“Historians do not mention the last ten years of a century”the decadence‘ for no reason. It is always a doomed and fragmented time, and the end of the American century will be no different. . . . Generation X came off easily compared to the dire fate of the poor bastards in Generation Z.. You will steer like passengers on the SS Titanic, trapped in the watery bowels of a sinking “unsinkable ship”. ”
RESPECTFUL to Hunter S. Thompson, who wrote these words in 1994 to describe the fate of the “poor bastards” born around the turn of the century, but it wasn’t quite so bad. Consider Americans born in 2000, the first natives of the brand new millennium, who emerged screaming into a future of post-everything opportunity, a time of budget surpluses and the “end of history,” and that crazy new thing called the internet, that would change everything. They have no memory of a world without cell phones or selfies, climate change or school shootings, and they have no sense that America is not at war with others or with itself. It wasn’t all bad – do you remember Pokémon Go? – or everything was (obviously) good. It was just like that muchAnd as these first natives of the brand new millennium turn 20, that strange station between childhood and adulthood, it is only appropriate to take stock of where they have been and where they are going.
In the following you will meet 20 different men from all over America who will have been 20 years old (sometime!) In 2020. However, as you start to unpack all of these differences, some common themes emerge.
Soon they will have their first chance to vote in a presidential election and cast ballot on an America that seldom feels more polarized. They have different policies but similar passions, which proves that building your identity is not just a matter of what you believe – it is what you do with those beliefs.
These 20 year olds also represent a group who have spent much of their lives carrying supercomputers with high definition cameras in their pockets around the clock without any sense of novelty. For older generations, these massive technological upheavals and sociocultural transitions can feel staggering. But for the 20-year-olds, it’s the same as ever.
On your way through a year of one-off events, it is tempting to look 20 years into the future and imagine marveling – and perhaps patronizing – a young person who has not or has never seen a global pandemic believed that “Black Lives Matter” was once a controversial statement. Each new generation capitalizes on the strengths and weaknesses of previous generations, inheriting both the problems and the progress that stems from their parents’ selfishness and sacrifice, and mixing them up into something completely new and original. It is far too early to say what these 20-year-olds will one day give to the generation after them, but they are already forcing the rest of us to rethink how the world works, what the future looks like, how we live – and who we even are.