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.

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Embracing My Inner Hippie

 

“You can’t be suspicious of a tree, or accuse a bird or squirrel of subversion or challenge the ideology of a violet.” ~ Hal Borland

Days 17-19: There is something incredibly appealing to me about the hippie movement of the 1960s. Its not just about the music or the clothes but more importantly the peace-and-love ideology in a time of chaos and upheaval all over the world. Over the last few days, I have been happily embracing my innner hippie, slowing life down to cook with love and get reacquainted with Mother Nature.

On Thursday I had a hot cross bun baking day, making three different types (traditional, mocha and white chocolate with cranberries). I then played Easter Bunny and made deliveries to very appreciative friends and family.  This process took up almost the whole day and it would certainly have been far quicker and easier to go out and buy the buns. However, I think it precisely because we live in a culture obsessed with convenience that there is something wonderfully nurturing – for both cook and recipient -about slow food cooked with patience and love.

Friday was Earth Day and in acknowledgement of this I decided to be kind to the enviroment any way I could. I used green bags at the supermarket, took my own eco cup to the coffee shop, did not turn on lights unless absolutely necessary, read a book instead of watching television and even put a timer on to ensure I didn’t spend more than five minutes in the shower. I also made sure I took the time to appreciate the lovely little offerings Mother Earth presented:

Going for a bush walk early in the morning I noticed the crisp Autumn air and crunchiness of newly-fallen leaves beneath my feet. I was reminded how lucky I am to live in a city surrounded by beautiful little pockets of nature. In the middle of the day was thankful for sunshine (as I always am!) and t-shirt level warmth outside of Summertime. Later I took a few minutes to appreciate a stunning pale pink and burnt orange sunset bursting through gathering storm clouds. And then, as I was walking home through a clear starry night – the clouds had gone to visit some other part of the world – I recieved a message from a friend telling me to look at the moon. And it was gorgeous; a mammoth full circle resting lazily on the horizon.

All this nature loving made me think about something else I had been procrastinating about for quite a while. So on Saturday I signed up for Bushcare, a community volunteer program helping to regenerate and preserve bushland. They have an under-35s group in my local area that meets up once a month to work on a specific project. Though this is a very small stone in a very large pond of enviromental issues, it feels good to have committed myself to positive action on a regular basis. Sometimes the problems we have created for our earth can seem overwhelming and impossible to fix, particularly when there are still so many people who refuse to even acknowledge there is a problem, let alone do anything about it. But just like spreading kindness to people, I think its important to take little steps towards being kinder to the environment, in any way we can.

Living in a world of ‘peace-and-love’ is in many ways an absurd and impossible notion, and yet I think it will always be something we strive for. Just as any Star Wars fan will tell you, there will always be a balance of good and evil. Cooking slow food does not stop fast food, being kind does not stop rudeness, turning off one light does not stop global warming, and placing flowers in guns doesn’t stop wars. But each of these things provides a powerfully positive counterpoint to the other, reminding us that while we may not have the power to take away the bad in the world, we most certainly can contribute to the good.

The International Currency of Kindness

Day 7: Sometimes – like when I’m watching the nightly news – it seems as if the world couldn’t be any more disjointed. We often make fun of the “feel good puppies-and-kittens” stories at the end of the news which aren’t really newsworthy at all, but secretly its a welcome relief after the overwhelming negativity that came before. And yet despite what the mainstream news often tells us, chaos and violence are not the only commonalities of the world. There are positive stories everywhere, and there are people that feel they are equally newsworthy, with sites such as  http://goodnewsdaily.com/ and http://www.dailygood.org/ becoming increasingly popular.

Today my kind task was to pick up rubbish wherever I went. Walking along a road I frequent several times a week, I was surprised I hadn’t noticed just how much rubbish was lurking in bushes, in the gutter, on the path. I was again reminded that you really don’t notice things – whether good or bad – until you start looking for them. We can’t ignore the bad in the world, but it’s important to keep our eyes open to the good.

Day 8: According to the World Health Organisation, only one in 30 eligible Australians currently donate blood (www.who.int). It’s one of those things that we all know we should do and yet somehow never quite get around to. Perhaps because there isn’t much motivation if we haven’t experienced a loved one needing blood, or needing it ourselves. I knew that many people needed blood donations for various different reasons, but I was amazed to learn today that my single blood donation could save three lives. It left me very weak and woozy for the rest of the day, but on the grand scale of things that is a fairly small price to pay. And who knew you got a free muffin and milkshake, as well as bonus kindness points? Priceless.