Sometimes we feel a twinge of envy when we hear our parents’ romantic stories about protesting the Vietnam War or fighting for social justice and civil rights, but those stories usually end by comparing their idealism with our generation’s supposed individualism, self-absorption and apathy. That’s not only unfair but untrue. We are neither less energetic nor less idealistic. We simply dream in a different language.
Here is what really sets apart the current generation from previous ones: to make their dreams come true, our parents relied on collective action and political mobilization; we place a greater priority on individual effort and cyber networking.
In Latin America, our parents witnessed the rapid social change that came with the state-led industrialization of the 1950s and 1960s. They worried that the Cold War would trigger a nuclear holocaust. The outrageous inequalities between urban and rural life, or between bourgeois neighborhoods and the ring of shantytowns surrounding fast-growing cities, sparked an acute sense of injustice. They fell under the spell of Ché Guevara-like revolutionaries and paid for their political involvement with repression under thuggish military regimes. We were born while enduring the economic hardships of the “lost decade” but were raised with better standards of living in the relative economic stability of the last 15 years.
We certainly admire our parents. In comparison to theirs, our childhood was easy.
This story of slow but tangible progress brings a sense of moral responsibility that we must embrace: the preservation and expansion of a prosperous and inclusive society. Latin America is witnessing unprecedented middle-class growth. Today we encounter more opportunities than any previous generation but certainly not enough to satisfy the expectations bred by this progress. Our generation enjoys the highest levels of schooling ever attained. We have education, talent, energy, and ambition. Let’s see if society is ready to invite in our generation.
We have shaped our identity with tools never available before: the Internet allows for the proliferation of specific interests, instantaneous communication among peers around the world and widely-available information at scales never previously imagined. Needless to say, collective action has reinvented itself...
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