Tra i Leoni n. 94,
“This issue will be entirely dedicated to us, Generation Z”, our editorial director writes. The next articles will showcase our generation, its interests, strengths, and fragilities, how it is seen by others. Welcome to Tra i Leoni n. 94. You can either read it in PDF (here) or in a web-based, interactive version (below, you just need to scroll!). You can also download it at this link.
Like it? Then, don’t forget to share it with your friends!
Table of Contents
Francesca Sofia Cocco
Paolo Barone, Marco Visentin
Social Media Managers
Fabio Di Fabbrizio, Linda Fasoli, Katya Mavrelli, Filippo Menozzi
Gabriele Bernard, Daniela Castro, Mathilde Dansereau, Anna Druda, Cecilia Gadina, Julia Galusiakowska, Sara Gobetti, Sergiu Lazar, Tommaso Leante, Eman Maan, Enrico Marani, Jerzy Różycki, Liepa Seskeviciute, Cansu Süt, Emma Velasquez Mariucci, Bojan Zeric
I know… This year has been tough for everyone. But this issue will be entirely dedicated to us, Generation Z, and here is why.
On the 22nd of February 2020 – which seems by now an entirety ago – we Bocconiani were subtracted our habits, our normality. Suddenly, the freedom we had achieved with such an effort had vanished. One year ago, on the 8th of March, all of Italy was put under lockdown. Then, after a summer in which we thought we could finally come back to pre-coronavirus times, we experienced an even worse feeling.
Our lives in these months have been hanging by a thread. In September/October we were back in Milan, seeing our friends after months and months of FaceTiming. Then, lockdown came, again.
As I write this Editorial, one of our team members is stuck, quarantining in a Bocconi student residence, and Lombardy is supposed to revert to Orange Zone again after a few weeks of Yellow. Another victory – going to restaurants and freely moving around the city- may disappear again.
I will say it once for all: we Gen Zers are suffering this virtual reality, and the constant stress and fear of having the little things we care about subtracted from our lives, at any moment. You will get the chance to read more about this in the articles by Filippo and Marco.
Luckily, we can count on the power of words – written words. We can make our feelings flow through them as Linda does in the poem closing this issue.
If I look back at the past year, I proudly admire the rise of our newspaper. Our creativity flourished, more than ever, while stuck at home. We had some important achievements: a new editorial strategy, a more international and cohesive team, but, most importantly, we covered many developments from our unique standpoint as Bocconi students.
We are eager to know what happens in the world surrounding us: this genuine curiosity is what drove, for instance, Emma and Katya, two BIG students, to depart from their field and discover how Gen Z interacts with investments and marketing.
However, we do not only want to be informed; we also want to participate in the events and have an impact on them. I could not help but notice this – which is among Gen Zers’ unique traits, discussed by Anna and Cansu in the next pages – while poking around our website to discover and learn more about our past as a newspaper, as soon as I became Editorial Director at the start of this semester.
Each of our writers has a special view of the world and a unique passion driving them. Each of us has our interests, be it history like Fabio or finance like Sergiu, sustainability like Mathilde or politics like Gabriele, or even music like Bojan.
Each of us has our dream to pursue. Bringing sustainable education to marginalized communities is the one o the 20-year-old climate activist Kehkashan Basu, whom Daniela had the chance to interview. Preserving the freedom to express our thoughts with independent media is the fight occurring today in Poland. Julia, together with Paolo, interviewed her compatriot Agata, the president of the Bocconi Polish Student Society, to discuss the consequences of this backlash in democracy. From one side to the world to the other, however, we all fight for the protection of human rights, as Eman tells us in her article.
So, this is how the idea for this issue was born. Let’s celebrate us Gen Zers and our incredible self-motivation to change the world.
Entrepreneurial spirit in Gen Z
The importance of entrepreneurship has been growing, yet does Generation Z possess the necessary skills and qualities to become successful entrepreneurs? The author examines the relevant research and discusses the results.
Nolan Bushnell tells it all in one sentence: “The true entrepreneur is a doer, not a dreamer.”
Deriving from the French verb entreprendre (to undertake), an entrepreneur is a person who starts, manages, and bears the risks of a business. We know that this word has been in use in English since at least the mid-18th century to refer to a kind of businessman. By the early 20th century, however, “entrepreneur” had gone beyond its original sense and become connotative of innovation, farsightedness, and progressiveness. In the 21st century, a period marked by technological progress and creative destruction at an unprecedented speed, these qualities are more crucial than ever for societies to keep up with the pace of change, hence ensuring sustainable economic growth and a high quality of life.
A relevant question is whether the new generation is sufficiently innovative, farsighted, and progressive to make use of opportunities and turn ideas into production and thus, prosperity. Unfortunately, there seems to be very little research on how “entrepreneurial” Generation Z is. In 2017, a study by Şebnem Ensari on the differences among generations regarding entrepreneurial potential was published in the Research Journal of Business and Management. Ensari surveyed 532 individuals who answered a questionnaire measuring entrepreneurial potential. The factors affecting entrepreneurial potential were extroversion healthy communication skills, self-confidence, need for success, desire for independence, risk-taking tendency, and locus of control. She concluded that Generation Z (individuals born after 1995) has lower entrepreneurial potential compared to Baby Boomers (born 1945-1965) and Generations X (1966-1979) and Y (1980-1995), as the mean scores of Generation Z were lower than those of other generations for all factors considered.
The results of this study should be interpreted with caution because the respondents were chosen by convenience sampling, in which individuals are arbitrarily sampled by researchers, usually in terms of ease of reach. While it is a cost-effective method of sampling that increases ease of research, convenience sampling may yield a sample which does not represent the population accurately, unlike random sampling each individual in the relevant population has an equal and nonzero chance of being selected for the sample. A replication of the study at hand using random sampling methods would generate more robust and plausible results.
Another issue with the presented result is that there might be a relation between the factors deemed essential for entrepreneurship and age or professional experience. This is a cross-sectional study, which means it makes use of data collected at a specific point in time. When this study was conducted, the majority of Generation Z were students, Generation Y were in their mid-career stage, Generation X were in their mid-career and late-career stages, and Baby Boomers were either in the declining stage of their career or in the late-career stage or retired. It is possible that qualities such as self-confidence, communication skills, locus of control, etc. may be increasing or improving or being consolidated with age and seniority, independent of generations. A similar study using panel data, which is data collected from the same individuals over a period of time, would demonstrate generational effects on entrepreneurship freed from age and seniority effects, yet such data would have to be collected over 30-40 years for meaningful results, which would be quite costly in terms of both time and effort.
Given the problems with the study discussed and the lack of research on the entrepreneurial tendencies of Generation Z, there seems to be no strong reason to believe that Generation Z is less inclined to entrepreneurship. On the contrary, there are several reasons to believe in the opposite. First of all, when we look at the US, we see that the number of business establishments less than 1 year old has been on the rise since 2010. This means that Generation Z has many examples in front of them to learn and draw inspiration from when it comes to entrepreneurship. Moreover, the COVID-19 crisis has made the inadequacies in many sectors evident. As the economic turmoil dissolves, the dynamic and enthusiastic Generation Z will have the opportunity to create solutions to the problems they have identified through fresh enterprises. According to a recent study by Nielsen, 54% of Generation Z already would like to start their own company. Hence, all older generations need to do is to encourage and guide Generation Z in their quest for innovation, as we are already quite thirsty for creation and exploration!
La Generazione Z attraverso gli occhi degli altri
Un’indagine condotta a partire da articoli di attualità ci porta ad osservare dall’esterno la nostra generazione: quali i pregi, i difetti e soprattutto quali i luoghi comuni?
La Gen. Z non ha bisogno di presentazioni: siamo noi, i nati tra il 1995 e un momento non precisato dei primi anni Duemila, alcuni dicono 2005, altri 2010 o addirittura 2012.
Secondo la scienza, una generazione rappresenta l’arco di tempo necessario a che degli esseri viventi ne producano altri della stessa specie: per il genere umano si aggira intorno ai venti o trent’anni.
In sociologia, si definisce “generazione” un insieme di persone che è vissuto nello stesso periodo ed è stato esposto agli eventi che l’hanno caratterizzato: essa raggruppa gli individui segnati dagli stessi accadimenti, dal fatto di condividere un sistema valoriale e una prospettiva sul futuro. Alla luce di ciò una generazione è nettamente definibile solo a posteriori, quando la sua influenza sulla storia e nella società è terminata ed è dunque valutabile nel suo insieme.
Per Hume, uno dei maggiori empiristi britannici del diciottesimo secolo, basta un battito di ciglia a determinare il passaggio da una generazione alla successiva. Complice la velocità a cui si aggiorna la tecnologia e – con essa – il modo di vivere della società, oggi le parole di Hume sono più attuali che mai ed è questa l’ottica da cui partire: l’evoluzione è rapida e continua.
Capita di frequente di imbattersi in articoli che tentano analisi della nostra generazione e paragoni tra questa e le precedenti: è un esercizio particolarmente interessante prendere contezza di come la società, nella sua componente non-Gen. Z, veda e definisca quelle che a suo parere sono le nostre caratteristiche principali e distintive.
“La nostra gioventù ama il lusso, è maleducata, se ne infischia dell’autorità e non ha nessun rispetto per gli anziani. I ragazzi di oggi sono tiranni. Non si alzano in piedi quando entra un anziano, rispondono male ai genitori…” si tratta di un pensiero attribuito a Socrate, il filosofo greco vissuto quattro secoli prima di Cristo.
Si coglie qui come l’atteggiamento critico e poco comprensivo nei confronti dei giovani sia quasi connaturato all’uomo divenuto adulto. Che sia a ragione o a torto è difficile dirlo… Come spesso accade, è probabile che la verità stia nel mezzo.
Tutto considerato, la descrizione complessiva che viene fatta della nostra generazione è soddisfacente: ci vengono attribuite peculiarità lusinghiere e qualche stereotipo, che deriva per lo più da una visione delle cose semplicistica, più che semplice. Ho raccolto per voi qualche esempio che ci consenta
Uno tra tutti attiene al nostro essere “nativi digitali”: i “bambini Z avevano i puzzle sul cellulare di papà ed emettevano i primi suoni davanti allo smartphone, in chiamata con la nonna.”
La maggioranza di noi è perfettamente a suo agio con questo tipo di tecnologia, è vero. Tuttavia, quando eravamo bambini, un cellulare conteneva al massimo un paio di giochi, rigorosamente in bianco e nero e, Ritorna alla mente il pensiero di Hume: forse, tra i nati nella seconda metà degli anni Novanta e chi ha dieci anni di meno sono intercorsi un paio di battiti di ciglia, dunque meglio non generalizzare.
Segue questa linea la percezione stereotipata che ci vede “ricorrere a Internet per tutto, e lì imbibirsi di tutorial. Gli youtuber sono i loro maestri, sono autentici guru, che esercitano un’autorità sul loro pubblico e ne caratterizzano lo stile di vita.”
Ancora, la realtà non è proprio questa: di certo siamo consci delle enormi potenzialità del web, ma accompagniamo la curiosità ad uno spirito critico, allenato proprio dall’abbondanza e varietà di stimoli che riceviamo – pregio che alcuni riconoscono come distintivo della nostra generazione – e che ci trattiene dal considerare “maestri” coloro che creano contenuti multimediali.
In altre parole, una delle maggiori misconception che caratterizza la visione dei più adulti verso di noi è proprio questa: pur rivolgendoci molto ad internet, ne conosciamo i limiti, non abbiamo reverenzialità nei confronti dei contenuti che incontriamo sul web, li mettiamo in dubbio, li confrontiamo, per prassi. Ciò accade proprio per il massiccio utilizzo che ne facciamo. Sappiamo come muoverci: in questo senso siamo effettivamente nativi digitali.
In sintesi, il mero fatto di aver “letto su internet” una qualsiasi affermazione non le da, ai nostri occhi, un’autorità particolare: è da verificare, da capire, come lo è una voce di corridoio.
Ancora, una rubrica che suggerisce metodi “per attrarre la Generazione Z” avverte: “Non contare sulla loro lealtà. La Generazione Z sembra essere un gruppo di consumatori opportunisti, molto più di chi li ha preceduti. Sempre più alla ricerca dell’occasione o dell’esperienza migliore, non amano essere vincolati e desiderano controllo e personalizzazione. Riuscire a ottenere la loro lealtà sarà una vera sfida per i brand.” Se il consumatore che cerca l’occasione o l’esperienza migliore è opportunista, auguriamoci di esserlo tutti, in tal senso: chi mai continuerebbe ad acquistare i prodotti che ha sempre scelto, sapendo che potrebbe trovarne di migliori, di meno costosi o di più adatti alle proprie esigenze? Che si tratti di spirito critico, di capacità di fare ricerche o di non spingerà i brand che vogliono fidelizzare la Gen. Z ad evolversi, migliorarsi sempre e superarsi, la qual cosa pare tutt’altro che negativa.
Dulcis in fundo… “la iGeneration, cioè, sarebbe la prima per cui la distinzione tra online e offline, tra vita reale e vita virtuale ha perso di senso e, ancora, la prima a vivere costantemente online.” Tralasciando i neologismi che aprono e chiudono la frase, affermazioni come questa rischiano di alimentare l’idea di un gap generazionale enorme e ad immaginarsi una gioventù che invece di servirsi e sfruttare le potenzialità della tecnologia, ne è assuefatta e dipendente, alienata dalla realtà.
A onor del vero, ci vengono riconosciuti anche pregi notevoli: attenzione all’ambiente, altruismo, spirito imprenditoriale, indipendenza e una forte consapevolezza relativa all’importanza del benessere fisico e mentale, obiettivi equilibrati e attenzione alle relazioni interpersonali.
Abbracciando la prospettiva che vede definibile una generazione soltanto a posteriori, ci auguriamo di confermare le peculiarità positive che fin d’ora ci vengono attribuite, ove possibile superando le aspettative. Speriamo poi, soprattutto, di essere capaci di dimostrare che gli stereotipi, tra cui quelli che abbiamo visto, non ci definiscono e non ci appartengono: ecco non soltanto un auspicio, ma un obiettivo a cui lavorare con costanza.
Raised through screens
Generation Z’s upbringing and the rise of tech
Generation Z’s upbringing was characterized by the rise of tech and a series of tradition-rupturing events, which created an environment that fostered a generational spirit of adaption and action.
The general consensus on the starting year for Generation Z is 1997, meaning that its oldest members are now becoming of age in one of the most tumultuous times faced by any generation. The so-called “Digital Natives” saw their childhood shaped and influenced by technological innovations that established an unprecedented global connectivity. During their formative years, Gen Z witnessed through screens events that impacted their actions and behaviors moving forward into adulthood.
Though some of the eldest Gen Zers can just barely remember when the “hottest” phone on the market was the Motorola Razr (2004), the arrival of the iPhone in 2007 marked the beginning of our generation’s lasting fusion with tech. It is difficult to find one of our peers without a phone, a fact that older generations usually find derisive amusement in. Previous age cohorts tend to see technology more as tools while Gen Z sees tech as part of themselves. This statement may seem dramatic, but Gen Z’s digital footprint is much more profound than those of previous generations. This connection with technology is not a bad thing and has led to a youth culture centered around information.
Generation Z observed global events through this increasing access to information. As children, the older Gen Zers witnessed the September 11th, 2001 attacks and the subsequent War on Terror, which still rages on today. YouTube launched in 2005, debuting one of the most frequently used video sharing platforms today. Facebook became open to the public in 2006, and added the infamous “Like Button”, which established the standard by which our generation measures the success of social media users, in 2009. In 2007, Netflix opened the first streaming service, the beginnings of the binge content culture. In 2008, the global economy collapsed in the Great Recession, causing reverberations into family life that lingered for years and altering Gen Z’s interpretations of economic stability. In the same year the USA elected its first African American president, a breakthrough for the world’s most preeminent democracy. In 2011, the Arab Spring was vividly recorded on the cell phones of protestors and activists, while Occupy Wall Street contemporaneously sought to bring down economic elites. In 2013, Edward Snowden revealed the US government’s secret global surveillance and escaped to Russia for asylum. In 2014, the Ebola epidemic broke out, and the Ukrainian Crisis began. In 2015, the Syrian Refugee Crisis caused factions within Europe to confront over changing demographic dynamics and its commitment to humanitarian causes. The same year, ISIL brought major swathes of the Middle East into its control, before losing it all by 2018. In 2016, following and then influencing a rising wave of right-wing nationalist political movements, Donald Trump was elected to the US presidency.
These are but a few of the events that shaped Gen Z. While new headlines constantly captured our attention, there were other former features of daily life that slowly disappeared from our generation’s conscience. Things like floppy disks and video cassettes have long vanished from common use, and even CDs are rarely seen. Cable TV’s domination of screen time has diminished in favor of streaming services on laptops, phones, and tablets. What used to be an information-gathering trip to the library was soon supplanted by a search on Wikipedia or Google. One can order a taxi through an app rather than hail one in the street. Letters, which took days or even weeks to reach their destination, were outpaced by text messages and emails, which can be sent from one side of the world to the other in seconds.
The loss of these formerly common features is not a bad thing, despite what some nostalgia-blinded people claim. These changes are thanks to technological improvements that brought forth several benefits to the world, both on a functional and social level. As they were exposed to all these global events and had the ability to discuss said incidents on social media, Gen Zers tend to be more accepting and open-minded than previous generations. They are more open about sexuality, gender identity, and confronting social issues like racism, sexism, and climate change. Great Thunberg, born in 2003, exemplifies the Gen Z spirit in demanding action for global problems.
Acceptance is the norm, not just tolerance. The legalization of gay marriage first began in the Netherlands in 2001, and gradually spread throughout the Western World, Latin America, and Taiwan. It is still gaining traction today, as rights for the LGBTQ+ community expand.
Speaking up is the expectation, not the exception. The #MeToo Movement, which started in 2006 but gained its biggest traction in 2017, spread awareness of sexual abuse and harassment towards women and led to some changes in workplaces and communities. The use of social media allowed people from around the world to connect over shared experiences and to unite against exploitation.
Police brutality can no longer be covered up, as cell phone coverage captured moments like George Floyd’s murder in 2020, and the treatment of Catalan independence activists by policemen in 2017. As mentioned, social media use helped facilitate the Arab Spring, and more recently in Hong Kong technology connected protestors against unfair government treatment.
In realms outside of politics and economics, there were plenty of social and cultural phenomena that bonded Gen Zers around the world. Vine, which opened in 2013 and shut down in 2017, popularized the short video format still shared today. Instagram is the standard social media platform on which Gen Zers interact and share photos from their life.
However, the most prominent cultural feature used by Gen Z is probably the use of the Internet Meme. Whether the origins of this social wonder come from “rage comics” or “Rick-Rolling”, it is obvious that the language of Gen Z is the meme. These versatile tools can communicate complex ideas and several cultural references within the use of a single image and some text. They provide ways for Gen Zers to express thoughts and feelings on subjects and create connections through humor. There are entire groups on sites like Facebook and Instagram dedicated to sharing memes pertaining to specific sub-genres or communities. Even corporations try to market to Gen Z through memes, like when Gucci launched its #TFWGucci campaign.
This rapid exchange of information has also granted Gen Zers the ability to multitask. Unfortunately, while attention spans seem to have decreased, members of our generation can quickly switch between replying to emails, Instagram, news sites, calling aunts, ordering dinner, and texting friends within the span of an hour.
However, this constant processing of information has also led to increased anxiety and depression. Posts of “authentic” lives on Instagram create feelings of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) and thus generated at times unrealistic self-expectations. Gen Z is probably one of the most entrepreneurial generations because they place such high bars for themselves.
Another downside of this info-flooding is how jaded it can make some Gen Zers to certain tragedies. Of course, this doesn’t mean that Gen Zers are accepting of these misfortunes, but this does tend to manifest in less idealistic views on the world.
The COVID-19 pandemic is the latest link in the chain of events that will form how Gen Z navigates the world. This generation’s oldest are finishing their undergraduate/graduate degrees or have already started working full-time. The pandemic, like the Great Recession for Millennials, has altered economic, political, and social dynamics on a scale that hasn’t been seen since World War II. How Gen Z will move forward is unknown and it will be hard to predict the state of the world when it’s our turn to manage it. But, at the very least, we have memes to tide us through.
Covid-19 and Generation Z's: a defining moment
How GenZers have responded to the challenges posed by the pandemic
The Covid-19 pandemic has been a defining event in the lifetimes of many, if not all, GenZers. But how, exactly, has the pandemic changed their lives? And what have GenZers, infamously the most lazy generation to date, responded to it? The answers lie in perseverance, optimism, and a healthy dose of redefined goals and objectives.
It is undoubtable that GenZers are the future, and the near present, of our world, from a cultural, economic and professional point of view. The oldest GenZers turned only 23 in 2020 and have already shown the promise that they hold to dictate the direction our world is going to take. However, it is undeniable that this generation has faced a world that is uncertain, confusing and certainly more difficult to navigate than any generations prior. At the same time, the general sentiment has been that GenZers have been less dedicated and hard-working than those previous generations, and a lot of the blame for the difficulty they have faced has been put on the ‘victims’ themselves.
Lorenzo Amadei, a 21-year-old economics student at Università Bocconi, interestingly stands in line with the critics of Gen-Z. for one word to describe GenZers, he took a while to think before claiming they are “distracted”, too focused on losing time without a true plan or aim in life. For Lorenzo, previous generations had a game plan, while GenZers “do not really have that road to follow because [they] have so many options”.
Then, the pandemic hit, and, without much argument, those born after 1996, were truly put to the test. Almost immediately, employment became a massive challenge. Will Kharfen, 20, and a sports management major at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst had never had an internship prior to Covid-19, citing the tight professional field available in his interests. Needless to say, the crisis that hit the sports industry just complicated matters. For Will, the problem is even larger than just the immediate impact of the pandemic. He has quickly realized that the market has become incredibly small and saturated , particularly when it comes to entry level positions, not just due to the fewer resources that companies can direct to those roles , but also because the crisis has hit everyone, laying off many experienced employees who are now far more willing to accept those same entry level salaries. “It’s tough for us, you know”, Will said when I spoke to him, “because if I were in the position of a recruiter, and was asked whether I would take someone with 10 or 20 years of experience in a given field against someone who has no experience at the same salary, of course I would pick the former”. However, while Will believes that this is not a temporary storm, Lorenzo is adamant that by the time he graduates, in about 18 months’ time, everything is going to return to normal, citing what he believes to be a probable post-crisis economic boom that would re-ignite the market, even for entry-level positions.
It is impossible now to tell who is right. What is for certain is that at this point in time, GenZers have been hit the hardest by the pandemic when it comes to employment. A recent analysis of job data carried out by the Pew Research Center claims that this is no surprise, given that young workers disproportionately populated positions that were “particularly vulnerable to job loss”, even before the pandemic, due to being “overrepresented in high-risk service sector industries”. It is no surprise then that data collected by Business Insider shows that at the peak of unemployment, around April 2020, the two most unemployed age groups were 16-19 and 20-24, with the former hitting around a 32% unemployment rate, and the latter topping 25%. Although the data shows that unemployment has been steadily decreasing since then, GenZers still remain the age groups with the highest levels of unemployment.
For some, that decrease is certainly not convincing enough. Sahil Joshi, 20, a law student at the University of Durham but originally from Singapore, believes that even if the market were to somehow recover, there is not an efficient enough structure to allow GenZers to successfully return to internships. He had held an internship before Covid, but the arrival of the pandemic has made finding adequate opportunities significantly harder. The lack of centralization in terms of places to look for internships, paired with a seemingly uninterested attitude by many of the recruiters of posted available spots, makes searching for internships, and eventually jobs, hugely frustrating and un-rewarding. Will agrees, claiming that the happy middle of finding something that is interesting while also being useful on a CV is increasingly hard to find. And, even if that perfect internship was found, the prospect of holding it online is not appealing, to say the least, given, in his opinion, that “virtual meetings are never going to be a replacement for the original way we interact”.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, it is the lack of human connection that many GenZers lament as the most critical impact of the pandemic. In fact, one of the few things in common that Lorenzo, Sahil and Will cited when asked what the biggest challenge has been for them during the pandemic is the difficulty in creating a community. “At university, I was looking forward to meeting new people and creating connections, learning and growing with them, and Covid posed a huge challenge in that sense”, Lorenzo said. Sahil emphasized this concept, by claiming that he, as a strong believer in support groups and communities, and a global citizen by definition, has had huge challenges in filling the gap left by the connections he had created, and was used to creating. However, that isolation has not just been detrimental to the academic and professional dreams of GenZers. In fact, a poll of 1600 students carried out by the social learning network StuDocu between March 24th and April 17th found that 62.4% of GenZers claimed that the isolation had worsened their mental state.
When we spoke, Sahil reminded me, of the importance of looking beyond just academics and work when it comes to understanding the struggle that GenZers face. Prior to the pandemic, he had set himself the seemingly trivial goal of learning how to dunk during his time at university, exploiting his friends and the facilities available on his college campus. Needless to say, Covid put a stop to that goal, removing a marginal but important part of Sahil’s daily routine. He responded like most did during the pandemic; by turning to a new goal: drawing. A VSCO survey in April found that 88% of GenZers had used creative expression to help them feel less anxious. Seeing the silver lining, Sahil claims that “Covid has given [him] an opportunity to internalize emotions to create the space to further pursue his goals”. Goals which, for him, are equally important, be they career, or non-career related. Will and Lorenzo cited a similar debacle when it came to their college experience, which many GenZers have lost or at least had damaged. Once again, a difficulty that may seem marginal or unimportant, but which in the eyes of GenZers is a critical part of their day-to-day routine.
Faced with all these problems, what reverberated strongest when speaking to these three diverse GenZers, was a willingness to keep pushing for their goals, showing a determined resilience in the face of adversity. All three mentioned the need to maintain positivity, crucial at a time where many GenZers feel like they are rowing against a strong current. For Lorenzo this was critical not just to survive now, but to be able to “continue not from where we started, but where we left off” before the pandemic hit – a critical message that pointed to his willingness to not let the pandemic condition the good and hard work that he had undertaken up to that point. For Will, the pandemic needs to be considered an opportunity for GenZers, not just because of the somewhat hidden goal of proving to older generations that we, too, are able to achieve and succeed, but also because those who will come out of this crisis swinging, are going to be clearly positioned to have success in the future, in a kind of “if you have braved this, you are ready for anything” mindset. What certainly holds, is that every generation has had its defining turning point: anything from world wars, major terrorist attacks and economic crises. It is fairly self-evident that this is our defining moment and, as Will pointedly said, “once normality hits, what will we have shown for it?
in Italia a che punto siamo?
Le parole pronunciate in Senato da Mario Draghi hanno riportato l’attenzione su un tema che si sarebbe dovuto posizionare al centro dell’agenda politica di questi anni, ma così non è stato: le disuguaglianze generazionali. Com’è la situazione in Italia? Purtroppo pessima, vediamo perché.
Le parole pronunciate in Senato il mese scorso dal Presidente del Consiglio nel corso delle dichiarazioni programmatiche di Governo hanno riportato l’attenzione su un tema che purtroppo fatica a trovare interesse da parte della classe dirigente: quello riguardante le disuguaglianze generazionali.
Disoccupazione giovanile, NEET e rischio di povertà
Prima di analizzare i dati a riguardo occorre fare una premessa: quando si parla di disuguaglianze bisogna considerare il fatto che quello di eguaglianza è un concetto complesso che spazia su più dimensioni, alcune delle quali difficilmente misurabili. Per semplicità mi riferirò alle diseguaglianze analizzate da una prospettiva di tipo economico, ma è fondamentale non dimenticare tutti gli altri fattori che dovrebbero essere presi in analisi, primo fra tutti quello riguardante la giustizia climatica, che ci vede ereditare un mondo ben diverso da come lo trovarono le generazioni precedenti.
Tre buoni indicatori che ci permettono di analizzare il problema e di comporre un quadro generale, anche vedendo come si posiziona il nostro Paese se confrontato alla media europea sono la disoccupazione giovanile, il tasso di Neet (giovani che né studiano né lavorano) e il rischio di povertà. Se già negli scorsi decenni il nostro Paese non fosse dei migliori sul profilo delle disuguaglianze generazionali, uno studio di Leonardo Morlino e Francesco Raniolo ha sottolineato come la crisi del 2008 abbia rappresentato un fattore di accelerazione di tutti e tre questi fenomeni, portandoci a detenere il record europeo sia di giovani non occupati che di NEET. Inoltre, l’indicatore relativo al rischio di povertà, nel periodo preso in esame dallo studio (2003-2016), è aumentato di appena un punto percentuale, ma se disaggregato mostra come il rischio tenda a polarizzarsi soprattutto nelle due fasce d’età comprese tra 0-17 e 18-24 anni.
Questi sono dati che purtroppo stonano se comparati, ad esempio, con il dato che descrive l’entità della nostra spesa pensionistica, che appare tra le più alte al mondo rispetto al Pil.
Gli effetti della pandemia
A questo scenario già infelice per la nostra generazione si aggiungono gli effetti della pandemia. La disoccupazione causata dall’emergenza sanitaria, infatti, ha nuovamente colpito in forma maggiore le fasce più giovani della popolazione.
Considerando solamente la prima ondata i dati Istat indicano che da febbraio a giugno 2020 il tasso di occupazione giovanile è diminuito rispettivamente del 2,08% e del 3,48% per gli appartenenti alle fasce d’età 15-24 e 25-34 anni. Inoltre, si nota come il calo di occupazione causato dall’emergenza sanitaria sia stato due volte e mezzo maggiore per i lavoratori under 34 senza una laurea.
Nell’ambito degli strumenti messi in campo dalla Comunità Europea per favorire la ripresa, è presente anche il NextGenerationEU; un fondo da 750 miliardi di euro al fine di sostenere gli Stati che più sono stati colpiti dalla pandemia. Dietro alla scelta del nome da dare a questo pacchetto di aiuti risiede uno scopo ben preciso: guardare alle prossime generazioni. Purtroppo però così non è stato: nelle prime bozze elaborate dal Governo Conte II la categoria “giovani e politiche del lavoro” prevedeva un investimento di solamente l’1% dei fondi. Questo ha portato alla creazione di una campagna dal nome “UnoNonBasta”, che nel momento in cui scrivo conta quasi centomila firme chiedendo che i fondi destinati ai giovani siano pari ad almeno 20 miliardi.
Ricapitolando, siamo il Paese Europeo con il più alto tasso di disoccupazione giovanile e di NEET, essendo in contemporanea uno dei Paesi con la spesa pensionistica più alta del mondo. Nonostante ciò, nella scelta riguardante l’allocazione di un fondo chiamato “Next Generation” si sceglie di destinare solamente l’1% ai giovani. Purtroppo, inizio a temere sempre di più che i giovani più coraggiosi non siano tanto quelli che lasciano l’Italia per avere una prospettiva migliore, ma piuttosto quelli che – nonostante tutto – decidono di rimanerci; sfortunatamente questo non è un Paese a misura di giovane.
Interview with Leading Climate Activist: Kehkashan Basu
Interview with climate activist Kehkashan Basu on youth involvement, multi-generational collaboration, and more. Basu founded the Green Hope Foundation at age twelve, bringing sustainability education to marginalized communities all over the world.
Kehkashan Basu, a 20-year old climate activist from Toronto, has been internationally recognized for her efforts to further sustainable development. Her organization, Green Hope Foundation, has been actively working to bring sustainable education and global social innovation to marginalized communities all over the world since 2012. From being named a UN Human Rights Champion to a Forbes 30 under 30, Basu has earned her place as one of the world’s leading climate change activists.
D: Tell me about how Green Hope Foundation came to be.
K: I’ll begin five years before its start. I was seven when I saw an image of a dead bird with its belly full of plastic and was deeply disturbed by it. Around the same time, I attended a lecture by environmentalist Robert Swan whose words really resonated with me. I then decided that I would do something for my planet. I grew up in a household where empathy and helping the community and the planet was normal, and I thought that everyone else functioned that way as well.
Then I realized that’s not the case globally, sadly. So I started my journey by planting my first tree on my eighth birthday, which also happens to be the 5th of June, World Environment Day, so I thought that I was preordained to become an eco-warrior.
I started going to neighborhoods, shops, restaurants, beauty salons, talking to them about moving to more sustainable lifestyles, talking to my fellow children about what they could do and undertaking ground level initiatives.
When I was eleven, the UN caught hold of what I was doing and I was invited to speak at my first UN conference. The following year in 2012, I was at the Earth Summit “Rio+20”, which was the largest sustainable development conference of the time, and I realized that out of 50,000 delegates, I was one of five people who were under eighteen. I didn’t like this and felt that everyone should be involved in such an important process, especially when it deals with our future. And, on my return home, I founded Green Hope Foundation.
D: What is your response to those who think that we are too young to make change?
K: Throughout my career I have always said “don’t look at my age, look at my work.” There are so many instances where people just look at us as young people and say that, but our work speaks for itself.
All that I’ve been able to do with Green Hope is itself proof that young people can bring change, just stop looking at our age.
For instance, when I was twelve I was elected as global coordinator for children and youth at the UN environment program. That made me the youngest person and to date the only minor ever to hold this position. And that was a turning point because in the UN system, you’d never had someone that young in a position of leadership. I was surprised to receive a lot of harassment from older youth who did not like the fact that a child was in that position of leadership, but I kept saying that it’s not about me being twelve it’s about me having experience and continuing to work on the ground.
There are always going to be naysayers, so understanding that and recognizing that sad reality, and then having your passion help you move past that is important.
D: You have been involved in a lot of ground-level work, as opposed to protesting, I think you’ve spoken about how we need to do more than just go out with a slogan. What do you think we, as individuals, can do to help the cause?
K: The first thing is recognizing your local unique challenges. The Western world has a way of propagating one “single one size fits all solution.” That is definitely not going to work in countries and regions that don’t have the same amenities we have the privilege of having.
It falls back to education for sustainable development, which ensures that we don’t just pity and sympathize with others, but emphatize and see what we can do in our localities. For me to tell someone in another part of the world to do something? That is not what we do at Green Hope. We never tell our communities and their members what to do, we work with them and they come up with the solutions, with us acting as a catalyst to bring about change.
In different parts of the world, you have different needs and therefore different solutions. At Green Hope, we planted over 5,000 mangroves globally, one of the places being in the Sundarbans, which is the world’s largest mangrove forest found in India and Bangladesh. There is a lot of urbanization that’s come into the forest and when they’re hit by cyclones such as Aila or Amphan, these communities are absolutely devastated, whereas if they had mangroves there it would have protected them. But in Hawaii, for example, mangroves are an invasive species, so we would not be going and planting mangroves over there.
When we talk about these initiatives we have to recognize where it’s applicable. That is why I talk so much about localizing solutions, to drive change beyond the protests and slogans, and work in our own local communities through education, so that we bring positive change and not just blame the government. There’s a responsibility that we have as global citizens .
When we’re dealing with problems such as climate change we cannot expect to see solutions just like that. It’s important not think of your actions as too small or too little, it does help in the long run.
D: You’ve been involved in this for such a long time and have spoken to many world leaders on this issue. How does that feel? What is the experience like?
K: It’s been very nice to get my voice heard at that level, to hear what the world leaders have to say, and see how we can work together to create a sustainable world. Dialogues such as these are important, it’s not just us talking within our bubbles but rather having multi-sectoral and cross-cultural dialogues, and working with different sections of civil society.
I’m happy that I’ve been able to be a part of that, to ensure that young people are not just seen as young people and we are seen as people who are bringing about change through our work.
The countries that we work with we have positive relations with, it enforces the fact that the government is not the enemy, the older generation is not the enemy, we all need to work together and there is good and bad everywhere. That is another thing that is brought forth when speaking with world leaders: dispelling the myth that we have to be at war with each other. We don’t, we have to work together.
D: Many think there is a certain disconnect between Gen Z and older generations on this issue. What can we do to communicate more and find a middle ground?
K: Recognizing that we are not each other’s enemies. That kind of negative outlook really blocks your brain from recognizing someone else’s perspective. Every generation brings their own unique perspectives and experiences, eliminating that from the discussion can be very harmful. There’s good and bad in every generation.
There are plenty of adults who are working towards a sustainable world and have passed on that legacy to us as Gen Z. Education is a two-way street, never stop yourself from learning. We have the experiences of our elders, the wisdom that they’ve gained. And at the same time we have the uninhibited passion of young people that we bring to the table.
D: Why do you think today’s youth is, or rather should be, so passionate about this issue?
K: It’s our future, and not just our future but our present as well. There’s so much change that’s been brought about by young people taking initiatives. But it’s not just about our age, it’s about us being empathetic global citizens. As citizens of the planet we have the responsibility to give back to our community and give back to our planet. I think not just young people, but every single person, has that responsibility.
That is why education for sustainable development is so important. It’s about teaching children from a young age that giving back to the community is important, protecting your planet is important, and having empathy is important. That enables you to recognize someone else’s challenges as your own and work together to create a more resilient world.
D: Do you have any words for Gen Z or people your age specifically that want to start getting involved now?
K: I would say that empathy, passion, honesty, hard work, and optimism play a very big role in helping you move forward and achieve your dreams. To bring change you don’t need to start a big organization, start with yourself, start with your community. And don’t do it for fame or for publicity, do it because you are passionate. That is what’s going to bring change within your community. That would be my advice for everyone, and of course, especially for people of our age.
A day without independent media
What a day without independent media would look like
Following a much-discussed ‘media tax’ planned by the Polish government, which would threaten the operations of the private media sector in the country, the biggest independent broadcasters and radio stations blacked out as a sign of a protest. What is going on in the country and how can Gen Z react? We discussed it with Agata Jaszczura, the President of the Bocconi Polish Students Association.
Upon waking up on the 10th of February, Poles sat staring at blacked-out TV screens. Instead of their usual morning news, they gazed at a caption saying “This is where your favorite program was supposed to be”. Wednesday of that week was meant to be a simulation of a world without independent media – the scenario slowly knocking at the door of the Polish media landscape in the disguise of an advertising tax.
On the 10th of February, the largest independent broadcasters and radio stations suspended news coverage for 24 hours, airing symbolic blacked-out screens in a concerted protest against a new media tax introduced by the United Right, a ruling political alliance. The levy was denounced as an attack on independent journalism not without reason. Agata Jaszczura, the President of the Bocconi Polish Student Association, told us that, “due to this tax, while the public media is going to be financed, the private media is likely to be forced to lay off employees and cut on research activities and journalistic operations in order to be solvent”.
Under the act of the Finance Ministry, any revenue from advertising – whether it be online or conventional – would be subject to a tax with a rate ranging from 2 to 15%. The exact tax value depends on the size of the revenue, the type of media in which the ad was published, and the product advertised. In reality, the rates are to be arbitrary: some media companies would pay higher amounts than others. In this manner, although advertising tax is to be paid by all publishers, the public media outlets might expect favorable treatment from the Polish authorities. Moreover, as the levy is planned to come into force in July 2021, instead of recovering from a lockdown, the media outlets will have to focus on eking out an existence.
The tax was forced through on the pretense of COVID-19. “Given the long-term consequences of the spread of the SARS CoV-2, the legislators acknowledge the need to introduce emergency solutions in order to minimize the impact of the pandemic”, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki emphasizes. In practice, faced with growing discontent, the authorities have been bandying new excuses around. The levy would allow the government to collect money from digital giants, including Facebook and Google. As a matter of fact, the revenue from the big corporations would amount to around 50–100 million PLN, while the local media outlets are predicted to generate approximately 800 million PLN (217 million dollars) per year. In the meanwhile, the public sector receives twice as much from the taxpayers, not to mention the expected 35% of the media tax revenue that would be allocated to the Fund for Supporting Culture and National Heritage in the Media Area. The rest is set aside for the National Health Fund, permitting the government to call the tax a solidarity fee.
In fact, the Law and Justice Party have long been wending its way towards tightening their control over broadcasters and publishers by using the nationalized media companies to re-polonize the entire media sector. Recent years have seen the government-controlled outlets taking a particularly heavy toll on the private companies. The information about the government-run company, PKN Orlen SA, buying Polish newspapers owned by German publisher Verlagsgruppe Passau, made big waves within the Polish society afraid of following in the footsteps of Hungary.
Relatively to Budapest, the government in Warsaw seems not to lounge around. When the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban was constructing a system of reliable media outlets, the Law and Justice Party were trying their best to shun the unchecked media agencies. Yet, the Polish government is still a far cry from the Hungarian model of media freedom. “Despite Poland and Hungary have a common historical background, (…) in Poland there is an ongoing debate, and the propaganda problem is more highlighted”, stresses Agata Jaszczura.
Ahead of the protest, in an open letter to the government, the private sector of Polish media publicly condemned the media tax, calling it a freedom constraint. It is simple extortion, states the official letter that contains speculation that the advertising contributions will significantly weaken some media agencies, liquidating the least fortunate ones.
In the wake of the public outcry, government spokesman Piotr Muller officially announced that a new project of the Finance Ministry is in the making. Supposedly, the new draft takes into account concerns raised by the existing proposal, all the while remaining progressive so that it does not hit local media, only international giants. Some political analysts suggest that alterations may include an increase in the tax imposed on big-scale digital platforms. Yet, strong collective resistance on the opposition part, unhampered by minor concessions of the United Right, is looming over Poland.
Although the current lay of land does not seem promising, there is still something the Generation Z can do to alter the state of affairs. As Agata Jaszczura said, “Our generation can basically respond to this through either social media channels or through strikes and protests allowing us to be heard; this would be a similar response to what happened in relation to the abortion ban passed lately”.
Today, media pluralism constitutes a healthy democratic state, in which unrestricted flow of information is to be a requisite for a public debate underlying the concept of free society.
The rise of micro investing
How gen Zer’s financial trends have transformed finance
The facts are the following: Generation Z will overtake Millennials in income in just 10 years, and they have lived through both the Great Recession and the pandemic. So, what can we say about their financial traits, knowing that they will soon have the spotlight in the economy? And will their economic decisions impact the market?
After the GameStop drama in February, it became even clearer that working from home, stimulus checks and higher personal savings levels, as well as social media platforms like Reddit, have accelerated the boom in trading. At the same time, Generation Z – who is said to be on track to overtake Millennials in income by 2031 – is entering a very different trading environment compared to its predecessors. Even if they are just starting to explore the market through what is known as Micro Investing, it is fundamental to look at their financial and economic trends and decisions to further understand why micro investing has become so popular.
Born between 1995 and 2005, generation Z has been shaped by both the Great Recession and the coronavirus pandemic. Although a more complete picture of Gen Z’s financial preferences is not fully developed yet, due to the fact that most of them are just in college, recent studies have been showing some interesting patterns. In order to understand how this generation carries out their finances, it is important to understand their background. While they did not go through the 2008 Great Recession as adults, they saw their parents’ struggle. During their early childhood and mid-teenage years, they experienced one of the most severe economic recessions. This is when the idea of savings and the perception of the volatility of the stock market was first introduced to them.
And now that they are entering the ‘real’ world, either by starting university or entering the job market, they have been hit by an unexpected global pandemic that has affected every aspect of human life. Although generation Z might be perceived as the least affected generation by Covid-19, a Pew Research Center study released in March 2020, found that 50% of those ages 18 to 23 reported that they or someone in their household lost a job or took a pay cut due to the pandemic. They were the highest compared to millennials (40%), gen Xers (36%) and Baby Boomers (25%). With this information in mind, one might think that gen Z would be quite pessimistic when it comes to their financial future. But, once again, they have proven this wrong. These past experiences, although they have affected them severely, have also taught them the necessary lessons for them to be more conscious about finance. This has made them more practical with their money.
Despite the current and past economic uncertainties, this generation is overall optimistic about their financial future. Below, a table from the Morning Start study shows the anticipated retirement age at which the 91% of the 1,100 surveyed believed they would do so.
And since they have shown a clear interest in having financial stability in the long run, this is where micro investing and the rise of investing technology come to play. Often referred to as “Spare change” investment apps, these apps are extremely useful to beginner investors or college students who have limited income. Since Generation Z individuals have shown to be risk averse, yet at the same time understand the benefits of investing, they have expressed their expectations to the financial world. And, in return, they have been heard. Taking into account that they have never known life without Google, Generation Z is known as the online generation. Having all of this information around, they tend to be highly tech competent and great at multitasking. A study made by the financial services company Morningstar to around 1,100 US respondents aged between 18 and 25 concluded that, overall, these respondents believed they had a “moderate amount of financial knowledge”. The same study also showed that 35% of respondents considered themselves investors, and 57% were interested in investing. A new financial era is on its way, and businesses and investors need to start adjusting their strategies to accommodate the 2.5 billion generation, coming soon, maybe as soon as in 10 years.
So, how do they carry out their finances? A study conducted by Bank of America also showed that close to 1 in 3 Gen Z would trust a robot to make their financial decisions. In addition, the same study carried out by Morningstar confirmed that out of the 1,100 Gen Zer’s surveyed, every single one said they use at least one financial app. So, it is now clear that by taking advantage of the new digital platforms, Gen Z’s have been or could be using micro-investing apps to save and invest money in small amounts.
Micro investing has become very appealing to Gen Zers because they have, as stated before, a remarkable drive to think long-term. Recent innovations in micro-investing technology could be thought of as the catalyst that democratized the global financial system. Thanks to the expansion of democratized investing, this generation is being introduced to an easier, safer, simpler and more accessible market. Since they are, as stated before, risk averse individuals, these apps allow them to invest small amounts of their money, and if the investment goes bad, the losses are minimal. These apps let consumers bypass the usual brokerage account minimum, which eliminates the previously expensive barrier to entry. What was once considered an activity reserved for wealthy adults is now changing.
But how is the financial market exactly changing?
The first obvious observation is that, since micro investing has eliminated the expensive entry barrier, the market has now become more accessible and diverse. Traditional investing platforms impose certain conditions on the user, such as establishing a minimum amount for a deposit. Lower income individuals, or people with irregular incomes who could not put together a certain amount of money at a time were usually excluded. Now, micro investing platforms allow users to build their savings without worrying about raising large amounts. The times where investing in the stock market was almost entirely confined to privileged, wealthy individuals is coming to an end.
The second observation is that micro investing platforms offer easy and profitable investment to users who lack knowledge of financial markets. In addition to the ‘spare change’ facility that these platforms offer, these small amounts can also be used to purchase fractions of shares. Investors don’t need big amounts to purchase the whole share of a company. Take for example a Tesla stock. As of February 19, 2021, it is now at around 780 us dollars. Not everyone can afford to buy a share of Tesla stock. But, by investing say $10, a micro-investor can acquire approximately 1/78th of a Tesla share. Although the stock market prohibits fractional investing, micro-investing apps will typically buy the entire share and then split it into fractions for users.
Additionally, the benefits of not putting all your eggs in one basket have shown their effectiveness. On top of allowing you diversify your portfolio, these apps also encourage consistent investing. Time is one of the most important assets an investor can have. Investors can largely benefit from the power of compounding interest, and online investment platforms that automate small investments can help instill the investing habit. Once the investing routine is established, and you realize how much you were able to invest with small amounts, you want to start investing more. On top of that, micro investing can play a role in spreading financial education among young people because it is a way to approach the ‘world if investments’.
But, is micro investing enough to meet retirement goals? With today’s interest rates and expensive stock prices, a goal like retirement is going to require more than spare change. Micro investing apps can create a false sense of security about what they can realistically achieve. Investing small amounts of money through apps should not be a substitute for contributing to an individual retirement account, it should be a supplement. Passive micro-investing, while simple and convenient, can only take you so far.
Fast and Unlimited: What the Music We Love Says about Us
The collection of music produced in each context at a given time manages to effectively synthesize the cultural, political and socioeconomic nuances that each society has to offer in a way that no other medium can do. So, what does today’s music tell us about us? And what does the evolution of the music industry over the past few decades tell us about our future?
In the 2013 motion picture Begin Again, Mark Ruffalo, while playing a musical producer in New York City, says that you can usually find out more about a person by looking at their playlists than by talking to them. Musical preferences, in fact, may convey several pieces of information about an individual, ranging from political beliefs to emotional or psychological state at the time in which the playlist is created. Of course, Ruffalo’s character’s statement can be seen as a simplistic generalization put forward for the purpose of the scene, but it is quite undeniable that a person’s musical preferences in a world that offers a number of options that has never been this large can shed light on several characteristics of their persona, which go from their personal beliefs to their upbringing. By that logic, an aggregation of all individual musical preferences can be a useful instrument to examine several traits of today’s society, and given that we have access to ever-changing charts that list the most popular songs of the moment, it is quite easy to get a rough idea of what such aggregation looks like and to make some tentative predictions as to what this may suggest about the future of the music industry, and of society as a whole.
Art being useful as a tool to examine societal evolution is no news. Several artists and scholars over the years have agreed that the study of an artistic movement, when correctly contextualized, can effectively serve as a medium to understand the society in which it is produced, and that having access to the artistic production that arose in a given place during a given time period allows us to understand certain nuances that we would not be able to grasp otherwise. That was true in ancient times, when discerning art movements from the political and socio-economic context in which they were created was impossible, and it is arguably even more true today that the platforms available to connect with the rest of the population are various and easily accessible to everyone.
In particular, in the past few decades, music, which is the form of art that is today mostly interacted with, has gradually established itself as a real industry. What that entails is a need to evolve in order to meet the increasingly various demands and desires of its consumers. In fact, despite having been created relatively recently, the music industry has already had to undergo deep structural changes in order to keep up with the times. The pillars that it founded its production on up until no more than 15 years ago, such as CDs or MP3 players, are today considered obsolete, and it should not come as a surprise if what in our eyes is the norm of today’s framework of music-making becomes outdated before we even realize it, especially as technology keeps progressing and as the rate at which societal trends change becomes even faster than it currently is.
It is natural to ask ourselves what happened. How did things change so quickly? How did we go from only being able to listen to music on the radio or through records we carefully chose to buy in stores to having every possible song ever produced available at all times wherever we want it so quickly? Further questions arise when we examine the nature of the songs that lead today’s charts. For example, how did hip hop, which up until fifteen years ago was seen as an underground movement that never expected to expand outside of the ghettos where it was born, evolve in order to become the most popular genre in the world? And how is it possible that the number one song in the world as I am writing this is Driver’s License by Olivia Rodrigo, the debut single of a 17-year old? The answers to these questions, while being undoubtedly related to the evolution of the music itself, can actually be used to think about society as a whole. Arguably, at the base of these changes are the technological progresses that we have been observing in the world during the past few years, which deeply impact every aspect of music production and distribution and change the composition of the audience.
In fact, while in the past few decades every generation’s need to express its inbred rebellion against the conventions created by the previous one has managed to use music (among other things) as a medium, our generation, the so-called generation Z, has at its disposal certain opportunities and tools that our predecessors did not have. These have completely redesigned the framework in which music is produced, which can already be observed in the technicalities that characterize the process of putting a song together and recording it. Until not so long ago, the possibility of professionally recording music to be distributed was not even conceivable unless you had a recording studio at your disposal, equipped with professional machinery, instruments and microphones that very few people could afford to own. Moreover, besides the physical machinery, a high degree of expertise was needed in order to first put together the track, and then to mix it and master it, the two processes that optimize the quality of the sound of the instruments in order to make it cohesive enough to be distributed in different audio formats. Today, we have reached a point at which all that is needed to make music is a laptop with a cheap Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) installed on it, and some basic knowledge on how to use it that is easily found on countless YouTube videos. It is not necessary to be able to play an instrument or to sing in order to produce satisfying results in either skill after a little bit of practice, and while expertise in mixing and mastering is still regarded as extremely valuable and for now irreplaceable, it is increasingly being challenged by fairly cheap softwares that use artificial intelligence to carry out both of these tasks automatically. While they are not yet able to replicate the results that experts in the field are able to achieve since they are not trained to grasp certain nuances in sound that only a trained ear may sense, it is likely that their quality will keep improving, which will make the music-making process easier and therefore widely accessible. The first large-scale evolution of the music industry, therefore, is that consumers have also become producers, and the barriers between the two are bound to become even thinner.
Moreover, since it is now easy to share and promote music even for free, there are several platforms that give the public the chance to interact with upcoming artists. This forces every artist, whether upcoming or already established, to have to cure their marketing strategies in order to distinguish them from everyone else. Given that the number of competitors is continuously increasing, it is a hard task. For instance, while in the past a new project’s promotion was cured by the label through conventional methods such as interviews with famous magazines or in radio or television, today’s presence of social media provides an infinite platform to interact with your audience and to give everyone the chance to get to know you and to get to know your music. On social media, everyone competes with everyone else, and as new social media are created everyone has to try to adapt and see it as an opportunity to get noticed. It is, for example, the case of TikTok, which allowed for several songs that otherwise would have probably not been widespread to become known worldwide. Among others, an effect that all this has on the music industry is that, before, artists who were not lucky enough to be noticed by representatives of record labels or were not offered a musical contract eventually had to abandon the possibility of making music for a living; now, every artist can manage their own image in front of the world, and success is more directly determined by meritocracy in the eyes of the people. What this synthesizes is another grand evolution: the opportunities to expand your market are limitless.
Such increase in opportunities to expand is possibly also at the base of the rise of the hip-hop and urban music scenes, which include all those forms of music that were born on the streets in contexts of socio-economic degradation that involved crimes, drugs, weaponry and loneliness. Previously, they had been ignored or simply not known about, but as soon as they received enough spotlight, they gave rise to the artistic movement that has today evolved to become something completely different, but which still maintains that sense of rebellion against rules and conventional surroundings that was at its base, hip-hop. It is our generation’s favorite genre because it is exactly like it, fast, constantly changing, and giving space for everyone to say what they want.
All these grand evolutions stages that the music industry experienced can easily be seen as changes that society as a whole has faced, and whether we like it or not they are at the base of our future. As members of this generation moving into adulthood, we should always be expecting things to move fast, opportunities to be limitless and certainties to be volatile. What we must ask ourselves is, will we be able to move fast enough to keep up with the times and to be able to control them and not be controlled by them?
Uncertainty engulfs international developments, and enough has changed in the past year for few of us to be bold enough to make predictions about the future; however, we can be sure that its essence will be engraved in the music that will accompany us in the next few years.
Italiani e cultura finanziaria: a che punto siamo?
Non di rado si sente parlare dell’educazione finanziaria e di come questa manchi nel contesto italiano, e spesso si dà la colpa all’assenza di iniziative che abbiano come obiettivo quello di migliorare la situazione. In realtà, di progetti che ci provino ce ne sono.
Visto il mio innato interesse per la finanza, rimanevo stupito quando, al liceo, mi capitava di sentire i miei coetanei affermare di non essere interessati particolarmente all’argomento. Così, ho deciso di indagare più a fondo: come siamo messi noi italiani in merito alla cultura finanziaria?
Che cos’è l’inflazione? Qual è la differenza tra interesse semplice e interesse composto? Perché è consigliabile diversificare i propri investimenti, e che significa “diversificare”? A uno studente della Bocconi, si spera, queste domande sembreranno banali, ma lo stesso sfortunatamente non si può dire per buona parte della popolazione italiana.
La Banca d’Italia in merito ha realizzato due sondaggi, a distanza di tre anni l’uno dall’altro, dai quali è emerso un quadro piuttosto negativo sulle conoscenze finanziarie degli italiani. Nel 2017 poco più del 30% degli intervistati ha raggiunto un livello di consapevolezza “finanziaria” ritenuto sufficiente dall’Ocse; percentuale che nel 2020 è fortunatamente cresciuta al 44%, comunque al di sotto della media dei paesi considerati dall’indagine (lo Stivale si è sempre classificato penultimo). Non mancano poi notevoli differenze geografiche e di genere, quest’ultime tra le più accentuate nel primo mondo.
È quindi più che lecito chiedersi quali soluzioni possano essere adottate per migliorare questa situazione; una domanda alla quale il Ministero dell’Economia e delle Finanze ha cercato di dare una risposta mediante una serie di iniziative piuttosto interessanti, ma sfortunatamente poco pubblicizzate. Nel 2017 in particolare è stato istituito il “Comitato per la programmazione e il coordinamento delle attività di educazione finanziaria”, avente come obiettivo “promuovere e coordinare iniziative utili a innalzare tra la popolazione la conoscenza e le competenze finanziarie, assicurative e previdenziali e migliorare per tutti la capacità di fare scelte coerenti con i propri obiettivi e le proprie condizioni”, la cui direttrice attuale, la prof.ssa Annamaria Lusardi, si è laureata proprio presso il nostro ateneo, prima di proseguire gli studi negli Stati Uniti alla Princeton University. Risultato principale del comitato è il sito che si può visitare al seguente indirizzo e che contiene una quantità di informazioni davvero notevole sui più disparati argomenti, dai più semplici (differenza tra carta di credito e carta di debito) ai più complessi (che cosa si intende per derivati e ETP).
Altra importante iniziativa è il Mese dell’Educazione Finanziaria, che quest’anno si troverà alla sua quarta edizione e che si svolge nel corso del mese di ottobre, in concomitanza con la World Investor Week e la Giornata Mondiale del Risparmio.
Difficilmente però un individuo che ad esempio non conosce la differenza tra un conto deposito e un conto corrente andrà a ricercare spontaneamente informazioni sull’argomento. Una possibile soluzione, già in parte seguita, è quella di condividere questo genere di risorse attraverso i canali più utilizzati dalle diverse demografie di destinazione. Social per i giovani, televisione per la terza età e così via.
Utilizzare il mezzo di comunicazione più adatto è il primo però di una serie di passi necessari per il raggiungimento di un maggior numero di persone; importante è anche il modo in cui questo messaggio vine presentato, aspetto sul quale bisogna lavorare con cura e attenzione, sempre tenendo in mente la facilità con cui l’utente può passare ad altro. Il successo di progetti quali Starting Finance, che si propongono come obiettivo proprio l’educazione finanziaria, dimostra, oltre alla presenza di un interesse latente da parte di una discreta parte della popolazione nei confronti dell’argomento, che una strategia di questo tipo paga, e non poco. La pagina Instagram in questione ha visto infatti nel giro di pochi anni una crescita notevole del numero di follower, diventando un punto di riferimento fondamentale per molti. Il raggiungimento di questo importante traguardo è stato possibile mediante un’impostazione dei contenuti caratterizzata da infografiche accattivanti, in grado di fornire rapidamente le informazioni di base sull’argomento, lasciando all’utente la scelta di completarle poi mediante la lettura del breve testo di accompagnamento.
Risulta evidente quindi che il problema dell’analfabetismo finanziario italiano non sia una conseguenza dell’assenza di iniziative che cerchino di porvi rimedio, quanto piuttosto di una mancanza di pubblicità di quest’ultime, mancanza che, come abbiamo visto, può e deve essere risolta.
A new page in the book of marketing
How Multi-Level Marketing firms and their interaction with the revolutionized world of social media changed the future of marketing.
In a fast-paced and constantly evolving world, change is bound to come in different shapes and forms across a wide variety of different platforms. This is the case with Multi-Level Marketing (MLM), which has now been called on to face an increasingly aware consumer base and pivot away from ordinary forms of recruitment, which has turned a blind eye to the MLM titans. The COVID-19 pandemic has undeniable effects across several groups and sectors, and perhaps this crisis paved the way for a new future in the MLM world.
Multi-Level Marketing firms are companies that compensate independent consultants according to their sales and recruitment of other consultants. Paralleled to the so-called pyramid schemes, these MLM firms sell more than just products: they sell a modernized version of the opportunistic American dream, which preys on the desire of participants to risk in order to gain. A rational actor, a homo economicus, would compare the costs relative to the benefits of entry when considering entering an MLM firm, and, without necessarily having to plot a whole utility function, would find the possibility of joining such a project enticing. That is why for decades, these Multi-Level Marketing companies had it easy, relying on small groups to embark on their journey to success, and then reaching out towards millions by mastering available social media platforms. When presented with the necessary information about profits and losses and being given some preliminary background, individuals trust these MLM companies and by doing so fuel these firms’ growth.
This form of direct selling, which relies on the idea that a significant portion of a person’s income originates not from the sales they make themselves but from the sales made by people they recruit into the company, was often termed exploitative by consumer advocates. Despite being viewed as a form of manipulation, MLM firms rarely encountered any limitation to their growth. During the pandemic, distributors of many MLM companies made use of this freedom to their advantage. Utilizing economic collapse as a recruitment tool, MLMs have seized upon this crisis, trying to recruit new members and find ways to capitalize on job insecurity and economic inactivity. On Instagram and Facebook, sellers have been trying to persuade followers to use their stimulus checks to join a company that sells shampoo, essential oils, or weight-loss products. These MLM firm initiatives are sprouting everywhere, and the dire world economic situation is preventing people from thinking rationally and evaluating the situation at hand.
The current state of precarity did not prevent Gen Z and consumer advocates from issuing a wake-up call and pointing out the flaws of this utopic system. When 20-year-old chemistry student Heather Rainbow made her first anti-MLM TikTok video, green-screening herself in front of what she claims is the 2018 income-disclosure statement of a hair care company, little did she know that she would be initiating large-scale changes in marketing. In the video she revealed that the hair-care company Monat shows that 94% of its distributors had an average income of $183 that year, highlighting the exploitative yet concealed aspect of MLMs worldwide.
Rainbow’s video turned the tables; it powerfully indicated that the same networks that MLM distributors rely on and exploit are the same as those that stand firm behind a different message. Across social media, people have joined forces against the spread of more MLM schemes. On Reddit, Facebook, YouTube, and TikTok a huge community has coalesced around the anti-MLM sentiment, bringing together former disenchanted salespeople, independent researchers, and people who are simply tired of getting direct Instagram messages with offers to sell essential oils or protein shakes that boost the immune system.
These tactics aren’t confined to the field of wellness. The COVID-19 pandemic saw skyrocketing numbers of distributors who claim that their products, like food supplements and special hand sanitizers, can fortify the immune system against the Coronavirus, build up strength ‘to face future challenges’, and nourish bodies with the vitamins necessary to fend off the flu. As the pandemic continues to throw everyday life off-course, threatening the fragile economic security of many workers worldwide, MLMs may seem like a goofy way to make money fast while being cooped up at home. This temptation unfortunately originates from a system that so far has been unable to support its most valuable workers properly during this period of instability.
The slow-to-spread hashtag #AntiMLM is still diffused and disorganized, but its rise serves as an existential threat to MLMs that rely on the constant and pervasive recruitment of new participants across different social media. The newfound popularity of this wake-up call is already presenting challenges. On the Reddit forum r/antiMLM members are mocking the industry, referring to distributors as ‘hunbots’ who lead off every conversation with a faux-warm ‘hey hun’. Anger and humor reflect the problematic logic behind the MLM titans; capitalizing off the possibility of conveniently increasing economic opportunities in a digitally interactive world, which in reality does little to sustain and properly support its workers in times of crisis.
From Reddit the Internet took off, with many YouTubers in the blogging sphere posting testimonials about their experiences with multilevel-marketing companies and uploading videos narrating the reasons why they quit the MLM industry. When TikTok announced an updated version of its community guidelines, the small addition that prohibited types of ‘fraud and scams’ surprised users. The guidelines, which focused on banning Ponzi schemes, get-rich-quick hoaxes, and phishing attempts, now turned into the first major media’s declaration that multilevel marketing is verboten as well. The notoriously opaque MLM industry will now find it harder to penetrate the media market, and to recruit and form an entire community of sellers and creators.
Opportunism is the common pitfall for all types of social movements and is particularly intense for those that form online and rely on social media platforms to recruit and reward. The era of Multi-Level Marketing schemes appears to have concluded its trip around the sun, given the largely more aware and informed customer base. The future of MLMs becomes increasingly uncertain as information becomes more available and victims of these schemes are awoken from their slumber. It remains to be seen whether the #antiMLM sentiment will stay strong, or whether economic hardships will tilt the balance in its favor.
Better finance, a better world
The growing influence of responsible social investments
The old-fashioned thinking that capitalism does not rhyme with consciousness and sustainability is long gone. Socially responsible investing and the ESG framework are increasingly popular, and Gen Z has a new playing field to explore to define the future of investing.
We have associated capitalism with an egoist, non-caring mentality of profits. We have labeled wealthy individuals as misanthropic human beings who drew a line between the financial world and societal interests. However, a growing trend aims at proving there is such a concept as conscious capitalism: socially responsible investing (SRI).
This topic was first addressed by the Methodists and the Quakers in mid-17th century, who incited people not to invest in slavery and war industries. With this protest, people were manifesting their disagreement with values these industries were carrying, especially on religious and ethical grounds. This philosophy was then accrued in the 1960s with the beginning of the Vietnam War where some investors ignored war and weapons sectors in the hopes of making them non-profitable. If it was only adopted by a minority at the time, it has now evolved in a largely globalized mindset and Generation Z is more aware than ever of the impacts of their investments. Investors are not just a percentage for dividends distribution, they now represent their morals and are a voice to the future way of doing business.
When becoming shareholders of a company, individuals are doing more than injecting money into a business plan. They are giving their consent to future projects that will have consequences on the company’s environment and are endorsing the actions of the managers. Therefore, socially responsible investing is a way to put their money where their personal values are without risking going against their ethics in the name of attaining wealth. Shareholders are starting to take ownership of their investments and to acknowledge the impact a business has on its community, assuming their role as stakeholders.
By screening the available investments, they discriminate the ones operating in industries considered immoral (tobacco, gambling, alcohol…) in their own perspective to ensure a respectful portfolio. This process is referred to as negative screening. On the other hand, they can decide to apply positive screening by selecting investments that have a net positive impact on society, so they have only the best-in-class. A mix of both screening methods is often pursued to end with a comprehensive portfolio and to not be limited to a narrow point of view.
While investors naturally tend to invest in sectors that resonate with them by screening methods, it does not guarantee companies to act fairly with their other stakeholders and to consistently respect their macroenvironment. To ensure sustainable investments, the most common framework is ESG, which is a way to look at non-financial indicators: environmental, social and governance pillars. Investors using this technique usually pre-select appealing investments based on traditional financial criteria to get a list of potential companies in which to invest. They then put on their ESG lens to evaluate the non-financial performance of these organizations regarding each criterion. It is unlikely they will score high in all three pillars and an investor will have to attribute different weights to the aspects that are more important for them. A company’s ESG score is calculated as a sum of three pillar scores, which in turn are calculated as the sum of each factor score linked to the pillar.
Environmental score includes the company’s global environmental footprint, its energy usage, its actions against climate change, and its production waste. Social score relies on the workers’ conditions, the impact on communities, and internal policies of health and safety. Finally, the governmental pillar score depends on government board factors such as fairness of profits distribution (avoiding excess executive pay and bonuses), tax transparency, and board diversity and independence. While companies, listed or not, are not enforced to disclose their ESG score, the growing importance of the movement has encouraged many to do so.
However, we may witness a bias in comparing ESG scores as the organizations that tend to disclose them are often the ones that scored higher, making it hard to obtain a reliable average for an industry. Moreover, since there is not a homogeneous formula to the score, enterprises can omit factors they want to hide to appear better than they are. Some tools to address these issues are in development, and one that has proven to be efficient is the Bloomberg ESG disclosure score which assigns a percentage to companies regarding divulgence of ESG elements. This index is based on industry-specific factors that should be pointed out in reports and included in the computation of the score, acting as a framework. The more of these factors a company has raised, the higher its disclosure score will be. Thus, it aims to give a more faithful representation of the ESG performance and to avoid perspective bias.
More than just a moral compass, ESG investing is found to be a performant way of managing portfolios. Recent studies have shown that some ESG-based portfolios outperform straight financial portfolios in the long run, and it is due to the long-term sustainable vision that comes with ESG high scores. For example, treating employees well reduces employee turnover rate, and training and recruitment costs as well. Likewise, a company that invests in green procedures to avoid unnecessary energy consumption and waste will not only avoid conflicts with environmental lobbyists but also reduce its energy bills, costs of replacement, and implementation of new machinery.
Whereas it may seem overwhelming to consider all ESG factors linked to an investment, scores are accessible via rating providers’ websites and databases. It is also possible to invest in mutual funds in which companies are screened to ensure compliance with a specific ESG factor. That investing strategy allows investors to hold shares of companies in line with their values without having to analyze the ESG performance of each of them. Popular funds include SHE, which guarantees gender diversity in executive positions of large U.S. companies, and BIAWX, which only picks sustainable growth investments.
Recently, the pandemic has affected the activities of many retailers by the slow-down of their operations and it is still difficult for many of them to recover from the losses of months of inactivity. However, there are some cases where managers found ways to maintain their performance or at least limit damages. The multinational company Best Buy has unexpectedly performed well last year, and it is partly due to their impressive ESG application.
As most of their competitors, the tech giant has been forced to temporarily lay off a large part of its employees but, unlike others, the company has decided to continue with its health benefit programs and tuition reimbursements. Therefore, when stores reopened a few months later, employees happily came back to work as they did not feel neglected, saving the company from incurring significant recruitment costs. They also scored high in governance as top executives have seen their pay cut during this not-so-profitable year. The pay cut even included Corie Barry, the CEO, who received half of her salary from the previous year, showing a strong demonstration of fairness and transparency.
For now, the most respected and applied pillar is governance as companies’ boards have come under heavy scrutiny after numerous accounting scandals that have occurred in the last years. The mandatory implementation of a remuneration committee on listed companies’ boards helped to reduce the use of abnormal executive compensation systems and it shows in general governance scores. It is a safe bet to affirm the movement will continue to spread and we can already access standards and guidelines that have been developed by stock markets (Nasdaq, NYSE), regulatory bodies (CFA, CPA), and other financial institutions. Responsible investing is only at the beginning of its glory and Generation Z investors have a blank page to define the future of the investment world.
Black Lives Matter around the world
The Black Lives Matter protests that began in the US in May 2020 rapidly became a rallying call for justice worldwide. In honor of the first Black History Month since the Black Lives Matter protests began last year, we take a look at the foothold that the movement found around the world and the political changes that have been compelled in the wake of the protests.
In May 2020, when protests erupted in the US over the killing of George Floyd, there was no telling how far and fast the rallying cry for justice would be taken up around the world. Protests and demonstrations were held in countries around the world, not just in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement in the US, but also to protest police brutality, human rights violations and systemic discrimination at home.
In the way that the Great Recession shaped the lives of millennials, this worldwide movement will remain forever enshrined in the memory of all Generation Z members. In fact, the Morning Consult conducted research which found that 68% of Gen Z believes that their worldview was altered by the Black Lives Matter movement. It is the very global nature of the movement that will allow it to live on in the minds of Generation Z kids in countries around the world.
From Brazil to Colombia and Mexico, crowds came out in droves to voice their dissatisfaction against police brutality and the treatment of minority groups. Although an estimated 21.1% of Latin America’s population is of African descent due to the continent’s gnarly history with European colonialism and slavery, the systemic persecution that this population faces is still frequently swept under the rug.
Brazil houses the largest population of Black people in all of Latin America — a staggering 50.7% of the population identified as Afro-Brazilian in the 2010 Brazil Census. Despite this, statistics indicate that racism is still deeply ingrained within the country. From 2010 to 2020, more than 3 out of every 4 Brazilians killed by the police in Rio de Janeiro were Black men. Additionally, average incomes in Black households are estimated to be only 43% of average incomes in white households. Protests began throughout Brazil after the police shot 14-year old João Pedro Matos Pinto inside his own home in a favela, poor neighborhoods that are populated significantly by Afro-Brazilians. In response, Supreme Court Justice Edson Fachin ordered that all police raids in favelas be stopped while the pandemic persists.
Colombia, the country with the second-largest Black population in Latin America, saw its own protests in June 2020 against the killing of Anderson Arboleda, a 24-year old Afro-Colombian who was beaten to death by the police for violating quarantine restrictions. The protestors also highlighted concern over the rise of violence, particularly domestic violence and Afro-femicides, against Black women. Unfortunately, most protests were met with great resistance — in one instance, the mayor of Bogotá, Claudia López, ordered the police to shut the protests down with tear gas and stun grenades.
In France, tens of thousands of protestors took to the streets in June 2020 to demand justice for Adama Traoré, a 24-year old Black man who died under mysterious circumstances while in police custody in 2016. Although the official autopsy report indicated that Traoré died due to underlying health conditions, the autopsy ordered by Traoré’s family told a different story — that he died due to positional asphyxiation. Protestors also decried the use of violence and excessive force by the French police in the “yellow vest” protests held in 2019, in which an estimated 2,500 protestors and 1,800 law enforcement officers were injured, demanding an end to such police brutality. The National Centre for Scientific Research in France conducted a study which found that Black people are 11.5 times more likely to be checked by the police than white people, while those of Arab descent are 7 times more likely. In response to the protests, the Interior Minister of France announced that police chokeholds would be banned, but this proposal was later reversed.
About 10,000 people marched in Brussels, Belgium in June 2020 to protest against police brutality, racism and colonialism. Statues of King Leopold II, who exploited and killed millions of Congolese men and women, were targeted and defaced. One statue in Antwerp was even removed after protestors lit it on fire, although the mayor made it clear that it was for reasons of public safety. At the same time, protestors voiced their concern for individuals who died during encounters with the Belgian police: Adil, a 19-year old whose scooter crashed into a police van, Madwa, a two-year old Iraqi girl who was struck by police fire, and Mehdi, a teenager who was run over by the police.
Although Germany has successfully managed to educate its people on its sordid Nazi history, considerably less attention is paid to its imperial history and the colonies it held in Africa. Protests began in June 2020 and spread to 10 cities within the country, in what were perhaps the largest demonstrations outside of the US. According to the German Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency (ADS), cases of racial discrimination rose by 59% between 2016 and 2019. Germany’s only sitting African-born lawmaker, Karamba Diaby, has received death threats from neo-Nazi groups and, in January of 2020, her office was found full of bullet holes. The Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, extended her support to the protests and Berlin passed the first-ever anti-discrimination law to prevent all state authorities from discriminating against anyone on the basis of their race, age, gender, beliefs, ability level, or sexual orientation.
The demonstrations that took place in Australia highlighted one particular issue — the deaths of Indigenous Aboriginal people in police custody. Since 1991, at least 441 Aboriginal people have died in police custody, which accounted for nearly 22% of prison deaths, despite the fact that Aboriginal people make up only 2 to 3% of the total population. In 2019, Aboriginal people also made up 28% of the prison population.
The discrimination faced by the Indigenous Aboriginals of Australia is part of its colonial history. When British settlers arrived on the coast of Australia in the late 18th century, they claimed the land for their own and perpetrated a series of massacres against the locals for the next 150 years or so. Aboriginal children were forcibly taken from their homes between 1910 and 1970 in an attempt to ‘assimilate’ them into Australian society. It was only in 1962 that Aboriginal Australians were allowed to vote in elections. Even today, Aboriginal Australians earn 33% less than non-Aboriginal Australians and are nearly 14 times more likely to be homeless.
Thus, the Black Lives Matter protests that took place in Australia had three main demands: to redirect police funding to communities, reform bail law, and investigate the prevalence of young Aboriginal people in prison. The protests were met with a degree of success — the federal government announced a target to remove 15% of Indigenous people from prison by 2031 and certain regions implemented new laws to prevent racial profiling. However, there is still much work to be done to unwind the deep-rooted persecution faced by Aboriginal people.
The Black Lives Matter movement originated as a response to systemic racism and police brutality in the US, but has since been taken up in countries around the world as a way to challenge all systems that promote inequality and division. Although the protests from last year have died down, this Black History Month should serve as a reminder that, if anything, the protests only marked the beginning of what will undoubtedly be a long and slow process of reversing hundreds of years of discrimination, inequality and human rights abuses that are firmly embedded in the laws, history and institutions of countries all over the world.
The manner and speed with which Black Lives Matter was taken up around the world was arguably unprecedented. Perhaps it is symbolic of the up-and-coming Generation Z’s investment in political activism unrestricted to geographical borders and the rapid-fire way in which news is transmitted today. Considering the astounding support that Generation Z has expressed for the Black Lives Matter movement and the increasingly interconnected nature of the world in which they are growing up, it is not an unreasonable hope that this generation will take up the mantle of change and carry it further than ever before.
Gen Z: The fragile generation?
Gen Z are more fragile and exposed to adverse mental health outcomes than the older generations, and Covid-19 has certainly not helped. They are also much more aware of mental health issues. We explore the reasons underlying their condition.
Being born in the modern world has certainly endowed “Gen Zers” with a broader perspective, an entrepreneurial spirit, and the desire to tackle problems like climate change that impact our long-run future. However, it has also made them more exposed to anxiety, depression, and, in general, adverse mental health outcomes than previous generations.
The study A survey by Mind Share Partners, published on the Harvard Business Review, sheds light on the mental health situation in the workplace, highlighting significant generational differences. Albeit still being relatively new to the labour market, Zoomers can already be seen sharing Millennials’ characteristics: in particular, they are “four times more likely to experience symptoms of anxiety than baby boomers” (the number is three for Millennials), with such symptoms more likely to last longer.
The most striking result, though, is that more than 50% of Millennials and 75% of Gen Z respondents had left a job for alleged mental reasons – such share only amounting to 10% for boomers.
Fragile Together with other studies, the evidence collected above suggests that today’s youth is more fragile than previous generations. A factor may be having been raised by overprotective parents who shielded their offspring from failure; it turns out, their children have now become unable to cope with lack of success, which has become a source of exaggerated anxiety rather than an opportunity to learn. In fact, many of our contemporaries cannot even handle constructive criticism without feeling emotionally shaken.
Social media is believed to be closely linked to this fragility, leading to isolation and envy of others’ lives. Seeing others living seemingly perfect lives – cherry-picked to be thus for social media – or perhaps hanging out together without you, makes you feel left out, lonely, and possibly insignificant. It is no surprise, then, that Generation Z has been dubbed the “loneliest generation”, with this sense of loneliness largely not being attributed to a developmental stage, but rather to the inherent characteristics of our generation, although the role of social media is still debated.
A tougher path ahead As sociologist Lisa Strohschein put it when talking about late Millennials and Gen Z, “in the last 50 years, the expectation has been that each generation will do better than the one before it. This is the first generation where that’s not necessarily true”. Data for the US show that we are “on track to be the best-educated generation yet”, and that we view racial and gender diversity more favourably than elder age groups. Yet, we also face a tougher, less clear path to success, with the nature of work becoming more competitive.
Whilst Millennials went through the Great Recession, it seemed Zoomers would experience a brighter, more solid future. Then, the Covid-19 pandemic hit, adding stress and uncertainty to a generation already prone to anxiety.
More awareness of mental health conditions There is an upside to the Mind Share Partners study, though: Gen Z give mental health a greater weight than their parents, for instance believing that it is important for a company to have a culture supporting it. Moreover, they are much less likely to gloss over their condition than the older workers surveyed, and more likely to believe that an employee with a mental health issue can be as competent as one without, showing a more mature sense of awareness in the field.
The question is, then, whether the higher share of Gen Z (and Millennials) who report to suffer from, or have received a diagnosis of, a mental health disorder is really due to them being more fragile, or if a significant role is played by their greater sensitivity on the issue.
The impact of Covid-19 Covid-19 has stressed, once again, the peculiar sensibility that characterizes our generation. A survey published by the CDC examined the insurgence of adverse mental or behavioural health symptoms in the population following the stress and emotions related to the Covid-19 pandemic: unsurprisingly, the 18-24 years old cluster was much more likely than others to show symptoms of anxiety, depression, trauma- and stressor-related disorder, etc. In particular, 74.9% of that cluster experienced at least a symptom, with the population average being 40.9%.
Social psychologists agree that our personality is not a monolith given to us by nature and unchangeable until death – it is rather believed to be the outcome of both nature and “nurture”, meaning that the socialization process plays a powerful role in defining who we are. This also means that it inevitably changes over time: new experiences and an evolved mindset may thus enable us to tackle challenges without the load of anxiety that we now see surrounding them.
Il tempo degli eroi
Siamo nati nel turbine
di una finzione densa,
una nebbia futura
che offusca, appanna
sulla via maestra.
Siamo figli di una
umanità altra, amara un poco
fagocitata dai suoi stessi giocattoli
tutta trotterellante attorno a leggi
anguste, in cui non c’è posto
che ci vuole individui,
di istanze vuote e conformi
al dettame di una specie
Se solo per un attimo sprofondare
nell’abbraccio della corteccia del mondo.
Se solo per un attimo
il solletichio della resina.
Forse gli alberi
sono qui per dire.
che ordina il quieto abbandono
alla ninna nanna della storia
di fronte al richiamo delle lucciole.
E’ come la penna
di un narratore esterno, nascosto,
del rimare delle margherite,
che d’un tratto
tutti i miracoli e
ha spinto una stella cadente
verso l’occhio mio.
Forse i respiri del cielo
e le canzoni del vento
sono qui per dire:
è per noi
Noi, unici interpreti
delle lacrime di questa primavera,
noi, unici agricoltori
di una pianura infinita di presente
e di vicino,
che si estende fino
a dove vibra la vista,
e all’orizzonte s’appiglia
alla senilità del Sole.
Nostalgia del futuro.
E’ forse questo
il tempo di sentire
sentirla, nel tremolio
dell’umano riflettersi in mondi migliori.
l’autentica nostra fiducia
Ogni millimetro di cielo
canta ancora la sua
Il suo spartito nascosto
brilla nell’iride di un neonato.
Ne riconosco la fiamma
in ogni mia intima quotidiana rivoluzione.
E’ questo forse
La mano astratta di un bimbo
il suo perfetto abitare
un foglio bianco.
In ogni timido tratto
di un mondo nuovo
con un noi più grande
che tratteggi il respiro del falco
e le radici,
la loro segreta vittoria.
In ogni schizzo
cullare le vibrazioni,
le ignote oscure energie
giochi di illuminazione
nei risvegli intermittenti
di un esserci comune.
il giorno di Amanda,
che in un mantello di stelle
recitò in cinque strofe
la preghiera spontanea del pianeta.
Orchestrare i pennelli
e nei grumi di
ricordare gli eserciti
della natura e
il loro attraversare
labirinti di cemento
e profumarli di umano.
le lunghe trecce di Greta,
la forza di Malala,
la grazia di George
e di tutti i volti
in cui ancora s’annida
il potere di commuovere il mondo.
Forse Amanda, Malala, Greta, George,
le nostre cicatrici
sono qui per dire:
è questo, per noi
il tempo degli eroi.
sul filo tra due
Infanzia di un
maldestro giocherellare con
pezzi di Sole.
cercarlo in alto tra le flotte
Starnazza il loro sentire
che il cielo scricchiola.
Forse è solo un tetto.
Francesca Sofia Cocco
Paolo Barone, Marco Visentin
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