OPEN MIC: Wendy Harmer has the last word
It’s where our best, brightest and funniest have their say.
hen my son brought home from primary school a Mother’s Day card which, in his careful handwriting, said, “I love you, Mum – you are my role model and primary caregiver,” I thought, well, that’s new. It was cute and funny, if a little too “politically correct”, and certainly not something I would have scrawled on a card for my mother. Little did I know then how our Generation Zers (those born between the mid-’90s and mid-2000s) would continue to vex their elders.
As the years passed, if our son and his younger sister were sent to bed early, there were protests of “marginalisation” and “ageism”. What? A joke Dad told in a funny accent? That was “discrimination against minorities”. And if one of them suspected the other was receiving favourable treatment? Well, right there, that was “sexism”. Even when they were too young to fully understand the ideas behind those words, our kids were challenging us with their powerful new vocabulary. And who taught them those ideas? Okay, I’ll admit it. Possibly our generation.
The Woodstock music festival celebrates its 50th anniversary next year. One of the 400,000 who went to Yasgur’s farm in 1969 recalls: “You had the war in Vietnam. You had civil rights, you had women’s rights, gay rights and you had the music ...” I remember watching the Woodstock movie as a teen and feeling that, nally, someone understood me. Maybe in the same way that, in 1955 (the year of my birth), my parents watched James Dean in Rebel Without A Cause and found a name for their teenage rebellion. Perhaps our collective blind spot as adults is that we don’t quite expect that our offspring will absorb our ideas so readily, then turn around and declare us guilty on all counts. Of course they will. They want to change the world. That’s their job description. Like it was ours back then.
Our own kids are young adults now and part of the cohort which self-describes as “woke” (imported slang that’s been part of African-American culture for decades), meaning they’re especially alive to issues of social justice. Although they don’t march in the streets like Baby Boomers did, the Millennials conduct their activism through social media. These digital natives have never known a world without the internet, the technology that may well be the greatest upheaval in human history, and that makes this generation even more difficult for us to get a handle on.
Are they Little Monsters – the name Lady Gaga bestows on her fans? Are they a generation of tyrants? Some deride them as “snowflakes”: indulged youngsters who melt in the face of criticism, can’t take the knocks that life hands out and nurture a world view in which they’re the victims of injustice.
Nonsense. They’re none of that. I nd much to admire in this lot. Sometimes they can be censorious and precious but remember, Millennials face challenges I hadn’t heard of at their age. Back then, higher education was free. A career was for life. A house was affordable. Climate change ... what was that? “Sustainability” was the name a country and western star would give his dog. You could label others “spaz”, “poofter” or “wog”. The insults dished out for Indigenous people don’t bear repeating.
I see my kids genuinely reject discrimination.
I love them for that. They know real friendships exist offline, know when someone’s hurting and rally with great heart and determination. They’re creative, exible and funny. They answer back – just like their grandfather taught their mother to do.
Recently, nine-year-old Queenslander Harper Nielsen refused to stand for the national anthem. “When it says ‘we are young’ it completely disregards the Indigenous Australians who were here before us,” she explained. Her protest went viral world-wide. Young people like Harper challenge our old thinking in their quest to create a fairer, kinder world. I do so hope our young people succeed.
Snowflakes are unique and very small, but in great numbers become mighty avalanches!