‘16 going on ‘17: A World Divided?
2017, following 2016, has been a time of uncertainty for everyone, but especially for our millennial generation. A lot of things are happening that do not represent our opinions and voices. From Trump to Brexit, to the rise of the extreme right in Europe because of the refugee crisis and the rise of terrorism, we feel as though we are disconnected from the world we live in. Moreover, we are deeply aware that we will be the ones having to live with the consequences of the older generation’s present choices in the years to come.
Millennials have a more global mind-set, and most of us prefer travelling and trying different countries and cultures than staying in one place our entire lives detached from the rest of the planet. We embrace different cultures and traditions, and we are fast-learners who would like to preserve this world and build deeper connections between the people in it.
This is why Brexit seemed to hurt so many young people, especially those not old enough to vote, but old enough to want to have a say in their futures. A sixteen-year-old British citizen is now going to be prevented from studying abroad within regular European programmes or from working abroad without all the fuss of getting a visa, because the older, less open-minded people from their country decided to close their borders to the outside world. The most frustrating part is that no one in Britain seems to have a well-designed plan for what comes after Brexit, and a lot depends on the deal that they make with the E.U.
This situation affects me, personally, as a twenty-four-year-old Portuguese girl who has studied English literature in London. This was one of the best experiences of my life, right next to backpacking in South America for three months. I have never seen myself as simply a Portuguese citizen. For one thing, I have always considered myself to be part of Europe, and of the world itself. There is nothing better than getting to know the world, and how incredibly diverse and beautiful it is.
Now, that the U.K. government has triggered article 50, my chances of going back there to work are slimmer, if not impossible. It saddens me because I really loved living in London, and now, because an older majority chose to leave the European Union, something our ancestors created exactly to make our continent stronger and friendlier after the Second World War, I may be barred from doing so.
Like me, there are thousands of other young people wanting to move around freely for study or work purposes who will now find it much harder to do so. The same goes for the uncertain destinies of European immigrants in the U.K., and U.K. immigrants in the E.U.: What will happen to them? How will their rights be upheld?
Many European countries have people wanting to do the same thing as the U.K. (i.e., having a referendum on whether they want to remain in the European Union or not), especially those with extreme-right views. Even though these movements are growing, it does not represent what most young people feel or believe in. Mainly, they are a direct reflection of the older generations’ fears and anxieties. Because of our global mind-set, however, millennials tend to be more tolerant than baby boomers, and we know that closing borders is not the way to go. Still, our hands are tied as all these governments make decisions which we do not necessarily agree with, and that will significantly affect our futures.
Another good example of this is Donald Trump. His administration and politics scare most millennials around the globe for his racist, Big Brother-like ideas – thus, it is not surprising that sales of Orwell’s 1984 have suddenly escalated after the election. Trump’s neglect of a broader healthcare plan for Americans and his unbelievable disregard for climate change, adding to his racist and misogynistic views, all contribute to millennials’ dislike of him. To what extent will this president’s actions be destructive for the future of our planet’s ecosystems and coming generations? Reversing Obama’s clean energy regulations will have a huge impact on the U.S. and the rest of the world, and it may jeopardize the future of several species and of the planet itself. And let’s not even mention his obsession with building literal walls to isolate the United States from the rest of the world. How is any of this making America great again?
Unfortunately, we cannot choose what the deals between the E.U. and the U.K. will be any more than we can interfere in Trump’s administration. It is not in our hands. Still, we can teach by example and keep our heads up – maybe the next governments will actually pay attention to what really matters. Besides, we can always speak up so that people hear our voices, and know that, although so many things in the world seem terrible right now, it does not mean that everyone’s views and opinions are. We like our global world. We like to embrace all cultures and traditions and, mostly, we value respect, freedom and equality. Those are the pillars we need to aim for in the years to come.