‘Maybe Gen Z Is Just Kinder’: How America’s Youngest Voters Are Shaping Politics

Oct 26, 2022 · 223 comments
Michele (Sequim, WA)
Yes, they are kinder. I'm 76.
Casual Observer (Los Angeles)
Gen Z are more concerned with social harmony and not willing to tolerate self expression that disturbs social harmony. They do wish to be kinder and more considerate of others but they are not able to justify freedom of conscience or freedom of expression that offends others.
Kurt Freitag (Newport, Oregon)
I wish EVERYONE would stop with this "convening a panel of fourteen people with deviated septums to ascertain how they feel about left-handed Cubans." The opinions of any such groups are unquestionably irrelevant. If we have learned anything over the past 20 years or so, it is that no one, no group, no segment or section of any population speaks for the whole. Or even for a part of the whole. Or even, in many, many cases, for themselves. This is an utter waste of time and attention. You are better off examining pigeon entrails to see who is going to win the World Series, which is, of course, as the NYT promised, Mets v. Yankees! Two best teams in baseball! So you see how smart these folks are.
Steve Dowler (Colorado)
Ummm ... what comes after Gen Z? Gen AA? Z0? Gen Post-Z (like "post modern" which was invented because nobody could figure out what to call it that made any sense). How about Gen Rabbit? Or Gen square-root-of-minus-one? There's a wild and wonderful world of possibilities out there just waiting to be explored. Go for it, upcoming Gen ... ummm, hmmm.
Reed Rothchild (Not NYC)
The "Be Kind" mantra is superficially just fine, but under the surface it is quite nefarious. It is authoritarian. It is, "Do as I say, and if you don't... you're unkind!" (And therefore, a bad person.) Cults use this style of astroturfing for recruitment. Advocating larger and more powerful government to steal more of our money or step on our rights isn't being "kind" to any of us. If you want to do a good deed, go out and do so. But do so in such a way that doesn't negatively impact the rest of us.
Fishkill (Washington, DC)
Boomers got no respect from their parents. The parents figured that when the government decides to go to war then it must have a good reason. History showed there was only a bad reason. The parents voted for Milhous Nixon who was definitely a Republican because, to his mind, it was necessary to rig the election, as it was necessary for Republicans to continue the war so that it would end without America looking foolish. He called it "Peace with Honor." He pulled 1/100th of the things that Trump pulled and almost got himself impeached. Instead, he wisely resigned. His party urged him to do so. These are different times. Republicans regard a certain FPOTUS to be the Second Coming of Christ. Republicans will not oppose such an impressive figure. We Boomers are expected to regard Gen-Zers as foolish and ignorant for their kindness. I vote blue. Only blue.
Aaron (Orange County, CA)
Gen Z heaven help us. They will gladly attend the protest march, the free concert in the park, the drum circle and poetry slam.. but they can never motivate themselves to the voting booth on election day. Only 39% of Gen Z will actually show up to vote this November. It will take +65% of Gen Z to guarantee Democrat majority for both Houses. Ain't gonna happen.
Trulyours (New York)
No, just more coddled and brainwashed in an era of stark ideologies. They are overwhelmed by the word NO and conditioned by mothers who themselves identify with a twisted power by claiming victimhood to avoid being held responsible. Boys and girls have suffered under this upbringing which leads to a greater future issue of conventional roles in love being threatened by an unnatural cult like system of beliefs.
revfred2000 (93921)
These Gen Z'ers can't arrive soon enough in great numbers at their voting places.
Reasonable Person (Boston)
Gen Z, with its Pavlovian bloodlust for social media cancellation and astronomical rates of depression and anxiety, is the kindest generation. Ummmmm surrrreeeee.
Yesplease (USA)
I hope Gen Z is kinder. If I were the paying sort I would pray that's true.
solar farmer (Connecticut)
I'm sure it's been tough growing up in the dystopian abyss of Generation 'Z'. After all, boomers had a field day compared to what Generation 'Z' has endured. Here we go again . . . The 50's and 60's were a veritable paradise of endless pleasures and pleasantries. What with the Vietnamese trying to kill us kids for invading their country (unrelated to any spring break fling), good old fashioned head-cracking tear gassing choke-holding limb breaking student protestor shooting police policies, frequent assassinations of politically historical figures, economic disparity, racial oppression and the collateral civil unrest manifested by burning cities, the palpable ever-present ubiquity of nuclear war at a moments notice (if you were lucky), the John Birch Society, the KKK, the banning of Jews and African Americans from country clubs, swimming pools, golf courses, entire neighborhoods and schools. I know life's no paradise of endless orange slices and participation trophies, but it is what you make of it. Stop making excuses and start taking responsibility for the life you want to live and the planet you hope to continue occupying. The planet will do just fine without you, but how are you going to fare without it?
Lorraine Huzar (Long Island, NY)
Enough of this nonsense. Stop stereotyping people vis a vi their generation. My parents grew up during the Depression, my Dad fought in WW2, were the greatest generation? Hmmm bigotry and racism still existed. I am from the much maligned Baby Boomer. Were we not all draft dodging, pot smoking hippies. GenX...were not all yuppies. What I do see is apathy and entitlement on the rise. Let Gen Z show their kindness by getting off their rear ends and voting. Their future depends on it!!!
Big Bad Bambi (Nyc)
Gen Z is A plus 💖
ChrisW (DC)
Kinder? A generation that decries the state of the world they inherited by verbally and literally trash the generation that had to deal with the literal fall out of the nuclear age? That made a $9 cup of coffee acceptable? That led to millions of people with their eyes glued to a screen, where if you say something, they have to take their ear buds out to recognize reality? Where Fifty years after Roe, we have an 80 year old former Senator who never introduced any legislation to codify Roe making it a central porti9s. A generation that demands voting to be as easy as “Do you want fries and to vote with that?” At the drive through, because they are late for their spin class? When I was 20, it was a decade after burning draft cards and bras. It was not fun, pretty colored t shirts for a cause, and walks with face painting and strollers. It was when womens rights were more than #metoo, where rich, educated white women decided, only after Cuomo announced for re-election, that they had been abused. A world where Black Lives Matter ignores the daily slaughter in black on black violence. Kinder? When thousands lose themselves in video games where murdering strangers gets you a high score? And if you are murdered, just hit the reset button. And let’s face it, interview someone who isn’t going to vote and ask them: Why?
thomas bishop (LA)
"...but many aren’t confident that politicians will act with the urgency necessary to carry them out." well, it's voters who put the politicians in office. democracy is only as good as the voters in the electorate. "young people" (it's really just a continuum of age) typically have more leftist ideologies, but have lower voter turnout than some older groups, as the article implies. personal and political outlooks seem to shift significantly when jobs, tax codes, insurance, mortgage payments, health concerns, retirement concerns, marriage and children come into mental focus or physical presence. a major political difference in 2022 v. from earlier generations is the dobbs decision by the supreme court. i believe that younger people, especially younger women, generally favor abortion access more than older people, especially older men. it would be interesting to compare today's young generation with yesteryear's (1960s, 1970s, 1980s,...) young generations in this regard and in other topics. medical technologies, (electronic) communication and knowledge have certainly changed over time.
LDurk (Rochester, NY)
Since young people just don't vote in numbers large enough to make a difference, who really cares what they want to accomplish with other people's money? Look, as someone once said, if you're twenty something and not a socialist, you haven't got a heart. If you're 60 something and not a conservative, you haven't got a brain. College students and recent college graduates for the most part really haven't had significant life experience. Note I said "for the most part." Not everybody has the same life experience. I had to use the GI BIll to afford college in 1971, so I really understand that life isn't fair. When the kids start showing up in numbers to make a difference, and when they demonstrate a willingness to hear a viewpoint other than their own, then us old folks will listen to their demands.
Michael (Connecticut coast)
@LDurk According to the Fed, the top 1% has 16X the wealth of the lower 50 percent. To put it another way, the top 1% has value of $43 trillions while the bottom 50% has $2.8 trillions. You Red's are proposing to raise the income tax on those with incomes below 100K, while McConnel is looking to not only renew TCJA, but expand it to make life even more beautiful for the rich. You are worried that the rich are being robbed by the government and the non-wealthy? Really?
Deanna (NY)
@LDurk If you’re over 60 and not a Democratic Socialist, you became jaded, but enjoy your Medicare.
Twg (NV)
First, I think the questions could have been more probing and too often came off like a quick poll. The lightening round got the interviewer more of what she was after: quick response to the hotter subjects. The main question appeared to be will the 26 year old and younger generation (Bernie's crowd largely) turn out to vote in the midterms? Did they feel a sense of urgency? (Because in earlier midterms and in the 2016 election, this age group stayed home in droves or through their votes away in protest.) From the interview responses, Bella and Zak appeared to have the greater urgency because they seem to be more directly involved with community issues and actions. All 3 appeared discouraged by the lack of term limits in Congress ( I share that frustration) and the dominance of octogenarians in leadership positions. Typically, Bella has a broader understanding of the wide impact on women's health that overturning Roe has produced. None of them were asked if a pregnant 10 year old who was raped should be forced to bare a child. They ought to have been asked that question. Yes, it absolutely matters how bills are written! I don't want to discourage Bella's insistence that we all try to be kinder. And I do think younger generations are more open minded about race; a very good thing. But I want them to be better at critical thinking, that's what I got from this. Good solutions require critical thinking. I'm glad to hear they care about democracy. Stay involved and well wishes.
Olivia (Los Angeles)
Young people have less to lose (in general). Of course they'd be more progressive and eager to try things a new way.
Twila Attune (Portland)
@Olivia They have a LOT more to lose than an older population.
Horace Fundt (Planet Rayon)
No, not again. Fifty years ago, it looked like the Baby Boomers would be pretty progressive. Now they vote for Trump. Gen Z can call me in five decades or so, and we'll see.
Bull Goose Loony (Seattle, WA)
“Every generation blames the one before and all of their frustrations come beating on your door…” —Mike & the Mechanics “The Living Years” (1988-89)
TD (NY)
I wish we didn't have to keep putting people in boxes, in this case age categories.
Michael (Connecticut coast)
@TD Put the billionaires in the same box, and find out even with their effective single-digit tax rate, they don't want to pay a dollar more to the government, even if it was to maintain, improve, modernize, and harden the nation's hard infrastructure.
Navneet (Boston)
A lot of bitter comments from old people here, even when they voted for Trump twice in substantial majority. It's Gen-Z and millennials that saved US democracy from Trump. To bitter old people here: "Ok, Boomer".
teresa (Eugene, Oregon)
@Navneet Navneet, may you live for many years. And when you are old, may you remember how you treated elders and how you generalized and made them all out to be the problem. May your bigotry gradually ease over the years, lest you hate your own old self.
Eastern (MA)
@Navneet This comment sums up the "kindness" of Gen-Z.
Joey (Upstate)
@Navneet yep.
SR (Los Angeles)
They're just kinder? I saw quite a bit of rioting and looting the past few years. Most of it by young people. I also see quite a bit of showing off material wealth, particularly on social media. The sneaker collection trend is but one example. Young kids' worship of clothing brands like "Supreme" is another. I see musical events where the goal is mayhem. Travis Scott, who openly advocates and promotes violence, simply for its own sake, attracts stadium-level crowds. I see youth obsessed with violent video games. And some of them acting out their violent fantasies in reality by shooting their peers. Ask young people to name heroes, and you do not hear MLK, Gandhi, or even Greta Thunberg. You hear Elon Musk or Jeff Bozos. Crypto and trading stocks are their pastimes, not joining the Peace Corps. Obviously, I am generalizing here. Every generation has its great people and its not so great people. It's become trendy to attack "Boomers" as materialistic Trumpers. And some are. But let's remember almost none of the imprisoned Insurrectionists were Baby Boomers. And this generation gave us the 1960s Peace Movement, fought for women's liberation, fought for gay rights, began Earth Day in 1971. Its musical heroes were people like Neil Young and Bob Dylan. We should move away from all this categorization - by race, by age, by gender. Judge people by the content of their character, not the color of their skin.
Twila Attune (Portland)
@SR "We should move away from all this categorization"...but the first 3 paragraphs are generalizations of youth culture. I think what is meant here is "stop categorizing me".
Srini Rao (Sacramento)
Gen Z are just as entitled and self centered and think of themselves as individualistic while perpetuating exclusion based on color just as the generations before.
Kohl (Ohio)
@Srini Rao It was telling that all of their political opinions were based on their personal experiences vs what is best for everyone. "I experienced X and it was bad so Y is what the law of the land should be".
SteveRR (CA)
I guess I can see how vapidity can be mistaken for "kindness" - but I doubt Socrates would agree.
Holden (D.C.)
Yes! Too right.
Danny Cordray (Public School)
It is incredibly simple to be nice to everyone and care deeply about everything. It’s also unrealistic unless you’re willing to compromise your values. Show me someone who has no enemies and I’ll show you someone with no character.
Reed Rothchild (Not NYC)
@Danny Cordray Precisely. I hear it all the time, "Young people are going to save us from climate change!" OK. Well, tell young people that they have to give up their cell phones in the name of climate change and the planet. Gauge their reaction. That will give you an idea as to how different they are from any other generation of people. (No different at all.)
HereandThere (US)
@Reed Rothchild Tell them they have to give up Ikea furniture and buy used furniture that doesn't look trendy.
AlohaDavid (Marin County, California)
I recently read a CNBC report that GenZ's favorite fast food restaurant is Chic-Fil-A. That doesn't give me much faith in them.
Richard (Montana)
@AlohaDavid Are we talking the Chic-Fil-A with the homophobia CEO?
The Queen of Feral Cats (Virginia)
They're kind? Okay. That's nice. Sure. Whatever. From what I've read here and elsewhere, many of them also aren't planning on voting. Kindness only goes so far in this country if you sit out Election Day.
Robert (Germany)
Gen Z is still young and idealistic. Give them time to 'grow up' and become selfish, apathetic, immature and conservative.
HereandThere (US)
You mean Democrats are just kinder. There are Democrats of all ages. Thankfully. Please stop the ageist canard that everyone who is not young voted for Trump.
Mor (California)
Kindness has become an ideological slogan, much like purity or faith was in the past. There is nothing actually kind or tolerant about this American generation. Instead, their belief that they are morally superior to everybody else makes them agents of oppression. Remember that both fascism and communism were youth movements. The only reason why the TikTok generation is not as dangerous as the fanatics of the past is that they are emotionally fragile, psychologically damaged, and medicated out of their senses. So far at least, cancel culture has ruined many reputations, degraded the education in this country, and damaged democracy but has not killed anybody (though give it time…). On the positive side, this is an exclusively American phenomenon. The youth morality police, canceling everything in sight, have nothing in common with young people actually fighting for their rights in places like Iran, Ukraine, and the Middle East.
Barnabas (Nevada)
@Mor You clearly have little experience with the actual youth of our country
DVR (MD)
@Mor Spot on. I view them as frightening little speech oppressing fascists who would crush anyone with opposing views and step over the dead body.
RP (NYC)
Gen Z is naive, and uninformed about history and the world's ways. Not to worry: they will soon grow up when mugged by the realities they dislike.
Metrojournalist (New York Area)
@RP I hope you're right in your prediction. You're correct about that generation's being uninformed about history and current events and they are innumerate. If you ever watch Justin Awad's videos and Instagram post, you'll cringe at the answers they give him when he asks questions such as who fought in the Civil War, how much is 3x3x3, etc.? It's scary, actually.
Gertrude (The Hinterland)
People really seem to love to homogenize humans into “groups” or “communities” in a number of ways; era of birth, gender, race, sexual orientation, area of origin, area of residence, and financial standing. The majority of those things are involuntarily inherited, and one could make a case that, at times, even those last two those things are, due to mitigating circumstances, involuntary. Yet it seems acceptable to label humans this way. Inexplicably, it even seems encouraged. Is this not textbook bigotry? I thought liberals were the unimpeachable model of anti-bigotry. A person is not a “(blank).” They’re just a person. If they may be judged, it should be by their behavior. I’m pretty sure that when the sperm reaches the egg, the sperm does not find a kiosk where it chooses which era in human history to be fertilized, a choice that will then program the embryo with era-specific values and ideologies. People are just born whenever they’re born. My hope is that young folks grow up to be better about this kind of bigotry. My hope is that they mature to realize that social-media contrivances are not reality, that one is not an “activist” by issuing a hashtag, that one is not virtuous because they calculatedly cultivated a social-media persona, and that self-accountability comes first when the instinct to cast stones emerges.
Mercedes (Terra Sanitatis)
Ukrainian youth repatriated themselves from all over the world to fight for their country and those already in country enlisted en masse. American fighting-age youth would do no such thing being the pampered, spoon-fed keyboard warriors they are.
Eliza (Maryland)
@Mercedes I think you're wrong, but thankfully we'll never have to find out.
David (TX)
Hard to know whether to laugh or cry. As many posters note, there's nothing special about GenZ's naivete nor its ideological ambitiousness. The only real 'change' is a lack of collective self awareness. I suspect future historians (if that's still considered a worthwhile pursuit) will attribute this to the 'gameification' of the social narrative that reduces modern conversations to a 180 character battle for 'likes' with no room for nuance or reflection. Younger generations have always thought themselves special and unique. The real world- and the human condition- always hand each subsequent generation the reality check it deserves. And so it goes...
Karl (New Orleans)
@David "'gameification' of the social narrative" And with that, you've succinctly described the exact phenomenon that's been driving me absolutely nuts for the last decade or so. Every time I watch someone hop onto the soap box to fight for social change or minority rights or a more inclusive and equitable society, I applaud the vision, but I can't help but see all the ways they inevitably end up sacrificing their greater ideals at the altar of uncompromising zealotry and illogical proscriptions, because questioning any part of the narrative is anathema, and the goal for many is not actually social change or a better world, but personal power, approval, and influence. The easiest way to win those things is not to convince people follow you in a new and better direction, but to see which direction the herd is moving and run to the front of the line so that you can claim to be the leader.
Abhi (USA)
@David Nobody uses twitter anymore ...
Will B (NYC)
Wow. Gen Zs are no more or less kind than other generations. The problem is that they think they are kinder. That’s why they are constantly aggrieved. You can’t make good decisions if you think everyone else is wrong about everything.
RW (Pennsylvania)
@Will B Hasn't every generation been aggrieved in their teens and 20s? People that age are supposed to be aggrieved.
teresa (Eugene, Oregon)
@Will B I did not get a sense of "constantly aggrieved" from these young people. Where did you see grievance? I also did not read these folks saying, or even implying, that "everyone else is wrong ...". They were listening to, and respecting, each other.
Navneet (Boston)
@Will B Voting stats suggests older generation voted for a bigot named Trump twice, we can deduce which generation is mean and fascist by just exit polls of 2020.
DJ (Atlanta)
Yes, they are so kind that they will cancel careers and ruin lives of people who tweeted something that might've been socially accepted a decade ago. They are so kind that one strike and you are out, forever, has wiped the concept of "a second chance." They are so kind that the narrow band of their fragile ego is the only safe zone, lest one dare offer a differing opinion with facts and logic. To be clear, it's not their fault. Children are a product of their parents, and this is a failure of bulldozer parenting that wiped all obstacles early and often, so that anything other than smooth sailing in life is interpreted as an affront to their feelings and existence.
Rebecca (Austin, TX)
I cannot put into words how proud I am to have “bulldozed” for my daughter, teaching her explicitly that when teachers and school staff gave the bully tormenting her “second chances,” day after day, week after week, they were an example that not all adults can be trusted. I bulldozed for her to have the time to serve the hungry and homeless - immigrants and all, by paring down her chores at home. I bulldozed by researching doctors who could diagnose her painful condition so she wouldn’t spend a lifetime being told it was in her head by lesser doctors. I bulldozed by advising her to surround herself with thoughtful, ethical, curious people, regardless of skin color or whom they love. I bulldozed for her to build strength and community by supporting her swim career. I bulldozed by saving for her college education. Guess what? She got her fair share of adversity. Those with your mindset made sure she did. I’m in awe of how effortlessly she embodies kindness. She is a social justice warrior - and rightfully participates in boycotting unethical, corrupt and cruel behavior such as anti-Semitism, rape and coercion, police brutality, and wanton destructive behavior. She thoughtfully creates the gifts she gives - knitting sweaters and creating pottery, for example, rather than pushing a button on amazon. She will delete Kanye from her playlist, because it’s not fun anymore. Weinstein movies? Not worth the price the actors had to pay. Why are these kindnesses so repugnant to you?
teresa (Eugene, Oregon)
@Rebecca You GO, sister!! May all young people have such loving and wise guidance.
KestrelFlight (Connecticut)
@Rebecca No mention of humility in any of this.
Ehillesum (Michigan)
Kindness is only a virtue if it is kept in balance with other virtues and values. It is not kind for a mother to let her child run wild in the streets in the name of kindness. Without discipline, a commitment to core values like free speech and other virtues and values, kindness will lead to chaos, cruelty and a broken culture. At our universities, many of the young generation shut down the free exchange of ideas in the name of kindness. That is not kindness.
teresa (Eugene, Oregon)
@Ehillesum Kindness is always a virtue and kindness never, never will "lead to chaos". The other thing you described is not kindness and none of us would pretend that it is. I recently read a historian who showed with examples that one of the most common tactics used by fascists as they work to take over is to sow chaos. This chaos and confusion then cause good people to give up. It is not kindness that led to the chaos, my friend.
MagpiesAndCrows (NH)
Pft. These people will dox their friends for liking a J K Rowling quote, or a "problematic" ship, all the while chanting "be kind".
AJ (Saint Paul)
@MagpiesAndCrows Yes, so so many of them are doing stuff like that...get real.
teresa (Eugene, Oregon)
@MagpiesAndCrows Are you sure? Because none of that was included in this conversation.
Former repub (Pa)
@MagpiesAndCrows I always get a bad feeling when someone starts with "these" or "those" people.
al (Midwest)
"Kinder"? or less experienced...less bruises from the rough and tumble world, cuddled from youth, too many times in "safe places", too much faith in fair play....they are still living under moma's skirts.
Mike (Rural NY)
@al Didn’t know the museum of Modern Art had a skirt.
Lisa (Auckland, NZ)
@ al Cuddles and fair play are good things.
DVR (MD)
@Mike They do. I’ve seen it.
Rustamji Chicagowalla (New Delhi)
The woke generarion is anything but kind. Brittle, sad, medicated, appalled, self-referential, ahistoric, provincial? Yes. "Kind"? Maybe, in the future, after life has had its way with them. Not now.
teresa (Eugene, Oregon)
@Rustamji Chicagowalla woke: the attitude of being open to ideas and people who are different than you; the desire to progress towards a more inclusive society, where the ideas and needs of all people carry similar weight, regardless of gender or race or socio-economic status; a pejorative used by republicans towards democrats, attempting to make themselves feel better about their own bigotry by trying to make kindness look like a bad thing.
DL (Colorado Springs, CO)
@teresa Woke: Thought police
The Earl Of Tenafly (Jersey)
Gen X here. It was not easy being a fat kid in the 70s. I wish we had anti-bullying programs like my child’s generation did all throughout their school years.
Speaking Truth (Harlem)
Think Gen Z is kinder? Try going against their opinions on what a woman is, what groups have privilege, or historical poverty in Appalachia, all well-formed through TicTok and Tumbler, and see how kind this generation is. In fact, question them on any of their 'hard-won social media gleaned knowledge,' and you'll have scratched the fragile veneer of their so-called tolerance.
B (British Columbia)
@Speaking Truth While it's true that TicTok has been a parasite for genuine information gathering, nobody needs to be "kind" in the face of someone whose opinion on gender is to antagonize folks with the oft-used alt-right comeback of "define a woman." Fighting for the rights of transgendered persons doesn't involve being a pushover.
Navneet (Boston)
@Speaking Truth It's old people who still think 2020 election was stolen, half of them to be precise despite all the evidence. They are most against abortion rights, LGBT rights and steps to mitigate climate change. Selfish, fascistic generation. You voted for a bigot and a fool in majority.
Madmax169 (DC)
Give it time.
Mary Groth (Old Lyme CT)
In my experience ( and I have extensive experience with young people, personally and professionally, people age 19-29 are very apathetic regarding civic engagement, responsibilities and voting, and the data is there to back up this opinion. Remember when young people rose up against the Vietnam War and for Civil Rights? Now rich kids are mostly concerned with making and spending money. And the poor kids just despair, because the American Dream is dead, thanks to the GOP and the obscenely rich and greedy oligarchs and unbridled capitalism.
QuercusRubra (Tacoma, Wash.)
@Mary Groth Oh come on.
Joey (Upstate)
@Mary Groth totally agree. There is very little in the last forty years to suggest to anyone they can change things with votes or organization. The only movements that are successful are backstopped by what the corporations want (or are content to allow).
Chris PD (Toronto)
@Mary Groth honestly, was I the only older person secretly cheering when kids were burning down Target two summers ago? I wish we'd done more of that when I was a kid.
Michael Kennedy (Portland, Oregon)
At 73 years old, I get so tired of Generation This or Generation That. When I was young there were great people who were my age, and there were also a lot of jerks. today there a lot of my peers who are great people and a lot of jerks as well. It's been like this for a long time. Pigeonholing people based on their age is far too easy. Let's focus on encouraging all generations to focus on kindness, on optimism, and on working for the advancement of all people.
J (NYC)
@Michael Kennedy As a student, I am also tired of it. It's all so exhausting. Kindness is a far better option.
KestrelFlight (Connecticut)
They're only a few years younger than my generation yet in all my encounters with them they are only *think* they are kinder than everyone else.
teresa (Eugene, Oregon)
@KestrelFlight Still, you are saying that they consider kindness to be a virtue, even if they fall short of it. That cannot be said of all people.
AgnosticGirl (USA)
Not all Gen Zs are individualistic and unaware of the world around them. Most Gen Zs I've come across are much kinder, more forgiving, and good listeners. Most comments here are condescending and reek of superiority.
Macrina (Seattle)
McKinsey, Bain, Goldman, BoA, et al are probably revising their job profiles after reading this to make sure they don't "exclude" these saintly types. Just kidding...
Miss Marple (New Zealand)
Look what happened to Ukraine when they were kind & got rid of all their weapons to appease Russia who fooled them that they were scared of NATO when the evidence shows that Putin was planning an invasion of Ukraine all along & wanted all of Ukraine. Kindness has caused many deaths in Ukraine. Being kind can kill you & doesn't protect you from not so kind people with evil intentions. Being kind is not good if you are being used for slave labour & exploited by lying, cunning people who see kindness as a weakness & an opportunity to steal off you or exploit you for their own selfish needs or beliefs. These kids have a lot to learn about human nature & life & are being sheltered from the real world by their parents who pay for everything. Be kind to yourself firstly as your own health should be your first priority. It is usually religious people looking to exploit other people, with other people's slave labour and money that want everyone to be kind. And people who are paid in government jobs who want everyone to be kind. It is a very abstract word, kindness. You'll find all the vultures and blood suckers in life hunting down kind people they can sponge off. Most religions are always kind with other people's money, including government money, never their own personal money. There are government departments that deal with dishing out money to people in need and also, not much good being kind to a pest or someone who's looking to exploit you or not good for your mental health.
teresa (Eugene, Oregon)
@Miss Marple "when they were kind & got rid of all their weapons to appease Russia" That has nothing to do with kindness or lack of kindness. It is a policy decision, made for political reasons. To conflate the two tells me you have an agenda and it does not include kindness.
Cronopio (California)
As the parent of an 18 year old, I'm not sure GenZ is "kinder". I see the same spectrum of behavior, from kind to deeply unkind, in my kid's peers as I see in other generations.
Chris (Colorado Springs)
Kindness and wisdom are not exclusive to any generation. To say that Gen Z is just kinder than all the generations that came before it is patently ridiculous. It's too easy to blame all the woes of the world on previous generations without looking at the real problem--the people in power. I recycle, compost and keep my carbon footprint as low as as a person possibly can living in an industrial country. Most people I know do the same, regardless of when they were born. But, the folks in power, the ones who manufacture the chemicals and the plastic and everything else that currently pollutes our environment, which in turn contributes to the changes in our climate, are the real culprits. Until they stop doing that and seriously start implementing cleaner energy alternatives regardless of the profit margins, what I and every other citizen on this planet does will have relatively little impact.
AMinNC (NC)
One HUGE difference between GenZ and previous generations is that they benefitted from an intentional focus on social/emotional learning in schools, in addition to the focus on academic learning. Students are now being taught how to identify and effectively deal with their emotions and to consider how their actions affect those around them. I'm a Gen-Xer and got NONE of that at school, and a lot of my classmates got none of that at home either. Students these days (including my two public-school-educated kids) are taught how to be "intelligent" about their emotions. Not surprised that we'd see dividends being paid on these investments in emotionally healthy children.
DVR (MD)
@AMinNC In other words we didn’t get therapy while at school. Probably would have been a nice perk.
Chris (Italy)
Their wishes to be just left alone and not be too bothered by government is a comment that everyone in previous generations has been making for years. Nothing new here. Sorry they think they have to identify themselves with what pronouns they use. I don't care what pronouns you use. To me you are a human being and I don't need pronouns to somehow identify you and "put you in a box". Are they kinder than previous generations? I don't know. Are the people running for office in both of the parties kinder than previous? Are the people in urban areas kinder than people in rural area? Who defines what kindness is and who determines who is kinder? Some individuals are kind and some are not. I don't see how we can assume any generation or group of people is kinder than others. See Mahatma Ghandi, Mother Teresa or Dalai Lama for kindness.
teresa (Eugene, Oregon)
@Chris If you honestly don't care what pronouns we use, then why all the heat around it?
John Tollefson (Banks Mtn NC)
We baby boomers protested against racism, for women's rights and the environment, and against war/money grubbing. What happened?
Joey (Upstate)
@John Tollefson moving to the burbs had a lot to do with it. An alienating form of life can really do a number on people.
Josh (SF)
The most interesting thing about comment sections on articles like this is how certain people are about their personal takes based on anecdotes and what they already want to believe. The lack of curiosity is a bummer, because this is an interesting question. Kindness and dates people are born are both measurable things. We can quantify these over time and see if the results follow a cohort or if they are a phase of life. Differences could be measurable, and more or less doesn't mean all. It means more or less, and how much that matters is a new question to examine. But it's wild to dismiss any possibility of difference, as that would mean that things like education, current events, national dialogue on how to treat others, and more have zero effect on how we develop and what we believe about society. It's just all fascinating. Let's be curious about finding out what's true.
RB (South)
Yes. They see the division and destruction wreaked by previous generations and want nothing to do with it. They are skeptical of authority but since when are young adults not?
Phil (Boston)
I'm a high school teacher, gen x myself. It is absolutely true that from a day-to-day, human generosity standpoint, gen Z is incredibly kind. No comment on their political views though.
Daniel (Florida)
@Phil Hello. Ditto. In behavioral terms it has seemed to me that the kids have been getting quieter, more compliant, less combative...and i work in what s considered, rightly or wrongly, a difficult school. My “folk interpretation” is that this may be a combo, among other things, of a reduction in the prevalence of sanctioned corporal punishment plus the instant gratification provided by the ubiquitous cell phone. In terms of politics i ve seen everything across the spectrum. But the overall attitude seems to be a quiet kind of libertarianism...”do what you want and i ll do what i want.“ Not a coherent social narrative but as long as they aren t thwarted in their plans they aren’t interested in telling others what to do.
John (San Jose)
Gen Z is not kinder at all, even to themselves. Their permanent connection to Instagram, et al, leaves them a highly factionalized with very little tolerance for views outside of their subgroup. Where do you think all these calls for mental health are coming from? With such large social circles that are outside of any adult oversight we have a generation lost in multiple virtual Lord of the Flies societies
Debra (Maryland)
Kinder? I just don't see it. I'm a retired nurse and what I see in hospitals and health care is disquieting and very sad. It is very difficult to cultivate empathy and compassion when you're not seeing and interacting with others in person. When most of your discourse and most of your hours in a day are spent on phones, narcissism and self-interest trumps kindness every time. Consider all the vileness and cruelty we see on social media. I also can't stop thinking about the childcare worker in Mississippi who terrified those very young children with a scream mask. On a positive note, I do know many young people who are great human beings. I just wish there were more of them.
Jean McK (Austin)
There are a lot of young conservatives out there as well. Don’t be fooled into thinking that all Gen Zers are progressive, just like not all Boomers are raving conservatives!
Joinery Piling Up (Charlottesville)
@Jean McK Seriously? I’m a liberal from way before you were born. Everyone I know is of similar persuasion, as are young people.
teresa (Eugene, Oregon)
@Jean McK One of the three interviewed was conservative. I am proof that you're right about Boomers.
Justanne (San Francisco, CA)
Selection bias. Everyone who agreed to appear on a panel for the NYTimes is kinder.
Mask Of Comedy/Tragedy (Northeast)
Also why so little main stream media coverage of Shiva Rajbhandari? His election to the school board in Boise is a very interesting story and should serve as a model for young people of how to get involved and start to create change. It is not enough to just be “kind” or whatever other adjective we put on them
Jason (Los Angeles)
@Mask Of Comedy/Tragedy Who? In Boise? Sounds provocative and indicative of the ethnic conflict inherent in multi cultures.
Boourns (New York City)
I’ve noticed aesthetic is fundamental for this particular generation. It’s all about the “vibe” but when you get down to brass tacks to discuss details, there’s a lot of deer in the headlights. I don’t necessarily blame them, since they’ve been rapidly fed style over substance, images and ad slogans over words and meaning, since birth—and that’s saying something considering my generation was raised in front of a cable TV set.
GariRae (California)
Statistically, GenZ, GenX, and Millennials dont vote, especially the liberal ones. With the disruption in civics education and the split-second expectations set by electronics, its understandable that they tend to eschew reading about the complexity of issues and the difficulty of governance. Still, they're lack of actual participation presents a risk of an Alt-right takeover of all levels of government. If the younger people dont vote in 2022, then 2022 could be the last unrigged election.
Joey (Upstate)
@GariRae a lot of it has to do with the groups you described being clustered in cities. There’s a lot less reason to vote if your side is already going to win. They moved to the cities so they aren’t out in rural areas, red states or the exurbs to contest against the alt-right. And why would they want to live there anyway? It’s not where they want to be.
Flaminia (Los Angeles)
If Gen Z vote at all they'll be distinguishing themselves from the young generations that have grown up around me during my 66 years. I voted as soon as I could but I was an outlier then and it only got worse in succeeding years.
Boomer Stu (Southeast US)
I'm a 60-something boomer (hence the handle), and I can't tell you if people of a certain birth era are kinder, smarter, more responsible or more tolerant. It varies by individual at any age. What I do believe is that the decisions made by leaders today will have a longer effect on those who are younger than on folks like me who have had our way for decades. That's why I wish my generation would back off and let the Millennials and Gen Zers take the lead with their interests in mind. It's going to be their world when we're gone and I think they deserve a say in it.
Boomer Stu (Southeast US)
@Brit Well, sure, though I'm not sure what's "fair" these days. Is it fair that my kids' generation can't afford college or a home as easily as I could? That the job market has them bouncing from place to place to earn what they need? That health insurance isn't affordable? Is it fair they've had to deal with multiple recessions, wars and a pandemic that gutted our economic and social landscape? I guess all generations face obstacles, though mine seemed to have fewer than those both older and younger. My point is, I've done fine and no longer need elected officials to cater to my specific needs. I'll pay a few more dollars if it's used to improve the quality of life for my future grandchildren (but using it for such, that's the catch, isn't it?)
Brit (B)
@Boomer Stu I'm fine with that as long as they don't tax away my success from decades of hard work in order to be "Fair". Because it isn't.
Get Busy Livin’ (Maine)
Good. Now take that kindness to the ballot box. As an almost 30 year old millennial, more of the young folks need to get out and vote. Otherwise, the 40-65 year old will decide politics (in an unfavorable direction). I still see way too many of my peers failing to consistently participate in elections.
Jean McK (Austin)
A lot of we reviled 40-65 year olds are behind the issues these kids are talking about - social justice, environmental protection, sustainable living, equal opportunities. And many, if not most, are moderate politically and not tied only to a party. Remember, we grew up with Walter Cronkite, Earth Day, Vietnam protests. That shared experience along with politicians who knew the importance of negotiating in good faith - and no social media - makes us the most politically active groups in terms of actually getting involved in political activities (not just writing stuff on social media). Quit pitting arbitrary age groups against each other and let’s get working together!
Chris PD (Toronto)
@Get Busy Livin’ bro the oldest Millennials are 40 now so let's just settle down with "40-65" ok?
Anthony (Washington State)
Is Gen Z kinder? That's a happy thought, but I'm pretty sure I can remember the Boomers of the 60's and 70's saying the same thing. Now many of them are stuck in the Trump/Q-anon bubble. Broad statements about millions of people are usually pretty vapid in the long term.
Jean McK (Austin)
Broad statements like that Boomers are committed to QAnon and Trump? Actually, in the last election, Gen Xers and Boomers were evenly split between the candidates. Millennials and Gen Z went more for Biden, but a lower percentage voted. We just need to stop the fiction that very disparate groups based on age all think alike!
Anthony (Washington State)
@Jean McK In point of fact, I wrote, "Now many of them are struck in the Trump/Q-anon Bubble." If, as you state, "half" of the Boomers voted for Trump, my statement is true. Furthermore, you're simply restating my opinion.
Joey (Upstate)
@Jean McK you’ve got your facts wrong there. The only age group trump ever won was over 60.
REBCO (FORT LAUDERDALE FL)
Gen Z have so much at stake in politics who decides who gets what and if they fail to vote while the 80 yr old all vote they have the ear of the politicians in charge.. They will be around for some 60 years while the 80 yr old may be around for a couple of years a big difference in deciding who gets what .
Ali (NYC)
Parent of Gen Z and Millennial here... Not seeing kindness especially and my kids also agree that their peers are not especially kind. Sure Gen Z may proclaim their support for social justice etc on social media, but in daily life doing the same stuff as everyone else.... LOL one of my Millennial kids thinks Boomers are the kindest.
Jean McK (Austin)
Well, given the Boomers are their grandparents, they probably are kinder than their peers a lot of the time!
hen3ry (Westchester, NY)
@Ali, on social media I would say that some of the rudest people are teens and young adults. It takes time to grow out of being petty, righteous, and overbearing. Some adults never manage to outgrow it.
jack (ny)
Lots of talk, very little action. The main reason the Republicans are eating the Dems lunch is voter turnout. If every young liberal voted, we would not be in this mess. I am not blaming anyone...it's just true
Joey (Upstate)
@jack the young liberals live in the blue cities and in the blue states… lots of them vote and their votes don’t amount to much because for some reason things like North Dakota having two senators will be with us forever.
Patrick (Portland)
"But with a history of low turnout, and disenchantment with politics across the spectrum, will young voters be moved enough by the issues to show up at the polls?" Nope.
Michael H (Oakland, CA)
The Argument is one of my favorite podcasts and I will listen to this episode while I walk my dog later this morning. I live in an area where the median age is in the low 30's. I am a happy go lucky senior with a lovable labradoodle. There are many, many Gen Z people in my area and they seldom look up from their phones to do the smallest acts of kindness like say hello or not let a door shut in someones face entering or exiting a business. I don't think they are looking at politics and looking to become involved. Being gentler and kinder starts with very small acts. Showing up and being dependable is also a trait. It's sad, but I am currently taken aback when these small acts happen. Putting your phone away is a good start. The pandemic and social media has not made Gen Z kinder and gentler.
Chris Pauls (Albuqueruque, NM)
Great episode. Best I’ve heard on this podcast. More like this please i.e. civil discourse from varied points of view. Loved the panel.
Missy (Texas)
Gen Z gives me hope for the world. I hope we see them running for office soon.
Mask Of Comedy/Tragedy (Northeast)
@Missy This is the the thing that needs to happen.
Jean McK (Austin)
The Boomers are the most active group politically, very many for progressive causes (remember Bernie?). That means active as in actually getting out and doing things in the community and beyond, politically, not just writing stuff on social media. I hope younger people start to get more active, but we’ll see.
Ken (Chicago Burbs IL)
@Missy The hippy's tried the same thing and look how they turned out.
magicisnotreal (earth)
We've been Balkanized by party, by state, by social class and now by birthday. Stop it already. E Pluribus Unum.
Don'tSellYourSoul (The World)
Maybe they have learned from what they grew up in and see in their own lives that the idiom 'greed is good' is a terrible governor for their lives, those of others, and the environment.
Kohl (Ohio)
The term that came to mind to me is naïve. Every view the 3 participants had was formed by exclusively focusing on the past 10 years or less. Kindness is a great attribute but this group is in for a rude awakening as it relates to geopolitics where not everyone wants to be your friend. The casual manner in which two of the participants said they were not worried about crime is a view only afforded to those that have been sheltered from crime.
teresa (Eugene, Oregon)
@Kohl It must be noted that repubs are using the issue of crime. Quite hammering at it, and saying it is the fault of the dems. Of course, just this morning we read herein that crime is worse in red states than blue, but then repubs don't go in for truth. I am not sheltered and I am not worried about crime, except for the crime of insurrection.
Mask Of Comedy/Tragedy (Northeast)
Age is just a number. And the same environment can create different responses in different people. In other words, lumping people together by age cohort seems to me to not be that insightful. There are two basic cohorts right now. Liberal or conservative. Each cohort consists of people of all different ages. The liberals I know across generations are kinder to a wider range of people. The conservatives I know are mostly kind to their own. So there is no shortage of kindness. It is just who is perceived as being worthy of kindness. Many memorable historical figures, Jesus, Gandhi, MLK Jr. had important things to say about kindness and who is deserving of kindness Teach your kids to be kind. Hate is taught
Jean McK (Austin)
My mom was a Democrat, my dad a Conservative and they were both kind and wonderful people. Getting to know and get along with people who don’t necessarily agree with you politically is important. Most people are kind when given a chance and not immediately labelled as some sort of villain. Sadly, though, it is the extreme minority who get the most air time.
Kohl (Ohio)
@Mask Of Comedy/Tragedy Reducing our society down to 2 cohorts is not helpful.
Chris (Midwest)
Young people are certainly kinder and more accepting. The sad truth is that much of the boomer generation have turned into bitter, angry old folks. It's sad to see and it certainly has a negatively impacted our culture and civility in general and politics in particular. As we age into our golden years, we have a choice. We can either reach out in kindness, compassion and yes, love, and make our communities and country a better place or we can become embittered, selfish and suspicious of those around us. Unfortunately, too many are choosing the latter path.
Johnny (Gee)
Reminds me of a great song, What’s so funny about Peace, Love & Understanding? .. Seriously, why are those concepts seemingly so alien these days?
milagro (chicago)
I teach and have more than a few try me in ways no Z-er did even five years ago. They just mess around and find out as is said in the politest terms. But when they’re sweet (and most are but not in a way that defines their generation; I see the meanest of all among boomers), they’re quite sweet. I’m a proud X-er. Ignored and fine with it. Taking care of aging and ill kin, watching folk overindulge and helicopter as parents and teachers, etc. And I still believe good happens. Just don’t label any one group. Even the boomers can — for a bit — stop thinking of themselves.
Jean McK (Austin)
Thanks for the weak nod to the Boomers. Most Boomers are not bitter and angry. We are, however, the most active group politically. When we get mad, we try to do something about it, not just post on social media.
milagro (chicago)
@Jean McK sorry, but that has not been my experience. And I’m married to a boomer who is sweet, politically engaged and as selfish as the lot. You’re usually trying to repair the mess your generation has made. And you live longer than any other group. There won’t be much left when you’re all done with the few resources we have left in this world.
milagro (chicago)
@Jean McK sorry, but that has not been my experience. And I’m married to a boomer who is sweet, politically engaged and as selfish as the lord. You’re usually trying to repair the mess your generation has made. And you live longer than any other group. There won’t be much left when you’re all done with the few resources we have left in this world.
juliet (alexandria)
The issues are on party lines.
Ted B (Prospect Heights)
Americans under 45 are more open to alternatives to capitalism. Extreme costs of living and looming climate disaster will do that to someone. Not to say that capitalism will be usurped, but that it makes sense to take collective responsibility for certain aspects of life (healthcare, green jobs) rather than leave it to the whims of shareholders.
Jean McK (Austin)
You mean, like the hippies? We’ll see what happens as they get out there. Hopefully, they will get active politically - as many of us did in the 60s and 70s. At least the Boomers started Earth Day, got the EPA formed, passed the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, protested the war in Vietnam, and invented solar panels and wind turbines, as well as the Internet.
ChrisW (DC)
@Ted B Capitalism gave them the leisure and income to rage against.
Hank (nyc)
low informed, and misinformed voters are a cross-generational issue. Plus a lot of people would welcome an autocratic government if it meant more money in their pocket and lower gas prices...
Carl! (NJ)
@Hank ... and that's terrifying.
ChrisW (DC)
@Hank Yep, we can’t trust the prols to vote in their best interests. Pure Marxism.
Eric (Philly)
Kinder - thats the problem with them. They should be angry - having to grow up with school shootings, a government unwilling to deal with climate change and gun control, their rights to same sex marriage being threatened, abortion rights being taken away, stagnant salaries, hight debt. Their biggest concerns seem to be getting more Tik-Tok followers. They better get angry and vote to make their future better before they lose the right to vote.
juliet (alexandria)
they expect too much of Democrats right now, often arguing neither is inspiring so why vote. Maybe we could do more if we had substantial majorities. Instead, they’ll let it go to the GOP. I’m not sure this is unique to Gen Z, but we need them to vote right now. The planet does.
Diana (Albuquerque)
@Eric Did any of these three mention TikTok? You can be angry and still be kind. It’s called fierce compassion.
Blarp (Seattle)
As a 39 year old "elder Millennial," let me give the Gen Z kids a bit of a preview of what's to come. First, they'll be articles like this piece, talking about how kind, empathetic, engaged, dynamic, multicultural, and motivated you all are. This might be the most promising generation yet, one to really solve America's problems! Wait 10-15 years. Then, all of a sudden, it'll be your fault that global warming is still raging, Capitalism is still broken, and national politics are still deadlocked. Only this time instead of blaming avocado toast it'll be your addiction to Twitch or TikTok or whatever scapegoat the media machine comes up with. Don't by into the hype. Sorting people by generations is a fool's errand. In every generation, everyone falls on the same bell curve. Some people are amazing, some are horrifying, but most are somewhere in the middle. Try to to better than we did, kids.
juliet (alexandria)
I’m 39, and guess what Gen Z, not voting is the opposite of helpful. You can’t be too idealistic right now, the planet is at stake. We have a shot at substantial climate legislation under Biden. Don’t let idiots who don’t understand the climate issue control our future. Please. We need your help.
Livonian (Los Angeles)
@Blarp Very early Gen Xer here. I have to say that your comment is absolutely accurate and hilarious. Time to stop defining people by "generations," or at least recognize that it's very hard to do so with much accuracy.
Mike (Rural NY)
A wise contemporary philosopher (Johnny Cash) said it best in 1970: What Is Truth (some lyrics omitted for posting, look them up) The old man turned off the radio Said, "Where did all of the old songs go? Kids sure play funny music these days They play it in the strangest ways" Said, "It looks to me like they've all gone wild It was peaceful back when I was a child" Well, man, could it be that the girls and boys Are trying to be heard above your noise? And the lonely voice of youth cries "What is truth?" A little boy of three sittin' on the floor Looks up and says, "Daddy, what is war?" "Son, that's when people fight and die" The little boy of three says "Daddy, why?" A young man of seventeen in Sunday school Being taught the golden rule And by the time another year has gone around It may be his turn to lay his life down Can you blame the voice of youth for asking "What is truth?" The young girl dancing to the latest beat Has found new ways to move her feet The young man speaking in the city square Is trying to tell somebody that he cares Yeah, the ones that you're calling wild Are going to be the leaders in a little while This old world's wakin' to a new born day And I solemnly swear that it'll be their way You better help the voice of youth find "What is truth?" And the lonely voice of youth cries "What is truth?"
Ziggy (PDX)
If they are indeed kind, they will vote in unprecedented numbers and secure a large Democratic majority in Congress.
ChrisW (DC)
@Ziggy Why?
teresa (Eugene, Oregon)
@ChrisW So we don't become a fascist nation, Chris.
Jeremiah Crotser (Houston)
The panelists were all remarkably politically engaged, which is its own kind of bias and doesn't necessarily represent the whole of the generational spirit. This is not to say that the kids in Gen Z who are politically engaged aren't shaping their generation's experience of the world--they are. And in the classes I teach, that political engagement has resulted in a marked shift toward a more progressive embrace of gender difference, especially. It is more than a little encouraging to see this kind of resistance, even if it requires me to get used to some names and pronouns I'm not used to. That being said, I found it dismaying that even among the progressive panelists, there just wasn't much discussion of class consciousness. One of the two progressives mentioned it a few times, the other outright dismissed it as unimportant. This in my view is very troublesome, and a strong indicator that whatever progressive moves are made by this generation, they may be as easily reversible as were those revolutionary gestures by the baby boomers once the 1980s came around. As the child of an anarchist mother and a self-identified hippie father, I saw the radicalism of their generation and came to embrace its spirit in a part of myself, but it's a spirit that can easily be crushed by the norms of economic self-interest. Without class consciousness, I fear that we may just be repeating a cycle I've already seen play out.
Kristen (Montana)
@Jeremiah Crotser thank you for this critical observation. Same on my college campus.
MK (California)
Understand that this is a small sample, but the voices of 20 somethings who never went to college are notably missing from the discussion?
Jp (Ml)
@MK :Take a look at some of the NYT's pieces on the housing crunch - folks with a budget of $600k for housing. When there's a discussion about young workers that includes voices from around the country, I've never seen them include friends of mine who work in maintenance at Little Caesar's Arena in Detroit. OTOH the Opinion piece authors seem to have no compunction for telling those folks how they should vote and the positions they should take on social issues.
Aaron (Orange County, CA)
@Jp Don't get me started on the weekly story of the hipster 20 something Vegan artist [with a life partner, usually a gig worker] on the hunt for an affordable studio apartment in Tribeca. Or the white financier [with a trophy wife] dressed in the latest urban casual- playfully arguing about the quality of their Lattes- while they discuss the trauma and anxiety of renovating their Manhattan Brownstone.
Diana (Albuquerque)
@MK Pretty sure a college dropout working in a union w/ a bunch of conservative folks counts.
Tom (Brooklyn)
I didn’t listen to this, but congratulations on the most hilarious headline of the year so far.
Mark (London)
Gen Z kind? Ha! Sure, they like to present themselves as virtuous and caring and kind, but their behaviour is often the exact opposite. (This isn't exclusive to Gen Z.) In my experience, the people most vocal on social media and in real life about things like climate activism, social justice and politics are usually the ones who are most unforgiving, most meanspirited, most vitriolic, most unkind. Sure, Gen Z are shaping politics, but it has nothing to do with "being kind".
Jp (Ml)
@Mark :The OK Boomer response is the equivalent of putting one's fingers in their ears and saying "I can't hear you.". No other points of view matter. We're it and that's that.
Mark (London)
@Jp "OK Boomer" is the exact kind of catchphrase that you would expect from Gen Z: a generation who are simultaneously sanctimonious about "inclusivity" yet ageist and reflexively meanspirited towards anyone who thinks differently from them. (And by the way, I'm not even close to being a boomer.)
Felicia (New Jersey)
@Mark I like the response "I was not alive when that happened"
GWE (Ny)
As the mother of two Gen Z, I’ve been saying this for a few years. Our kids are comfortable with their LGBTQ friends. Their friends have every racial profile you can think of….that’s how they grew up, they think nothing of it. More than just mingling with kids from the same society economic background, they’re open to friendships with anyone. They are kinder. They feel they are the stewards of a planet we’ve killed. They’re the only grownups in the room.
B. (Brooklyn)
If kindness is the same as giving bad behavior a pass, then, hmm. Who is that commenter on these pages who dismisses opinions inimical to his own with "Okay, Boomer"? Nice guy. Thoughtful too. And kind.
EP (Utah)
My Gen Z daughter is definitely kinder, and more involved. She’s been to a number of anti-Trump rallies, she gave a lot of her summer job money to Planned Parenthood. And while I hate republicans, she merely dislikes their beliefs. But every time I read about an angry incel doing something violent, that incel is usually Gen Z. The white men of Gen Z are not like the others.
AKJersey (New Jersey)
This election will be determined by young women who register and vote for Democrats in large numbers, on the issue of abortion rights.
Robert Weisbrod (Salida Colorado)
Maybe they could stop wishing and start voting in all elections. If you are part of the 100 million who will not vote than you are the “problem”.
El Dano (Reedy Creek)
Your problem will be that the sharp, articulate and engaged will always be outnumbered by the ignorant, spiteful and easily duped…whom you failed to interview.
Mike H (Baton Rouge, LA)
I completed my degree part-time as an adult—starting around 2009 and graduating in 2017. During that time I had the opportunity to get to know a lot of the older Gen Z'ers. Without fail, they were kind and good people, like the millennials that preceded them and the Gen X'ers (such as myself) that came even earlier. What I felt the most was an attitudinal shift from the baby boomers (he who dies with the most toys wins). The younger generations aren't quite as obsessed with accumulation and the perception of status and power. It's a much-needed shift in our politics.
A.M. Holli (Colorado)
@Mike H 100% agree. I find the angry commenters funny and wonder if they are baby boomers who don't want any threats to their cultural comfort and accumulated wealth. I prefer the Gen Z people I have in my life very much to my spoiled and entitled baby boomer parents.
Kevin (DC)
The Washington Post just had an interview with a Gen Z Pittsburgh voter. She said she cares about the environment, women's rights, and inequality. She then said she would be voting for Dr. Oz because we need to "shake things up." The idea that this generation is somehow going to "save" us is a myth that needs to die. Gen Z can be just as ill-informed as any other generation (they also read the least amount of books and spend the most hours on smartphones and social media according to Pew).
spiritplumber (san rafael)
Disenchantment or disenfranchisement? Some states keep making it harder and harder for young people to vote, especially if they are attending university.
patrick l (FL)
I am a young 63 year old man and with all due respect there is so many sanctimoniousness, pessimistic, narcissistic, and judgemental comments from the "so called wiser generation". I don't have children by choice but I believe in investing time listening to our young people, being interested in and encouraging them. If you truly listen to them and allow them to express their inner feelings and thoughts without demeaning know it all interruption you might just experience their kindness and inner character.
WillDaBeast (DC)
Couldn’t agree more with you. This sampling of 10 incredibly critical and judgmental commenters is far more disheartening to me than anything negative we could say about GenZ. The bitterness in these comments is revealing of the commenters’ place and situation in American society, not the kindness and potential of GenZ.
Ron Scrimshaw (USA)
@patrick l Of course we have to "listen to our young people." Also our old people. Also our middle-aged people. Also everyone else. That's the point. Nobody has a monopoly on kindness, sensitivity, tolerance, character, wisdom, idealism, rationality, etc. (As far as who'd doing the interrupting and demeaning, I've learned just to keep my mouth shut at work for fear of "offending" someone with a completely benign statement. My colleagues and I have gotten the message enough times that we're too old and decrepit to understand anything. So much for kindness.)
Ken (Chicago Burbs IL)
@patrick l We can also observe their actions and then experience their lack of kindness and inner character.
Charles (Princeton)
It's not the first time young people are praised to the sky for no reason whatsoever. The very fact that they don't care to vote tells me of irresponsibility of that generation. I know many young people in that age group who will spend a lot of time on Netflix and social media, but wouldn't take 10 minutes to register to vote. They claim they want to prevent climate change and blah blah on big things, but unwilling to do the minimal amount of work or vote. That is irresponsibility.
hen3ry (Westchester, NY)
@Charles, I couldn't vote the year I turned 18 (1976) because my birthday came after election day that year. I have made sure to vote in every state and federal election since then. I registered to vote via absentee ballot when I was in college. Back then people weren't as suspicious of absentee voting or people voting in general. Nowadays I feel as though I need to bring my birth certificate to prove that I was born here and have the right to vote. Most adults do not understand the importance of voting, of being polite, of being patient. I have seen adults of every age displaying behavior that is inappropriate, immature, and definitely disgraceful. Trump continues to be a prime example. I have been told by many adults to get lost (using 4 letter words), to shut up, to mind my own business, or that I must be a Trump supporter, a liberal, etc. Why? I have asked them to follow safety rules, to stay on a path in a public place, not to litter. If there's one thing many adults in the USA do well, it's rude.
DL (Colorado Springs, CO)
@hen3ry Even kids don't like unsolicited advice
Mike (Rural NY)
“ But with a history of low turnout, and disenchantment with politics across the spectrum, will young voters be moved enough by the issues to show up at the polls? And if so, will there be enough of them to sway decisive races?” ‘No’ and ‘no’ to the questions posed. Unfortunately.
Adam Weissman (Baltimore, MD)
Bring on the litany of "older but wiser" comments extolling the virtues of complacency. Tom Marks, for example, writes "we all once had ideological goals we thought would change the world, but that eventually had to take the back seat to making sure the bills were paid, food was on the table and our children were safe and happy. We all once had existential fears about ourselves, our community and our country, but all those turned out to be more resilient and adaptable than we thought. " Perhaps he missed this: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/10/26/climate/un-climate-pledges-warming.html People said the same sort of thing to me when I was a teenager. I knew it was nonsense then and three decades later, my opinion hasn't changed. The hackneyed "older and wiser" cliches we inherited from our parents and them from theirs and so on are little more than a shameful abrogation of responsibility to future generations. The world Gen Z and their children will inherit will leave little room for such comforting chestnuts and our use of them in place of a commitment to act will be partly to blame. I'm far, far less optimistic than I was three decades ago, now grappling with an unshakable sense that all we do to avert catastrophe may be for naught. But I've gained no "wisdom" that drives me to find comfort in complacency. I strongly suspect that people who say things like this weren't the ones committed to progressive social change and acting upon that commitment in their young anyway.
LE (ca)
I agree with you, sadly, most people will rationalize whatever behavior requires the least work for them. It is amazing to see that ‘we’ just continue to use up all our tomorrows as quickly as we can, the future generation(s) will suffer.
Adam Weissman (Baltimore, MD)
If you were engaged in the fight and still are, you're not who this comment is talking about, but I can't imagine why someone fighting for social justice would want to belittle transgender people's fight for respect. Not only does this contradict the values you've fought for, but it's a needlessly divisive stance that plays in the right's divide and conquer agenda on behalf of the ultra-wealthy.
Myrtle Crepe (USA)
@Adam Weissman I'm 55 years old. I've put my you-know-what on the line for social, racial, and economic justice all my life. Don't tell me my confrères and I haven't "acted upon that commitment in their young." We have. And we're now being told that because we're "old" we don't understand anything and have nothing to offer, and that every other word that comes out of our mouths is wrong. Gee, how foolish we must be to think that affordable housing, a living wage, healthcare for all, gross income inequality, the war machine, and various other societal issues are more important than pronouns.
TS Macadangdang (USA)
Every generation thinks it's smarter, abler, more committed, more aware, better than the one before it. Young people have always rolled their eyes at their elders, since the dawn of time. Always have, always will. The only thing new here is the imputation of more kindness to Gen Z. Now it's my turn to roll my eyes.
Tom Marks (USA)
Listened to this episode just now. These are clearly some sharp, engaged, articulate kids…they just haven’t been adults very long. We all once had ideological goals we thought would change the world, but that eventually had to take the back seat to making sure the bills were paid, food was on the table and our children were safe and happy. We all once had existential fears about ourselves, our community and our country, but all those turned out to be more resilient and adaptable than we thought. This has been a cycle since time immemorial and I’m glad to see the optimism and energy of youth still exists. But to hold these characteristics of Gen Z as something new or different only highlights our naïveté and frustration. Once these kids get older, have been through several election cycles and seen the impact of human nature on well-intentioned policy, the cycle will start anew.
hen3ry (Westchester, NY)
I'm nearly 64. I've watched a couple of generations being praised to the skies as they came of age or moved past their teen years. The language used was almost identical. As these voters got older they developed many of the same attitudes earlier generations developed. I think it has to do with how society works here and elsewhere. Young people are dynamic, have energy, and think they are going to change things. Older people, who have more life experience, aren't as willing to move quickly or change things that work without looking at some of the ramifications. As to kindness, I haven't seen much of that in any generation in America. Then again, I have autistic brother so I've gotten see the intolerance up close and personal. Being a lesbian and Jewish I've had to deal with other forms of ignorance and intolerance. The only difference I've seen is that social media allows the vitriol a wider audience in a few hours as opposed to a few days. And Gen Z is no different than any other generation when it comes to that.
Liz (Indiana)
Let's not be naive here. Younger people have less to lose personally by singing Kumbayah and saying they're voting for the good of humanity and making nice with everyone. Let me know how they're voting in ten to fifteen years, then we can discuss the relative 'niceness' of generations.
Vince (NJ)
@Liz They will probably be voting to undo all the nonsense the gerontocracy that's currently in charge is focused on. Can't last forever.
Ken (Chicago Burbs IL)
@Vince Of course they won't. As stated in other comments, they'll have bills to pay and the fear of global warming will fade because it will become our reality. They'll vote like every other generation has, split down the middle.
lars (vt)
@Liz "Younger people have less to lose personally ..." I assume you're not factoring climate-related crises into that statement (which, furthermore, begs a question I won't ask). If you are, I don't know how you reached that conclusion.
Matthew (Avalon)
Low turnout among 29somethings goes back over 60 years, to when the oldest boomers were first eligible to vote. It has a lot to do with unsettled lives and poor ballot access, and very little to do with disinterest.
George S (New York, NY)
@Matthew Poor ballot access? I think that's an awfully broad determination for the whole generation, at least to any meaningful degree. It's more of the usual, lack of sufficient motivation to vote, just as it has been for prior generations.
RamS (New York)
I agree, at least all the young people I know are some of the nicest and compassionate folks. They are very conformist though maybe because of that, and that I don't think is healthy, but overall, they are nice, way more than I was at their ages.
Mary T (VA)
I taught this age group. The last group I had would now be 24. They were all entirely accepting of one another and their differences. My school was very diverse: rich, poor, African American, Indian, Pakistani, immigrants from Central America, and a small community from Bulgaria. They met announcements of gender exploration with a shrug. One group of seniors showed daily acts of kindness to one another. Once we stopped class to catch and release a mouse. I was grateful to have these memories as I retired rather than the many pressures we were placing on children that affected their mental health through misguided policies around testing and increased post secondary costs. Mostly, I thought they were too polite, given what schooling had become. We really must do better.
Sunspot (Concord, MA)
@Mary T My experience exactly.
MBK (East Coast)
@Too Old Now and Mary T These two comments make me feel hopeful. Thank you.
Nathan (Portland)
@Mary T I think the fact that these kiddos has been raised in a toxic political environment of our (old peoples') making, has allowed them to see the absurdity of hyper-partisanship in a way that we're (old people) are blind too.
george r (London)
Lest we forget, Gen Z also includes the bigoted young men who marched in the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville back in 2017. Many also stormed the Capitol last year. No generation has a monopoly on virtue. The parents of Gen Z, the Boomers, are the biggest sellouts I can think of. Gen Z's almost uncritical acceptance of social media and tech in general -- it's just part of the furniture; they were born into it -- means they've already been bought.
MK (California)
@george r GenZ (especially those under 20) is most likely to have GenX parents. Given that, I expect this generation to be more practical and independent rather than pledging allegiance to any specific political party. Millennials are the children of Boomers. Enough said.
Lrs (Union NJ)
@george r to clarify, the parents of Gen Z are us, Gen X.
Mike (Rural NY)
@george r “ The parents of Gen Z, the Boomers, are the biggest sellouts I can think of.” Think harder.
FunkyIrishman (member of the Liberal majority)
Actually in the last couple of election cycles, the number of young voters taking part in the process has been historic. The overall numbers have been historic. Maybe that is part of the ''backlash'' as those that have benefited from privileges of all sorts for so long are realizing that they are not going to be in control for very much longer. The voting patters are changing along with the tide in demographics. This is why the clampdown (mainly from the extreme right) on voting rights has been so fierce. This is why other rights are being taken away. Sure GenZ care about a lot of the same issues, but there are more important ones, like bodily autonomy, peace, the environment to name a few. Millions upon millions are coming on to the voting rolls, and if they all participate as one, then there is nothing we cannot do.
Felicia (New Jersey)
@FunkyIrishman There has been record voter turnouts, Georgia is good example.
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