Owing to the adverse effects of ongoing hazards, the response in action developed strange similarities between generations that were miles apart. Generation Z has not only been influenced by the economic and political climates in which they’ve grown up, but they have also come of age at a time when profound shifts have been occurring on a cultural level. In this aspect, following the Strauss-Howe thesis, Gen Zs are supposedly resembling the Silent Generation.
The new global wave, known as ‘Generation Z’ or the ‘Centennials’, was born between 1995 and 2010 and is starting to be recognized as a totally different species from their Millennial ancestors. Generation Z has already lived through two economic crises and a war against terrorism, in contrast to Millennials, who grew up in the comparatively tranquil and prosperous 1990s.
The Millennial generation has squandered its innocence. On the other hand, the Generation Z has lived their entire lives with their eyes wide open to the harsh side of the world. Experts contend that Generation Z is more realistic and diligent than previous generations due to its upbringing in turbulent times. In that sense, Generation Z is compared to the ‘Silent Generation.’
The phrase ‘Silent Generation’ was first used by Time magazine in an article titled “The Younger Generation” on November 5, 1951, even though it appears to have existed before the publication. The Silent Generation, commonly referred to as the Traditionalist Generation, is the generational group that came before the Baby Boomers and followed the Greatest Generation. People born between the mid-1920s and early 1940s are referred to as being part of this generation. They also experienced both a war and a recession as they lived. They were thus molded into hardworking, pragmatic careerists who primarily shied away from taking ideological leaps.
In the years following World War II, the ‘Silents’ came of age. Their early years were characterised by instability. Similarly, Generation Z was born post-9/11. In actuality, as long as Generation Z can recall, the US has been at war. Both economic and environmental catastrophes have affected them. Gen Z has subsequently evolved into a risk-averse generation like the Silents prior to them.
The Great Depression, during which millions of Americans lost their employment, had a profound impact on the Silents. The Great Recession, a less severe but longer period of unemployment during which huge masses were incessantly losing their source of income, had a significant impact on Gen Z. The Silent generation introduced a strong work ethic to the factories of industrialised society because they were raised by farmers around the turn of the century. They grew up in hard times and viewed employment as a privilege. They all concur that the only path to achievement is via arduous labor and long hours. This chain of thought was thus carried on by the Generation Z.
This brings us to the Strauss-Howe theory, which holds that America has four different generations that recur periodically. William Strauss and Neil Howe developed the Strauss-Howe generational theory, which depicts a supposed recurrent generation cycle in Western and American history. The idea is that repeating generational identities are linked to historical events. A new turning with a lifespan of 20–25 years is ushered in by each generational persona, during which a new social, political, and economic condition is present. A larger cyclical ‘saeculum’ (a long human life, which usually spans between 80 and 100 years, although some saecula have lasted longer) consists of these. According to the theory, a crisis follows every saeculum in American history and is always succeeded by resurgence. Institutions and communal values are robust during this recovery. Finally, in the name of autonomy and individualism, consecutive generational archetypes attack and weaken institutions, which eventually results in a turbulent political environment that paves the way for another crisis.
Like any generation, the Silents are mainly composed of a continuum of personalities with distinctive edging. They were the ones who were determined to make things work and the individuals who believed in the dream enough to make it come true as many of them swore by the effectiveness of the government. Much like the Silents, the Gen-Z are self-effacing in a visible and silent way and inherently pragmatic. Nevertheless, both generations have worked and are progressively working hard to make the world a better place to live. Instead of excluding, they have been the ones to include; those who view disability as a condition rather than predestination. Some of these traits were imposed by the speed of history, while others resulted from the unique conditions that were typical in the years of youth.
Generational differences can help diversify the world and bring a variety of perspectives. While this pragmatic trend may give the impression that today’s generation is tragically and needlessly world-weary, it also may contain the possibility of prosperity. After all, the richest generation in history was the Silent Generation. Following which, the Generation Z has great potential to be the game changers in the ongoing and upcoming world affairs.
Ambrisha Zubeen is a student pursuing English Literature from Jamia Millia Islamia.
Edited by: Syed Ilham Jafri