Opinion 25/07/2021

Boomers, zoomers and "the zeitgeist"

2 min

Generational breaks are part of human evolution. Beyond the accelerations of history, changes in mentality from parents to children have always occurred and have reflected what Jünger, following the thread of Hegel, called "the zeitgeist". In the two decades of the 21st century, the times have been marked by the growing ecological awareness in the face of climate change, by feminisms and the fluidity of gender identities, by the long crisis of ideologies that emerged at the end of the 20th century, by the irruption of global jihadist terrorism and by a communicative and economic globalisation that has brought a strong vital precariousness and the shrinking of the middle classes, above all in western democracies, after decades of sustained progress since the Second World War.

All this is what, broadly speaking and perhaps without being fully aware of it, defines the mentality of the Generation Z, the young people born from the end of the 1990s onwards. In contrast, their parents or grandparents are part of another socio-political and mental universe, that of the post-war world and, in our case, Francoism. In the Western environment, geopolitically marked by the Cold War, these were years of economic growth and progress in collective welfare. The alternation of Christian democracy and social democracy, plus the outbreak of May '68, brought about a consistent and non-traumatic social evolution. Despite the nuclear threat and the crises of decolonisation, these were decades of optimism and social and technological advances. And despite the irruption of neoliberalism from the 1980s onwards, with Thatcher and Reagan, boomers have been improving their standard of living. The fall of the Soviet bloc prolonged the mirage, which in the case of Catalonia still had the 1992 Games as the icing on the cake.

And it is precisely this - a horizon of progress - that those who form part of Generation Z see that they do not have: in fact, they are aware that they will get worse. Trapped in job insecurity - youth unemployment is particularly serious in Catalonia and Spain - and in the housing problem, they have lost faith in a system that gives them no way out. They feel more like victims than participants. The global financial crisis following the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008, tackled with cuts in social policies, marked a before and an after. And the covid-19 pandemic has been another setback, even though in this case public policies have not been marked by austerity. Naturally, not all boomers are without problems, nor are all zoomers experience it in the same way (for example, many children of immigrants are better off than their parents), but the generational economic gap is, in this case, a very real and pervasive fact.