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The Virus and Gen Z

One question hangs over Gen Z, as it does over everyone else: how will the coronavirus of 2020 change things?

How many of its disruptions and dislocations are temporary, and how many will settle down into a dispiriting new normal?

“Prior to the last six months, I would’ve told you that the global environmental crisis was the most important historical event to shape this generation, but Covid-19 will likely have the most profound impact,” says Melinda Goodman, president of FullTilt Marketing, BB #:354985 based in Hubertus, WI.

In some ways the pandemic has hit Gen Z has harder than their elders. A middle-aged person may be happy to stay at home, reading, watching TV, and puttering around in the garden.

But what about a graduating senior in the class of 2020? The televised national graduation day, despite appearances by Barack Obama and the Rolling Stones (who tunelessly sang “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction”), is hardly an adequate substitute for the customary senior year, with all of its adventures and vices.

In any event, very much has changed very fast. In August 2019, retail expert Dr. Sylvain Charlebois could write a column in Canadian Grocer entitled “Is the Kitchen Stove Becoming Obsolete?” He could hardly do so today.

Goodman offers this valuable perspective: “It is said that [generations] repeat themselves about every 100 years, often driven by large global events or culture shifts like war.”

Today, she explains, it’s possible to look at Gen Z and the culture shifts happening in race and equity, the global pandemic, and recessionary pressures “as similar to the experiences of the Silent Generation that came of age 1928 to 1945.

“They lived through the Great Depression and World War II,” Goodman continues, “with the rise and fall of Hitler and the atrocities of the Holocaust, only to come to see communism as the new global threat. This generation became leaders in the civil rights movement and understand the need to work hard and work within the system to create change. They were not a rebellious or boisterous group; hence their name as the Silent Generation, but that does not mean they were without power.”

Ultimately, one suspects, Gen Z will survive and prevail—just as every generation of humanity has up to now. Whether their lives will be easier or harder than those of their elders is one of many things no one can safely predict. But facing adversities in youth sometimes staves them off in old age.

This is a multi-part feature adapted from the cover story of the September/October issue of Produce Blueprints magazine.

Richard Smoley, editor for Blue Book Services, Inc., has more than 40 years of experience in magazine writing and editing, and is the former managing editor of California Farmer magazine. A graduate of Harvard and Oxford universities, he has published 11 books.