As a result of the information and technology revolutions, the most important
gap between people’s mindset today is not between East and West, North and
South, rich and poor, but a generational divide. There is a young generation
that is more informed, educated and interconnected than ever before in
This generation, born into the Internet age, is bears on its
wings a wind of change, the world over. It is a change toward greater openness
of society, democratization, social awareness and peace, led by the global army
of the Internet.
In America, this generation is defined as Generation Y
or the Millennials; people born after 1983 who passed into adulthood at the
change of the millennium (people 20 to 30 years old). This generation came after
Generation X (30-45 years old), who in turn were born after the post-World War
II baby boomers (45-60 years old). The characteristics of the Millennials in the
United States are important to understand, as when it comes to progress, much of
the world will follow America, has been the case in the past.
American Millennials are definitely the people of the Internet. Seventy-five
percent of Americans between the ages of 20 and 30 have created profiles on
social networking sites as compared to 50% of Generation X. In that age group
every fifth young American has posted a video of him or herself on the Internet,
a new world of transparency. In a generation for whom the virtual world is the
real world, friends are made on Facebook, views are expressed in personal blogs,
even matchmaking is done on the Web. The windows of Microsoft have become
windows to the world. Young people correspond with their peers the world over by
email, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc.
This generation is the most
educated in history. Half of the Americans between 18 an 24 are enrolled in
academic colleges. It is also the most heterogeneous and
The dominance of the American WASPS (White Anglo-Saxon
Protestants) is over. Forty percent of Americans between 20 and 30 are not white
and half of them are Latinos.
This background of education, international
connectivity, and multiculturalism forms a relatively liberal
According to extensive public opinion surveys, such as a 2010
Pew Research Center poll, the Millennials identify themselves, in the majority,
as liberals. They are less supportive than Generation X of assertive national
security policies, and more supportive of a national domestic social
Only 2% of the Millennials are military veterans. One-third of
Generation X are military veterans.
There are of course many opposing
characteristics in this generation, but the trend is a very reformative one that
will have important consequences for America’s social fabric, values and
The world, regardless of attitudes toward America, is following
this trend, as the young in almost all countries are affected by the same
changes in communication, education and multiculturalism. The world’s
Millennials – young people, be it in Europe, the Middle East, Latin America,
most of Asia, and even Africa, aim to reap the fruits of globalization. In this
they sense a greater empowerment through the connection on social networks. They
are creating alliances in their own communities and the world over. They can
express their views to their political leaders without waiting for Election Day.
They are mobilizing for social struggle and change of leadership by peaceful
means – from Occupy Wall Street to Tahrir Square.
Social networking has
become the new great democratizer; everybody is equal on Facebook and Twitter.
Differences of nationality, color, race, religion, gender, and sexual identity
are irrelevant. Neither Barack Obama nor a coal miner in Chile can exceed 140
characters on Twitter; neither can a multi-billionaire.
and democratization will lead to profound changes, not only in America, but in
many parts of the world, for those who will choose to be part of
The world of the Millennials will be a world in which
government will be less relevant and more attentive to the new voice of the
people; even non-democratic regimes will find it hard to block or censor
Facebook. Young people will break the walls of fear from intelligence services
and will protest for their most basic rights – the right to life, education,
freedom of movement, and the right to be different.
Young women will be
at the forefront of this quiet revolution with courage and determination; they
struggle against the most prevalent oppressions of all, by men against
The Millennials understand the great value of education first and
foremost for their children and themselves in higher education which is
spreading the world over on the Internet. Some classes are already followed by
hundreds of thousands in online education: the smartphone is beginning to
deserve its name. Education is the basis for skills-based employment in order to
realize the opportunities provided by the technological revolution.
generation cares more for social causes than for national ambitions. Civil
rights and equality, especially among the young, are important to the
They are more engaged in civil society activities for the
needy in their cities, countries and the world. Many volunteer at home, with the
disabled, or minorities, or in Africa in child and orphan centers, bringing
awareness in combatting malaria and AIDS.
The Western world Millennial
Generation should take upon itself the rehabilitation of the African continent
together with the Millennials in Africa.
War seems futile to most young,
as it achieves nothing for their lives. A victory in war can only lead to mutual
destruction and cannot lead to education, employment or the attainment of basic
freedoms. The American Peace Corps is today more important to many young
Americans than the Marines. Through it, they can contribute and learn. The same
is true for many other young who volunteer in many international
Generation Y has also produced many terrorists, but they are
becoming more isolated in their societies. It’s a generation that favors peace,
not out of a John Lennon peace ideology, but out of pragmatism in order to
imagine and acquire education, employment and basic rights, in a globalized
In Europe, the young have long ago given up on wars. French and
German young meet on campus, not on the battlefield. In the US there is a
growing opposition among the young toward American military involvement, as we
witnessed during the Syrian crisis. Diplomacy is preferred, not necessarily out
of isolationism, but within a new form of peaceful international
What maybe affects the Millennials most, and forms their
attitudes, is a new global multiculturalism. While in the past, globalization
seemed to impose a Western megaculture, today the interaction of cultures on
social networks together with global tourism and the great mobility of students
have created a more multi-cultural environment.
Young women and men
listen to African or Latin American music on YouTube or follow courses on
Buddhism and yoga through podcasts. While the language of the Internet is
English, there is in today’s young world a greater mixture of cultures. Racism
and xenophobia have little space in cyberspace. Multiculturalism leads, by
definition, to greater tolerance of each other, which is the key to more open
societies and to mutual understanding among them.
The Middle East has its
In the Arab world, they are 60% of the
While most cling to religion and tradition, they also want to
belong to globalization.
Education, employment and basic freedoms are the
main aims of this generation. And with this comes a growing understanding that
these are unattainable without peaceful coexistence.
The dictators and
religious fanatics, who are still powerful, have a hard time controlling this
generation, as Hosni Mubarak and Mohamed Morsi found out first-hand.
the future, the rift between oppressors, political and religious, and those who
rebel against them, will only grow. The Arab Generation Y will, with time, give
birth to leadership more open to the globalized world.
Israel too has its
Millennial Generation – when they were born the occupation of the West Bank and
Gaza was a fact of life, Israel was still entrenched in Lebanon; JFK and The
Beatles belonged to the past. Young Israelis are among the most active in the
world on social networks; they also study online, and contribute most to Israel
as a start-up nation. They utterly distrust the government of the day, as was
expressed in the Rothschild Boulevard protests. They love to travel abroad and
sometimes study there. While highly patriotic, they want us to belong to the
technological and scientific revolutions in the world. With time, and maybe the
hard way, most of them will find out that they can reach this goal only if
Israel will decide to prefer peace over settlements.
They will, without
any mediators, discover that their Arab peers are not that much different in
their basic aspirations.
This is not true for the majority of Israelis
and Arabs, but is becoming increasingly apparent with members or the Millennial
Generation, at least the secular ones.
Peace, like the advance of
technology and science, is now a generational issue. One hopes that with time it
will come via the young and for the young.
An example of this commonality
of the Middle Eastern Millennials took place two weeks ago on the Jordanian side
of the Dead Sea. The US State Department, well aware of the Millennial
Generation, organized a conference for 120 Israeli and Arab (from Palestine,
Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, Sudan and Iraq) students of the YaLa
Young Leaders peace movement.
The US had, in the previous years,
sponsored online courses for these students in conflict resolution and
negotiations from the best American universities. These young of different
political outlooks had no problem in creating a common language in their
meetings, tired of old politics, opting for a better life, in a better region –
a Millennial Generation language that they had practiced for a year in their
online courses and in creating friendships through Facebook.
And a word
to Generation X and the baby boomers who look at the Millennials often with
paternalism and skepticism – give them a chance, and let them lead.
Savir is the president of the Peres Center for Peace and served as Israel’s
chief negotiator of the Oslo Accords.
Barbara Hurwitz edited this column.