Millennials had a pretty productive 2012 and are still going strong. The world’s rising generation of 18- to 29-year-olds stands at the forefront of seismic changes in the Middle East and beyond—the latest instance being India, where a 23-year-old rape victim’s death triggered national soul-searching on sexual violence.
Over in America, young people concerned by what they see as flawed agricultural and economic policies are leading a grassroots food revolution and are taking center stage on issues like gay rights and marijuana restrictions. Meanwhile, young activists in places like Uganda are also leading the charge on gay rights, while young women are breaking with centuries of tradition and demanding greater equality in Egypt, Turkey, and elsewhere.
Youth-heavy renegade groups, like the “hacktivists” behind Anonymous, have been instrumental in challenging entrenched narratives and institutions the world over. Their methods may be disputed, but their effectiveness is increasingly not.
Even so, many youth aspirations remain unfulfilled even as the generation comes into its own—Millennials are expected to make up 50 percent of the US workforce by 2014. The goals of these young people are therefore worthy of reflection as the world hurtles toward a new year and a significant demographic shift. Being a Millennial myself, here’s a list of New Year’s resolutions that I feel reflect some of the concerns of my peers around the world:
- Protect the Internet: establish checks and balances to ensure that Google results, for example, cannot be manipulated by Google Inc. itself, other corporations, advertisers, or government institutions. Ensure an online culture that is transparent, accessible, free of state censorship, and free of market filtering. These safeguards are critical to what could be termed “healthy globalization” as technological advances give a growing number of people greater access to information, education, and communication.
- Make international bodies more representative: introduce voting or some representative process for those holding positions in key decisionmaking international bodies. Such groups are becoming an increasingly important platform for debate on controversial issues—take the European Court of Human Rights’ recent criticism of the CIA’s rendition program, for example. These organizations also serve as an important resource for those struggling for justice in politically repressive societies. The democratic freedoms triumphed by such institutions should be better reflected in their own operative structure.
- Much of recent youth-led revolt seen in the Middle East and North Africa comes out of deep frustration over perceived social and economic injustice. This anger runs deep and is not limited to the region—it’s gripping the world at large, with the divide between the haves and have-nots growing more widespread. It is social inequality that fuels feelings of desperation, bitterness, and poverty that in turn lead to acts of brutality, rights violations, and often adds to the appeal of religious extremism. These frustrations are growing in tandem with the widening economic divide, strengthening into a force now capable of starting a war as quickly and easily an ill-timed cross-border infraction. It’s time to talk supply and demand with social justice and globalization in mind; time to address the gargantuan elephant in the room—a beast becoming more and more aggressive in the face of growing inequality.
Let’s do it, 2013.