Yesterday, our friends came to spend some pre-Christmas time with us. We have known them since our children were little and we don’t see them enough. Vegan, vegetarian, and meat lasagne was served. Something for all tastes.
My children like those of our friend are Gen Z’ers, born between 1990 and 2010.
They aren’t like us.
When I say ‘us’, I refer to my readership who I imagine are not-millennials, however that is already a false assumption as my daughter is a regular and my son dips in from time to time.
Millennials aren’t meant to read. Their mode of interacting with the world, is Tik Tok, or so I am informed.
In my day, let’s say, the late 90’s, textbooks were a thing – I even have some on the shelves in my home, mostly anatomy (1x acquired during a Dundee library sit-in), microbiology, and some from my time at Tali School in Hod Hasharon.
Now, if you are young at university, books are not a fundamental, or, if they are, they will be browsed online.
Sure, if you are studying humanities, the text of Anna Karenina will have remained consistent, everything else, the related theory and analysis will have altered since Tolstoy notated his Cyrillic.
My point is that the young of today have altered in ways that are hard for some of us oldies to comprehend, particularly as the rate of change is increasing.
The reason for my picking on the young people, follows-on from the Podcast I mentioned yesterday; the one in which Amanda and Haviv discussed recent polls relating to Israel and Gaza. You know, 76.6 per cent of older Israelis or, 23 per cent of Ivy League students…, that kind of thing. And, if you read what I wrote, you will know that ascribing reality to numbers is not necessarily valid.
Nevertheless, as I have suggested, younger people are different.
For me, the biggest aspect relates to their attitudes towards the future (they have proportionately more skin in that game than I).
When I was growing up, the global anxiety related to an intercontinental nuclear war >MAD<; America and the USSR mutually destroying humanity. (Then we had AIDS, then Islamic Fundamentalism, the Millennium Bug, Covid.)
Today, once you have accepted that the fanatics on the religious Right and Left are on the fringe, it is apparent that the Climate Crisis is a more sobering reality than a nuke dropping or a terrorist on Oxford Street.
We see it, we feel it.
The hedgehogs that stagger around, drunk from wintertime heat at the bottom of my garden are one example. Tulips in January, migratory bird dysphoria. It is all written, it is all apparent.
Rising sea levels and coruscating icebergs, are now.
‘Don’t worry, the Gulf Stream will soon collapse,’ my son advised yesterday as we discussed the balmy December weather.
In the language of Ronald Reagan, the bombs are falling.
Putting this to one side, we have the economic divide between the young and the Boomers, the latter celebrating the yield of their early-retirements, pensions, and paid-off mortgages in the face of student debt and the impossibility of climbing the property ladder.
And we wonder why, those same young demand the end of Israel or more specifically Netanyahu, support the Palestinian cause, overlook the brutality of Hamas, whether directed at Jews, Bedouin, people of colour or any other group. The young, tattooed, pierced or not, who shout about rivers to seas without understanding the implication, who ‘like’ untrammelled by a deeper understanding or consequence of their actions.
It is difficult to unravel. It is a knotty knot, you might say. A tangled web. Choose your metaphor, they all work.
A brief detour.
Earlier, I mentioned the lasagne.
I aspire to eat a vegan diet.
This means, I avoid animal products – milk, cream, butter, cheese, beef, chicken, herring and salmon.
I stopped buying them around a year ago.
I self-identify as an environmental vegan.
I know my children, ever alert to the nuances of language (who don’t Tik Tok, thank goodness) will challenge this statement, ‘What about the honey (abused bees)? And the Challah (eggs)?’
OK I’ll take hypocrite as a denominator; I can cope.
My environmental veganism is not entirely allayed with cruelty against animals, although I am a friend of foxes, badgers and stand as an anti-vivisectionist. I am and have never been a believer in factory farming, penned-in hens, indoor cattle, and electro-executed pigs, nevertheless, we, that is humans, evolved to eat all sorts – insects, grains, and goats, we are, in our hunter-gatherer origins omnivores.
My behaviour relates to an aspiration to minimise my environmental impact. This was demonstrated a couple of years ago when my children encouraged then celebrated my purchase of an electric car.
We avoid turning-up the central heating, we recycle. We do our best to toe-the-line when it comes to conspicuous or other forms of consumption.
And with this, the approach to predominantly buying non-animal products. I believe in doing so, I am boosting the vegan economy. For every Beyond Burger or No-Mo chocolate bar I buy, I am increasing the market share of the non-meat industry, infinitesimally diminishing deforestation.
For every visit that I don’t make to a petrol pump I am increasing investment in alternative sources of energy. That kind of thing.
It is also good for my physical wellbeing; vegans are healthier in general than the average population. They don’t necessarily live longer but avoid some forms of the cerebrovascular disease and cancer. I avoid milk and Gruyère to not have to make an appointment with my family doctor.
What I find interesting is that those young, for all their obsession with human rights, gender and race equality often fall short.
Whether this relates to them walking around in t-shirts with the central heating turned-up ‘high’ (fossil fuels), eating meat, milk and chocolate (climate catastrophe, animal suffering) or driving their cars (fossil fuels – electric cars are too expensive for them.)
It is all a confusion.
Difficult to know where to step.
The present and the future are fickle.
We dance like Cottingley Fairies hoping for a better tomorrow.
I wrote a few weeks ago about my move, not so much to the Right, but perhaps towards a better understanding of that position, given, as one small example, it has been those to the Right of Centre internationally who have supported Israel more than those self-identifying with the Left (identity politics aside).
It has helped me gain perspective; it has enabled me to humanise the ‘other’ – allowing them to shift from anonymous ‘Tory’ (Republican) to person who holds beliefs that overlap with my own.
It is all too easy to compartmentalise. ‘They are good, you are bad,’ ‘I am Catholic/Celtic, you are a Protestant/Rangers,’ ‘Black, white,’ ‘Gay, straight.’
And yet, this appears to be an instinct.
Shoot from the hip and ask questions later.
We know that life is more nuanced.
There is always more than nought and cross, on or off.
We enjoy certainty.
Instability does not comfort.
Nailing our colours to the mast is an inherent part of our evolutionary makeup despite it being frequently maladaptive.
We cannot help ourselves.
Nietzsche suggested we are Human all too human.
120 years after he died, I tend to agree.
Where does this leave us?
Merry Christmas you might say, if you are living in the Christian world.
Damned colonisers if you are anti-Israel.
What about Jesus? The Galilean Jew.
Oh, that guy, he never existed, never was.
What is your take on Christianity?
It’s a sham. A Constantine invention. Go read your history books.
Sorry, I don’t access books, they are far too last century.
When can I unwrap my presents?