Spreading FUD leads to paralysis – if there is no agreed truth, no agreed common ground, then there is no basis for collective actions. The people fanning the flames of FUD know this very well, and if their target groups don’t learn the same lesson, nothing will change.
And how about the politicians? Over recent years, politicians, in many parts of the world have dismissed the type of youth activism best characterised by Greta Thunberg, because as children these protesters didn’t yet have a vote. But what now that Greta has turned 18 and she can vote? Greta and her fellow campaigners can sign onto the electoral roll and their views won’t be so easy for politicians to disregard, assuming they can be persuaded to vote.
In too many parts of the world, where voting isn’t compulsory, turnout can be as little as 30% of those eligible to vote. The perceived lack of alternatives to the mainstream political parties, who are seen to be invested in the status quo, leads to voter apathy. Populist alternatives can trigger change, when they ‘hit a nerve’, such as Podemos did in 2014 in Spain. Sustaining such movements has so far not been successful, because they have not yet been able to offer an alternative vision of society that sufficient voters are happy to engage with. Gen Z (together with parts of Gen Y) can change that, but they will have to come up with a new narrative, outside the simplistic left/right and capitalism/socialism categories favoured for the last 150 years; similarly they will need to be more nuanced than old/young.
It is both an exciting and daunting time to be a young adult.