Talking about their generation

I was wrong about the young. And that is great, writes Abigail Radnor.

June 15, 2017 13:18

Until recently, I had been quite concerned about “the young”. Firstly, there was the consternation that came with realising that I myself, well and truly in my thirties, could no longer be considered a young person (this hit home firmly when I had to put my glasses on to try to understand Snapchat, the youth’s social media network of choice). But once I had come to terms with my looming middle age, I was more worried about the “next generation”.

I feared, like an old person would, that they wore too much make up, ate too little/too much depending on which scaremongering headline I read that day and held Kim Kardashian, a professional bottom, in far too high esteem. I shuddered at the idea of being a teenager today, having to cope with the pressures of social media where everyone seems to be having a better time than you and where bullies can wreak unrelenting havoc, unbeknownst to any teacher or parent. And I got the impression that the “yoof” were entirely blase about their future. That while seismic changes rocked our world, they reacted with a “meh” and a shrug, caring only about voting for Simon Cowell-ish dross on TV.

But during these past few weeks, I’ve realised I was wrong about the young. And that is great.

I am not entirely out of touch, so I had heard of Ariana Grande before May 22, but I couldn’t have told you much about her. And probably, without giving her much thought, I assumed she was an averagely talented starlet who pranced around wearing far too little clothing (because, lest you forget, I am old). And then an unfathomable evil struck her concert in Manchester and the world knew Grande’s name for all the wrong reasons. In the aftermath, again I did not give her too much thought. I could not stop thinking about the families affected, haunted by parents’ pleas over the airwaves that dark Tuesday morning, and the fact that Manchester was on the lips of the world, my hometown a byword for horror.

But Grande came back into focus less than two weeks later when she took to the stage in front of 50,000 people and a nation broken by yet more unspeakable events. It was only at this point that I gave her the thought she deserved. It dawned on me how utterly traumatic that event must have been for her personally, something I can’t imagine her ever getting over. The emotion on the stage and in the audience was palpable — we could all feel it through our TV screens. The 23-year-old raised over £10 million in donations for victims and their families and stood strong as she fought back tears. It was clear just how much her fans needed her in that moment and she was truly there for them. I kept thinking of the phrase I learnt as a madricha for Habonim Dror; dugma ishit, which essentially translates to leading by example. The young, it transpired, had picked a fine role model in Grande.

And then four days later, the next generation outsmarted political pundits and experts across the board by giving our election a kick up its tuchus with a dazzling youth vote. Everyone assumed that whatever cause the kids were banging on about on their Facebook walls was just digital hot air and they were all too feckless to show up on polling day. Except they put their money where their mouths are, or their social media rants where their ballot papers were, and stuck two fingers up at everyone who underestimated them. And while not everyone may necessarily agree with their stance, no one can deny that young people being more involved is a good thing. For a generation who cares little about their future will have no future at all.

It may well be true that nobody has a clue about what is going on in today’s world but it seems the kids, as we oldies like to say, are alright.

Abigail Radnor is features editor of Guardian Weekend

June 15, 2017 13:18

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