OPINION: We could learn great values from much maligned Generation Z

Today's youngsters value experiences and friendship over wasteful consumption, says Rachel Moore

Today's youngsters value experiences and friendship over wasteful consumption, says Rachel Moore - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Wasteful, greedy, acquisitive, profligate.

Insults frequently hurled at ‘Generation Z’, those under-25 born between 1997 and 2012

The most offensive insult chucked in their direction is “snowflake,” to ridicule their generation as weak, entitled, whingey, whining, flimsy, and wobbly who shrink at the thought of hard work, criticism, and challenge.

Where did this vicious turn on the young start? In my experience, all the above can’t be further from the truth.

In fact, it’s ammunition more suited to fire at my own generation – the parents who brought Generation Z up.

Perhaps it’s deflection because, the truth is, we wouldn’t be in the mess we’re in today if the over-50s now had behaved better when they were the 25 and been more mindful about the damage they inflicted on the world by greed, thoughtlessness, and an insatiable drive to accumulate stuff.

My generation have been obsessed with buying stuff; of never appreciating when they had enough. Always wanting more and striving for the next new bigger thing.

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Generation Z are the opposite. They are obsessed with avoiding being weighed down with the stuff that suffocates their parents. Their values are diametrically opposed.

They are the mindful to their parents’ mindless.

Generation Z were brought up by us, Thatcher’s Children, conditioned from the early 1980s that owning stuff was what we must all aspire to. Accumulation of stuff was the measure of our success.

The mantra of “working hard” was about mounting ‘loadsamoney’ to buy more and better stuff.

If you hadn’t “got on the property ladder” by 25, you’d failed.

Ownership drove conspicuous consumption. What you had was what you were. Surface shine and image with no depth was the way to go.

It makes me queasy to think about how the throwaway-and-replace attitude developed on our watch and ran away with us.

Today, as we face the greatest cost of living crisis since the 1950s, and the under-25s face the toughest times to get set up in life, my generation should be ashamed of how we’ve taken so much we should have been more mindful of for granted.

We were the ‘must have newer, bigger, better now’ credit card generation. Shopping became a national pastime.

We threw away the repairable because only spanking new would do. We filled up huge holes in the ground with the useable, serviceable, and salvageable because no one wanted old.

We wanted more and then even more.

Having enough and being content with our lot didn’t exist. We were programmed to never enjoy what we had, but to work hard for what we could get next.

We boozed and slept away the privilege of free education, we took the ‘bigger is better’ approach to our weddings, extravagant and over the top, and then pushed up divorce rates because what we had was never good enough. There was always better to be had out there. Greener grass.

We knew the price of everything and the value of nothing.

We drowned in excess, invented fast fashion, owned homes with with three, four and five cars on drives outside our newbuild homes belonging to our children who we bought cars for, all living in homes where we pushed our thermostats up to 25 degrees without a thought to where it came from or how much it cost.

We believed we deserved perfection. Newness didn’t stop at furniture, the perfectly good kitchens we ripped out and skipped and replaced with the latest model, and décor.

We wanted bigger breasts, tighter skin, pumped up lips, lifted faces and couldn’t wait to lose inches from waists from eating less and moving around more, but paid to have it sucked out.

We wanted cheap air travel without a thought to its effects.

Our preoccupation with excess led to over-eating leading to morbid obesity. Then came binge drinking. Nothing was done in moderation in my generation, everything was extravagant and over the top. We invented the phrase OTT.

Our quest for perfection even stretched to our fridges, where we threw away perfectly good food without a thought.

Every time the Expedia advert comes on TV with Ewan MacGregor talking about stuff, how much we all love stuff but will never look back on life and wish we’d bought an even thinner TV. We will regret not travelling to the places we want.

Today, even the prime minister admits that people are going to have to choose between eating and heating, but we still accept that tonnes of food is thrown away every day.

Trying to make it right, shops are giving away ‘magic bags’ of end of date foods. All well and good, but to benefit you need a smart phone with the app to secure a bag and must be super quick.

It feels like payback for my generation is hitting us between the eyes, and those Generation Z will end up paying the long-term price.

We need to follow their lead of being mindful of their consumption, eagerness to recycle, buy second hand and use stuff until it’s worn out.

They value people, relationships, experiences and having enough.

It’s time to look long and hard at ourselves, hold the insults and learn from them.

We’ve got it so wrong for so long. They could lead us out of this horrible time we have helped to create.