You’ve heard the stories about Millennials; we’ve been described as anything from the lazy generation who want everything now, to the generation that's saving the planet. Now, Kiwi Millennials have been able to share their own views in a worldwide study called ‘Generation What?’ If you haven’t heard of it, Generation What is a massive, comprehensive survey (backed by some of the world’s largest broadcasters) attempting to develop a snapshot of an international generation - and I was lucky enough to take part. Starting in France in 2010, it's become a global phenomenon, surveying many general topics and answered by as diverse demographic as you’ll find, with a focus on youth opinions on everything from politics to relationships and activism to anarchy. This is the first time the 170 question project has been conducted in the Asia Pacific region and I thought it was fantastic that disabled youth had so much opportunity to be involved. By looking at the results on their website, I’ve found it really interesting to see the differences in opinion by age, country, gender and disability, because it provides an insight into the minds of young people like me!
And now the findings have been published, it’s surprising looking back at my own responses. I took the survey nearly a year ago and didn’t realise just how much my own opinion would shift over time.
But can I be all that surprised in my answers, given how many questions there were? I’ll admit that like so many in my generation, I turned to Friends, a popular TV show of my generation and a source of inspiration in dealing with life’s issues.
In a scene where Joey can’t make up his mind about which route to take, Phoebe offers an approach that helps him get the most accurate answer. It’s simple, “clear your mind, breathe and answer the first thing that comes to you.”
So I did. And while it worked beautifully for the most part, I find myself looking back at some of my answers and challenging my own thinking.
“Do you think there are too many rich people?” I answered a very confident YES! I’ve thought about this a little longer and realised there can’t be too many rich people - the issue is there are too few people without enough money.
There can’t be too many rich people because actually, not many people are rich. The overwhelming majority of people in New Zealand cannot afford excessive luxuries in life. Rather, it’s the small minority at the top hoarding their wealth, which affects the less fortunate most. I’ve been challenged in my views on that answer, especially for the disabled community. How many of us actually sit in that top percent?
The project was created to visualise a snapshot in time, reflecting how people feel at that very second. I know that’s true for me and the thoughts in my head that morning, but I was surprised to see my ideas are more dynamic than I’d like to think, and I have a feeling most people evolve over time too.
Generation What aimed to include a diverse demographic and I was glad I had the opportunity to represent my disability, although surprisingly I didn’t get to answer any questions from that perspective. When I was answering the questions I wasn’t thinking about my disability, I was just a dude answering questions. I learned I don’t really see myself as disabled first, but rather an individual with many intersecting identities.
"I learned I don’t really see myself as disabled first, but rather an individual with many intersecting identities."
Overall, I was excited to be involved because I believe representation for disability is important. Having our voices heard encourages others within the disability community to speak. In the video, I answer the questions on my bed with my wheelchair very conspicuously placed in the foreground. I wonder how many people will actually connect the dots!
What I think this survey has done well is confirm how complicated and diverse our world is. Even within ourselves, we have the capacity to change our own opinions and nothing is black and white.
However, this project is the best we can do at generalising the attitudes of young people today. What I took away from being involved in Generation What is that by collaborating with others you can open your mind to other people’s opinions which in turn, can influence you. In essence, don’t forget to think about others!
The survey component of this project is still running and if you’d like to have your say on topics that matter, check it out here.