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Don’t view the youth through dinosaur eyes

Apr 01 2018 08:57
Muzi Kuzwayo

Every generation thinks that the youth that follows is lost.

Back in the 1950s, Hungarian photographer Robert Capa had a photo essay that was entitled Generation X, which was about young men and women who grew up immediately after World War 2.

Since then, novelists and musicians, as well as demographers have borrowed this term and made good profits from it. The study of Generation X, baby-boomers and the millennials created an industry, and the Harvard Business review has estimated it to be worth over $150 billion.

Like most things in life, there are no clear and neat demarcations between the various generations, and the social scientists who describe these terms do not have a consensus. So there is a lot of disagreement caused by overlapping.

Think about this: 4% of the world’s population has just been wiped out by the war, and there is a huge disincentive against birth control. The condom is made up of vulcanised rubber that has been treated with sulphur, and so it is hard.

Women can protect themselves if they want to, but only with a diaphragm called the “womb veil”. In the biggest and most viable market for consumer goods, the US, birth control is banned by the “parent” act of the Comstock Laws, which is about the “Suppression of Trade in, and Circulation of, Obscene Literature and Articles of Immoral Use”.

Contraceptives are considered immoral material. The post-war boom is upon us, and the pockets are jingling. Well, having fun is a law of nature. So babies are made, and babies are born.

In a way, Margaret Sanger ejected the baby boom era when she opened the first birth control clinic. It wasn’t a flaccid task by any measure. She was charged and found guilty of maintaining a public nuisance and jailed for 30 days. But the idea had already been planted through her activism and books. After 22 years of struggle, in another case involving her, a judge lifted the Comstock ban.

The first Generation X child was born in 1965, and the last in 1984, when societal values were changing. The 21st birthday became the in thing, symbolised by the latch key. The Generation X era ended in 1979, after which it is the famous millennials. Some demographers have introduced what they call the xennials who are the cohort born between 1977 and 1983. These read the newspapers, watched the TV news and were politically involved long before Facebook and Twitter were born.

It is the millennials who are treated as a subspecies from outer space. A lot of research money has been spent on trying to understand them, and is certainly making consultants richer.

We must be the only generation that spends money trying to understand its offspring.

A recent study by the IBM Institute for Business Value says it’s all an exaggeration. It found what it calls “uncomfortable truths” that apply irrespective of age, and that millennials are in many ways similar to their older colleagues.

This study is a myth-buster. It discovered that millennials have similar career aspirations to those of other generations. Contrary to what one may see on Snapchat, Facebook, and Instagram, millennials are not constantly craving acclaim, but they want ethical and fair leadership at work, which is what their older colleagues want too.

Naturally, there are various outlooks between the different stages because of age differences.

In short, the youth are human, growing through the stages of life, and it is dangerous to look at them through the eyes of a dinosaur.

* Muzi Kuzwayo is the founder of Ignitive, an advertising agency.

* SUBSCRIBE FOR FREE UPDATE: Get Fin24's top morning business news and opinions in your inbox.

muzi kuzwayo  |  youth  |  opinion
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