we could.
Know that this will get better. You will find your place in the world and your value. The world will improve around you and you will have a network of your own family and friends that will help you with the more difficult times.
Remember that throughout history, although humans have shown themselves to be capable of the worst, they have also proven to be full of generosity and selflessness.
My Granny always said "laughter is the best medicine." She and her family of nine survived the Great Depression, peeling potato skins so thin you could see through them, in order to not waste any potato, laughing together as they worked.
I hope some of these ideas will help you as you navigate the world. I know you'll make it a better place in whatever way you can.
the older generation
Thanks to Yvonne, Sue, Becky ("I") and Claire