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Op-Ed: Young America wants change, but how, and to achieve what?

Abolish the sleaze. Destroy the mental poverty as well as the physical. Enough of the heartbreak and despair. It can be done.

Young Americans protest outside the White House in Washington, DC during a "Fridays for Future" march in 2019
Young Americans protest outside the White House in Washington, DC. — © AFP/File Eric BARADAT
Young Americans protest outside the White House in Washington, DC. — © AFP/File Eric BARADAT

It’s been a recurring and abrasive theme for at least 40 years. A New York Times poll says Gen Z wants “fundamental” change. Good luck to them. They’ll need it.

The trouble is they think a President can deliver it. It’s not that simple, and the wounds are deep, gangrenous, and wide.

If there’s one thing Americans can agree about, it’s that America the Sleazy, and Backward is universally despised. They far prefer America the Beautiful if Equivocal. The main issue isn’t whether to change, but how.

In the background, some of the biggest changes in human history are building. The past is either too stupid to get out of the way, too ignorant, or too trivia-obsessed.  

Years of endemic crime, poverty, normalization of failure, and the huge gap between the Haves and Never Will Haves haven’t helped, either. For a country full of people who value presentation, it’s like looking in a mirror and seeing a classified ad.

The obvious doesn’t need mentioning. It never does. The total lack of direction and forward vision do. America didn’t “lose its way”. It stopped looking where it was going.

That’s pretty obvious to us foreigners. A nation of overzealous but generally smart and savvy people stopped thinking objectively. They went everywhere but forward, despite the big tech revolutions. It’s not much of a perspective to have about yourself.

Result – No meaningful objectives. Directionless. No huge drive to be the future, and the biggest and best. This is almost the exact antithesis of America in its huge nation-building years. This heavily devalued and absurdly insular America is scared of criticism and makes a big money industry out of avoiding it.

For the record, America – Your worst enemies won’t tell you when you’re being absolute idiots. They’ll help you to be idiots.  Your best friends will feel obliged to give you a thoroughly deserved kick in the butt when required.

In the postwar years, America was like Star Trek. The “greatness” was real. It didn’t talk about itself being great much at all.  It was too busy for senile babble. It was apolitical and it was quick thinking. It was always positive and forward-looking. The Land of Opportunity determinedly made its own opportunities. This was Happy America.

America was genuinely way ahead of the world. Lifestyle, education, social policies, consumerism, feminism, technology, arts, you name it; America was decades or centuries ahead of the West and the world.

It’s now more like a repeat of a less impressive script for an episode of Cheers, with monotonous 1980s rap as the same backing track for 40 years. The Bold and the Beautiful morphed into the Mold and the Pitiful.  (Perhaps The Handmaid’s Fail?)  

It’s not like Americans need to be told any of that. The big problem is that too much hyper-defensive introversion can be extremely counterproductive. The general dissatisfaction has made any sort of change look good. That’s what the Gen Z poll is all about.

There’s one very basic thing Gen Z hasn’t had time to figure out yet. The Omni Sleaze and failures are systemic. How things are done or usually not done isn’t political. It’s money and nepotism. Lobbies and rotting vested interests are not charities.    

Even a real political altruist couldn’t achieve a damn thing in this environment. The huge numbers of snouts in the trough are very real and very obstructive. It can cost you six figures just to talk to one of those ugly snouts for half an hour and achieve nothing.

Let’s not assume Gen Z is naïve. They’re anything but. They think they’re “aging like milk”. They know what they’re talking about, and they don’t like it.

Of all people, they’re also first into the fire of this stupid, greedy century. They’re having to navigate delusional megalomaniacs and paleo-thinking on all levels. They’re the ones who may never own their own homes or anything else. They’re the ones staring the future catastrophes in the face.

Gen Z, can I point out that the past didn’t just “go away” when change happened. The past was made obsolete, non-viable, and unprofitable to the point that even the most regressive mindsets couldn’t argue.

How to do that is the real problem.

Abolish the sleaze. Destroy the mental poverty as well as the physical. Enough of the heartbreak and despair. It can be done.  


The opinions expressed in this Op-Ed are those of the author. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the Digital Journal or its members.

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Editor-at-Large based in Sydney, Australia.

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