The older generations were a lot more aware about social and environmental issues. In the 1970s, there was the hippie culture in which the youth raised issues like the degradation of the environment, the implications of industrialization, and what not. At some point, when the realities of life hit them, they had to start focusing on jobs. I believe we have grown up bearing the fruits of what our parents fought for.
The primary reason why there are still not enough people out on the streets to fight for a cause is because the millennial generation has grown up privileged. So, the fighting spirit is not there among many of us. I wouldn’t say that the millennial generation is lazy. We work really hard, maybe way more than our parents, and that, more than anything, can be attributed to the capital agenda. We are a generation that romanticizes overworking, and probably because of this, one that doesn’t have time to got out for a dharna or protest for an issue that does not affect us directly.
However, I definitely see this trend changing. The internet is a powerful medium to reach out to people and helps many to speak out. Initiating things online is just a start. Unfortunately, we are also a generation that criticizes people for voicing social causes online. There are multiple articles that question how people can save trees by merely petitioning online. What these critics need to realize is that nobody or no generation is born “woke". In 2017, Merriam-Webster added “woke" to its dictionary, defining the word as: “aware of and actively attentive to important facts and issues (especially issues of racial and social justice)". The millennial generation has redefined the term “woke" as resurgence of social consciousness. It is a behaviour pattern that grows, and one need to start somewhere. By critiquing online efforts, what we are doing, in a sense, is discouraging an entire generation from even starting. It is also important to understand that the internet is an especially important arena in this day and age when the number of venues for protests are shrinking. It is tough to collect a thousand people to meet at a venue, whereas it is easier to mobilize people online. On the flip side, it does make us complacent because we don’t go out to the physical space more often. But, then again, I think that is just a phase. Mobile penetration is massive in rural areas, and, in fact, it is helping a lot of us to reach out to people who live in smaller towns and rural economies.
Meanwhile, there is a change in the attitude of companies in how they view social and environmental issues. We have seen that in the way in which brands are talking and how the mainstream media and entertainment industry is trying to cater to the “woke" generation. A definite example of that is companies speaking more about women empowerment. The millennial generation has shown where its interests lie and companies are slowly taking a more sensitive approach.
Sofia Ashraf is a Tamil rapper whose protest song Kodaikanal Won’t went viral in 2015. She is currently writing a web series, and is set to release another music video on an environmental issue.
As told to Haris Zargar