Gen Y: Indifferent Or Just Different?

Impatient. Demanding. Selfish. Lazy. Indifferent. Gen Y has managed to collect a whole bunch of cliches over the years, and apart from being tech-savvy, most of them aren’t very flattering. Often it seems older generations simply assume the worst of us and we live down to their expectations. But I think that while the cliches might be true, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. We are impatient if that means we aren’t willing to wait around for results, changes and answers. We are demanding if that means always questioning everything instead of accepting things as they are. We are selfish if that means asking for more when we feel we deserve it. We are lazy if that means not believing work is the most important thing in life. And we are indifferent to politics and politicians if that means we find them collectively uninspiring and out of touch.

The recent Gen Y episode of Q&A tackled this very issue of our generation being seen as totally apathetic when it comes to politics and global issues. I do not think of myself as a political person (in fact, I must admit I almost changed the channel when Q & A came on…) I do not have any strong allegiance to a particular politician or political party. I do not understand half of what goes on in Parliament, nor do I care. I have minimal respect, trust or belief in anything politicians have to say.

However, there are a few select issues that I am extremely passionate about, and am willing to stand up and be counted for. Listening to Samah Hadid, the most eloquent and intelligent 23-year-old you could ever come across, talking on Q&A I realised that generation Y-ers are not indifferent about world issues, we just show our interest differently to generations past. Rather than take to the streets about an issue we make small changes in our everyday life, circulate a video to inform others, sign an online petition or make a small donation towards the cause. And this week, focusing my kindness project to world issues, that is exactly what I did.

For global warming I caught the bus to work and had my very own earth hour at home by turning off all the lights. For changes in our policies and treatment of asylum seekers and refugees I signed a petition and spread the word about an incredible documentary called Go Back To Where You Came From, one of the most personally moving and globally significant documentaries I’ve ever seen. For marriage equality I – along with thousands of others – donated money for a same-sex couple to have dinner with the PM and tell her their story. I did this through GetUp!, a fantastic website making such political action far easier and more accessible to our generation. For saving Tasmania’s forests I wrote to my local MP, also through GetUp!

I believe each of these issues are connected by a need for us to let show more kindness and compassion – whether it be to another human being or to our beautiful planet. Generation Y is indeed very different to past generations, but just because we are not passionate about a political party does not mean we don’t care about what is going on in our world. Far from it – I think Samah summed it up perfectly when she said the difference of our generation is that “Our compassion, our commitment to human rights, is not conditional on political election cycles”. And that seems like the opposite of indifference to me.

How Do You Measure Happiness?

“The gross national product… measures neither our wit nor our courage; neither our wisdom nor our learning; neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.” ~ Robert Kennnedy, 1968 

Days 24-27: Gross National Product seeks to define the prosperity and quality of life in a nation by assessing the market value of the goods and services it provides. But as we all know, there is far more to living a rich life than economic wealth. With this in mind, in 1972 the 5th King of Bhutan – a small landlocked monarchy in Southern Asia where the average income is around $3 – coined the idea of Gross National Happiness. Its an idea that is slowly gaining popularity around the world. The GNH survey has even been taken by Australians, who on average rate their own happiness level at around 7.9 out of 10 (‘Growth Matters’, Andrew Leigh, 2006). In fact, the recent studies of international happiness have consistently placed Australia in the Top 10 Happiest Countries.

At first I thought perhaps sunshine and warmth had a lot to do with it, but many of the other happiest countries are cold and snowy most of the year. None of the countries are poor, but again the wealth of a nation doesn’t directly correspond to its happiness level. So how exactly do you measure a nation’s happiness? Assessing GNH currently involves a nationwide survey which includes questions such as: Do you consider karma in your daily life? How much do you trust your neighbours? Do you feel you have the right to freedom of speech? How do you dispose of household waste? How often do you experience compassion? They are then asked, “All things considered, how happy are you with your life?”

How would you answer this question? What things contribute to your happiness level?

 

When I asked myself this question, I had to admit the Year of Kindness is certainly making me happy – though little has actually changed in my life, a lot has changed in my perspective of it. This week I babysat for my dear friends H and R (who haven’t been out to dinner since their daughter was born 2 1/2 years ago!), paid a visit to my Grandpa and left him some home made jam drop biscuits, practised listening more and speaking less, and bought my boss a tea cup lid (she is forever re-heating her tea as she never has time to sit down and drink a whole cup). None of these things were at all remarkable or difficult, and yet they made myself and others very happy. I know the age-old saying that the only person that can truly make you happy is yourself, but I have never actually experienced it quite so literally before. I don’t know how you can measure this kind of wealth – maybe in the quantity and quality of smiles? – but simply because it can’t be measured doesn’t take away its significance. 

So today why not forget about financial wealth as the only marker of success and think about how much happiness you have in the bank. Take Bobby Kennedy’s advice and focus on your wit and courage, wisdom and learning, and compassion. You’ll probably find you’re a lot richer than you thought.

Aussies Value Kindness Over Attractiveness

If you have turned on the television in Australia recently, besides being bombarded with second-by-second accounts of royal wedding preparations you may have come across another feel-good story. Channel 10’s 7pm Project have teamed up with Reader’s Digest Australia (RDA) to share stories of kindness from around the nation in a project called The Power of Good. According to a recent survey from the magazine, Australian’s value “how a person treats others” (98%) far more than their outlook on life (89%), intelligence (59%) and appearance (28%). Who knew? Personally, I hope it isn’t always an either/or kind of situation …

Sue Carney, the Editor in Chief of the magazine, had this to say: “I love the whole concept of ‘the power of good’  … Often ‘niceness’ is dismissed as untrendy or unexciting, but I really hope The Power of Good shows that’s simply not true – kindness is powerful and it’s inspiring. And in these times of bad world news and disasters, it’s a strong theme that reflects what Australians truly value.”

To read more warm-and-fuzzy stories of Aussies helping Aussies, just click on the image above.