In the former category is one of the people interviewed by The Age team that compiled our report, 17-year-old Sarah Ghassali, who expressed the frustration and disappointment that has driven young people throughout the industrialised world to strike from school and march in the streets demanding proper action on climate change.
‘‘After the schools climate protest, all I heard from the government was bringing those kids down, telling them to go back to school. Well, if you’re not doing anything about it, that’s why we need to. It makes me feel belittled. Like I have no power over what my future holds.’’
Almost 2½ millenniums ago, Plato attributed to his teacher Socrates a summary of intergenerational tension: ‘‘The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise.’’
Members of Gen Z love to ‘‘chatter’’ and share information via smartphones, making them one of the most well-informed cohorts to exercise democratic duty. It might come as a surprise to older people who fret that young people spend too much time on their devices, but Gen Z is worried that family relationships are being starved by excessive use of social media – by their parents.
UNICEF recently published its 2019 Young Ambassador Report – based on discussions with more than 2500 young Australians. It found them to be ‘‘extremely worried about what they see as the ongoing failures of governments, businesses and communities to act as effective stewards for a clean and liveable environment’’.
Any politician who doesn’t realise this generation is interested in political issues, but not political parties, is feckless and reckless. An even marginally genuinely woke politicians should know to treat these young people with respect by responding to their concerns. On some issues, they are more aware than the lawmakers, and they’re angry as they debut at the ballot box.