OPEN MIC: Wendy Harmer has the last word

It’s where our best, bright­est and fun­ni­est have their say.

The Australian Women's Weekly - - Contents - Wendy Harmer hosts the ABC Syd­ney ra­dio Break­fast show with Rob­bie Buck, week­days from 6:15 to 10am. You can fol­low her on Twit­ter: @wendy_harmer. Wendy Harmer WITH

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!

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