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How to be a team player while Gen Z saves the planet

By Jason Freely / a few months ago
blue tile dress

I am with my son at Northeastern University Law School for a day of panels about socialist initiatives. My son told me no writing blog posts in the back of the room. “Can you please just fit in today?”

Fit in? Does he notice that he’s the only high schooler here? I don’t tell him how lucky he is to have a mom who is not thinking like everyone else. My kids do not appreciate my out-of-the-boxness. I put on makeup because fitting-in-people appreciate that.

Get qualifications instead of rebelling against them.
After eight years of vociferous unschooling, I’ve had to backtrack on my school-is-BS ranting because I am now helping my son go to college. To give you an idea of how much I did not flourish in college, I wrote every paper for every class on Lord of the Flies. Did you click? The psycho look of the boy on the cover is comforting to me. A sign of impending old age is that you link to the edition of the book that is out of print.

Using the same book in every course meant illustrating John Locke by describing Piggy’s crushed glasses as a failure of the government to protect private property. And getting an A. Because college celebrates the melding of two obscure ideas to get the effect of geometrically increasing irrelevance.

It’s not enough that I’m capitulating on college. Today I’m disowning my rants about how law school is a Ponzi scheme so I can sit at panels about how climate activism depends on educating socialist lawyers.

Be an activist to preserve the status quo.
I had visions of my kids being rebels, or at least entrepreneurs, but that is so old-school. The only thing Generation Z is rebelling against is centrist politics.

Today progressivism is conservative. Kids in Hong Kong are pushing through tear gas and risking their lives so they can convince China to let Hong Kong go back to how things were twenty years ago. Greta Thunberg is mobilizing her generation by sailing to America like a Pilgrim. I am the rebel, writing a blog post instead of dedicating my brainpower to reclaiming the East Boston shoreline: For the people!

Am I even allowed to say that I have a hard time focusing on climate? I think the only reason I’m even able to talk about climate is because Gen Z is obsessed with climate change and I’m obsessed with generational change.

Be genuine and be suspicious of slick.
A great illustration of the clash between Millennials and Gen Z is that Millennials buy shoutouts from Instagram “friends” for $1000 and then turn wanting more money into a generational chant. While Gen Z sees weird and ugly as their generational aesthetic and they gravitate to artists like Zhanna Kadyrova who find the beauty in making do.

black tile dress

Talk with a global conscience or don’t bother talking.
Generation Z is the collective representation of the kid who seemed like an adult by age five. My kids are horrified by my small-world view as a latchkey-kid expanded by MTV. If the Millennials are conformist, Gen Z is intolerant. There is no room for dissent in crisis, and the youngest generation sees crises all around.

There is a precedent for this conformity: An early-stage startup is a constant crisis, and dissent is a luxury for the stable and well-funded. And the reason Vietnam was a shitshow is that US soldiers replaced a collective mission with individuals making decisions on their own. T0 get something big and serious done, there is no room for dissent. Generation Z knows this intuitively. I am trying hard to get on board before Gen Z takes away my vote.

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