Generation Z, the world’s saviour?

bruegel-wedding-dance-ouMy Comments:
1)  call me slow, but I’ve not heard of Generation Z.
2)  does the world need a saviour?
3) never mind the spelling; this comes from the Financial Times, which comes from London.
4) I was once in the 16-25 age group and look at me now.
5) without Eric Cantor, who is going to be in charge of the GOP contingent in the House?

By Brian Groom / June 2, 2014

Alcohol-related crime is declining.

Can “Generation Z”, or whatever label you want to put on today’s 16 to 25-year-olds, be the superheroes who save the world? Surely somebody needs to. Raised in the shadow of recession, they seem a hard-working, ambitious bunch and notably less hedonistic than their predecessors. Boring, some say.

Binge drinking is down in the UK, while the numbers of those who do not drink alcohol at all have risen. Young people smoke less and take fewer recreational drugs. Violence is falling, as it is in many developed countries, possibly in part because of the lower alcohol intake.

After the counterculture fad of my generation and the clubbing and boozing habits of those that followed, it seems a welcome relief. No doubt it is a necessity for many. “I can’t lose my job,” said a 24-year-old woman who works for a fashion magazine in London. “I’ve had to fight to get it and I know that, if I sauntered into work smelling of booze, I’d just be replaced.”

For others, it is a form of rebellion against the previous generation’s excesses. Those who belong to the Straight Edge subculture, for example, say they do not smoke, drink or take drugs. “The only thing I go to the pub for is to watch rugby, not to pull and not to get wasted,” said a 20-year-old student.

Could this generation apply its self-denying approach to cleaning up public life? So much needs doing, it is hard to know where to start. Take sport. The most recent allegations that secret payments helped Qatar to win the bid to host football’s 2022 World Cup is the latest in scandals from drug-taking in athletics and cycling to spot-fixing in cricket.

Or finance. Last week Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund, said progress on building a safer financial system was too slow because a “fierce industry pushback” was delaying reforms, despite scandals including money laundering and manipulation of the London interbank offered rate.

As for politics, last week’s surge of support for populist parties in the European Parliament elections was a howl of protest against establishment parties, immigration and austerity.

Expecting Generation Z to sort this lot out may be optimistic. They are a collection of individuals, not a movement. They are also young, and many choose not to vote, so their influence is limited. Reform, in any case, is needed well before they grab hold of the levers of power. So this is, for now, one of those “questions to which the answer is no” that journalists love. Yet this generation has a long-term interest in a cleaner, better world. After all, its members will have to work until they are at least 70 before receiving pensions, and many will live beyond 100.

On the right track
This month brings anniversaries of two of England’s most-loved poems, Edward Thomas’s Adlestrop (1914) and Philip Larkin’s The Whitsun Weddings (1964), which both involve trains. In Thomas’s poem, a steam train carrying the poet made an unscheduled stop on a hot afternoon at a Cotswolds hamlet: “No one left and no one came.” Its evocation of rural England carried overtones of the coming first world war, in which Thomas died three years later.

Larkin’s poem describes a journey from the east coast city of Hull to London on Whit Sunday, when couples often marry. He notices wedding parties joining at each station: the poem mordantly depicts glimpses of England, the couples’ separate yet parallel lives and their futures. It will be celebrated on Friday with a 200-mile onboard performance involving actors and the author’s favourite jazz tunes. I am not sure what Larkin, a famous grump, would have made of this.

Reverse ferret
Ferrets used to be kept mainly for hunting rabbits but are increasingly kept as pets – and they are divisive. Bill de Blasio, New York’s new mayor, seems poised to repeal a 15-year ban on domesticated ferrets after officials said that, though they can bite, they were no more dangerous than other pets.

New York City’s ferret ban was introduced in 1999 by Rudy Giuliani, then mayor, who entered into a memorable spat on the radio with David Guthartz, executive president of the organisation New York Ferrets’ Rights Advocacy. “There’s something deranged about you,” Mr Giuliani told Mr Guthartz. “You should go consult a psychologist or a psychiatrist, and have him help you with this excessive concern, how you are devoting your life to weasels.”