Miranda Devine is a Sydney Morning Herald columnist, and recently wrote an excellent piece on Australia’s Gen Y (young people now in the teens and early 20s). She had just witnessed a group of 400 of them grilling Kevin Rudd, the Aussie PM – and they had given him a rough time.
It’s well worth the read. The original is here, or you can read an extract below.
Trust savvy gen Y to smell a rat
February 11, 2010
Two funny things happened this week – the Prime Minister was punked on ABC TV’s Q&A program by 400 sharp-tongued gen Ys who looked as if they had “cynic” stamped on their foreheads. And history’s most watched Superbowl game featured an Audi ad about “green police”, which satirised environmental zealotry.
If you wanted proof of a shift in the zeitgeist, these two video exhibits would win the case.
Both point to a new attitude towards ”the greatest moral challenge” of our time, which found its tipping point at Copenhagen, set against the backdrop of Climategate. But more than that, they give us a glimpse into the future, as the children of the baby boomers, generation Y, born in the ’80s and ’90s, begin to flex their muscles.
Kevin Rudd was the first to feel their might. Facing the Q&A audience aged 16 to 25, he may have thought he was talking to his legendary fan base, the Kevin ’07 youth surge who fired up his campaign and still staff his office.
But it soon became evident, by his crestfallen look and the nervous way he twiddled his wedding ring, that he has underestimated generation Y.
“Mr Rudd, I’d like to know how you expect us to trust you – our generation, the ones that got behind you in the Kevin ’07 . . . on everything you’re saying and you broke promises like the laptops ones and the health ones and all the ones that were important to [us]?” was just one of the confronting questions.
“Well, you keep saying that your government keeps acting on climate change. [But] you also say … you’re supporting a big Australia. How realistic do you think it is to have a big Australia and reduce your carbon emissions at the same time?” was another.
Rudd never answered, despite filling the air with his verbal tics: “Guess what”, “You know what”, “frankly”, “folk”, “on a rolling basis” and “dead set serious”, plus lots of two-finger pointing and lively hand gestures.
Credit to him for fronting up, but the audience wasn’t buying.
Maybe he thought feeding young people a few symbols like Kyoto and an apology, and promising youth-specific goodies, such as computers, would be enough.
But gen Y, idealistic cynics that they are, can’t be won so easily.
Audi, on the other hand, tapped into their sensibility, daringly placing its green-yet-anti-green ad into the expensive Superbowl spot. It opens with a pleasant young man at a supermarket, who is asked if he wants his food in paper or plastic. When he replies “plastic”, a policeman shoves his head down on the counter and handcuffs him, saying, “That’s the magic word . . . You picked the wrong day to mess with the ecosystem, plastic boy.”
Cut to “green police” riffling through a rubbish bin outside a suburban house looking for eco-unfriendly items. When they find a battery they cry: “Let’s go. Take the house.” A police helicopter trains its lights through the kitchen window of another house where a young man is peeling an orange into his bin. “Put the rind down. Sir. That’s a compost infraction,” comes the megaphone command.
A man comes to his door, chewing his dinner, to find green police inspecting his porch light. “Did you install these lightbulbs?” “Yeah,” he replies, before he is handcuffed and bundled into a police car. A TV reporter intones: “Tragedy strikes tonight where a man has just been arrested for possession of an incandescent light bulb.”
It is all done to the tune of the ’80s band Cheap Trick’s Dream Police reworked as Green Police.
The point of the ad comes in an “eco roadblock”, which has stopped two lanes of traffic, as green police go car to car checking emissions. When they get to a young man in an Audi, they say approvingly, “Clean diesel. You’re good to go, sir.” The young man roars off, fast and smug in his throaty diesel, which the ad tells us is “green car of the year”.
It is hard to imagine, even six months ago, one of the world’s largest car corporations, Germany’s Volkswagen Group, having the courage to advertise even its most eco-friendly wares by satirising green totalitarianism and fakery. They have sniffed the wind and decided the time for paying obeisance to the environmental movement is over.
The ad reaches beyond ideology to those who want to do the right thing by the environment but with sensible measures that are not incompatible with driving a real car with grunt.
It says to a new, spin-averse, satire-savvy, irony-aware audience: ”We are with you, we see the spin, we are not part of it.”
Of course, since it is an ad, there is a paradox, but it is the kind gen Y is used to. Having been bombarded with ads and marketing from every type of media all their lives, their scepticism knows no bounds. They have grown up in an era of spin over substance, of nanny statism and overblown scare campaigns.
But while their teachers were trying to brainwash them, they were getting a more realistic education from satirical TV cartoons such as South Park, Family Guy, Futurama, American Dad and The Simpsons. They barrack for no particular ideology, and, seeing close-hand the effects of divorce and social instability, are used to adults not living up to lofty standards.
As the first generation to grow up with Google, they expect real answers to real questions. They have grown up in a post-Berlin Wall world, and terrorism and war permeate their daily lives. The September 11 attacks and Bali bombings define their time. Their generation are the soldiers on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan. They know what a ”moral challenge” is.
They are savvy and serious people, who expect to be treated seriously, and accord their elders respect only if earned. The future is in good hands.
Source: Sydney Morning Herald