Generation Y seems to quick to give an opinion on everything from the state of what is happening in Syria to whether to why climate change is a real issue. The more you know about something and the more nuanced your opinion is, the more respected it is by your peers. However, there seems to be a growing trend towards just having an opinion and nothing else. Once a paper is written or a belief voiced it is left there – out there to circle through the airwaves without taking any decisive action.
Baby Boomers and Gen-X’ers were compelled to do something about their beliefs. Apartheid South Africa meant that it was a case of ‘do or die’ – literally. Either go out and incite radical change or receive the same, unequal treatment for the rest of your life. Live a life where you would end up in jail for not having a piece of paper at night and expect lots of brutality while you are there or change it.
Having an opinion is critical. It means that you are aware of a particular thing or happening. By being aware and digesting the thing or happening you force yourself, by virtue of being a human being, to formulate a position on the said thing or happening. So that goes to say that as important as an opinion is, it is nothing special. It is the result of DNA. Yes, your talent comes into play when your opinion is substantiated by research and critical thinking but it is still underserved of any special award. Imagine Barack Obama winning a Nobel Prize for thinking that, “the world needs change”. It just doesn’t work like that. You have to instigate action and achieve to be recognized.
How worrying is it then that amongst South Africa’s Gen-Y population, there is very little action and far more opinion. Think of your group of friends. It’s very likely that each of them has a mouthful to say about South Africa’s; state of environment, ridiculous rape rate, idle political philosophy, erosion of moral fibre, poor education requirements, rising cost of living and average government performance. How many of those friends are activists? How many of them are volunteers? How many of them are actively working at every available opportunity to influence the issues with their well thought out ideas? In most cases very few if any. And that is the point, there is a growing divide between formulating opinions – however intelligent – and taking action.
On the subject of intelligence; it’s important to point out at this point that Gen-Y is incredibly intelligent. We are a population of people with abundant resources, access to more knowledge than Gen X could have dreamed of, we are tech savvy and we boast bucket-loads of innovation reserves. There are numerous examples of our peers taking their opinions and amplifying impact with them; look at Bright Simons, a 30 something Gen-Y’er from Ghana who became an activist in school because he wanted to reduce bullying. In 2009 he started ‘The mPedigree Network’ which verifies the authenticity of medicine (as much as 30% is counterfeit in some countries) through a free SMS saving thousands of lives. Once the action bug bites, it doesn’t leave and you literally go from impacting your immediate vicinity to changing the world.
Action is king. Without it the Berlin Wall would still be standing, most of us would be graduating with Bantu exemptions and women wouldn’t know the freedom of a vote.
The world is has changed, is changing and will continue to change. As this happens, so does our approach to things. The days of petrol bombs are dwindling and being replaced by pragmatic social movements like Occupy Wall Street. Both are action. Both work. What doesn’t is thinking about whether buying petrol for the bottle is a good idea or whether to join Sandra at the meeting on Thursday. Do something.