Hi there, reader.
We have some important, yet slightly alarming news to share with you. So please take a seat. Maybe strap yourself in.
You ready? Okay. Here goes.
It’s (whispers)… December.
We know, we know. I mean, where did the year go, right? Again?!
But don’t worry, you’re not alone. Pandemic memory loss is actually a thing.
Earlier this year the BBC spoke with memory researcher Catherine Loveday, who said 80% of the people who took part in her survey on memory failings during the pandemic said that at least one aspect of their memory had deteriorated.
But lucky for you, we’re here to help fill in the gaps about four key moments or movements which helped shape the year for Gen Zs.
- The Capitol riots (yep, that happened this year)
On the 6th of January 2021, thousands of rioters swarmed the US Capitol building in an attempt to interrupt the peaceful transfer of presidential power from Donald Trump to Joe Biden. Five people died during or shortly after the violent siege, which forced Congress to go into lockdown for four hours. Prosecutors have since charged more than 700 people from 40 US states for a variety of offences, from civil disorder to interfering with the electoral college count or assulting law enforcement.
Not only was former US president Donald Trump impeached twice over the riots, he was banned from Twitter indefinitely over a series of tweets which the social media network claimed encouraged the violence. This fuelled worldwide debate over freedom of speech, especially for Gen Zs who are experiencing ‘silent free speech crisis’.
2. We took to the streets more than ever
More than 230 times and in 110 countries to be exact, according to the Carnegie International Protest Tracker. Some large-scale demonstrations that might ring a bell: Myanmar’s violent coup protests, the farmers’ protests in India, protests against gender-based violence following the murder of Sarah Everard in the UK, and of course, the anti-vaccine, anti-mandate and anti-COVID restriction protests in Australia and around the world. Gen Zs – the ‘action generation’ – have been at the forefront of many, with 86% believing that (peaceful) protests are necessary to create change.
3. The National Inquiry into Sexual Harrassment
Twenty-twenty one exposed the ugly underbelly of Australian politics as a wave of sexual assault and harassment allegations emerged against multiple politicians and staff at Canberra’s Parliament House.
In response to widespread outrage at the alleged rape of Brittany Higgins on Parliament grounds in 2019, the government launched a high-profile inquiry into sexual harrassment and bullying in Australia’s parliament. The report released last week, which has been described by Greens Party Senator Sarah Hanson-Young as “damning expose of the sexist culture and harassment in politics” found widespread sexism in Australian parliament, with one in three Australian parliamentarians having been sexually harrassed on the job. It made 28 recommendations, including targets to increase diversity and “a proactive focus on safety and wellbeing”.
4. Vaccine rollout
Word of the year in 2020 was ‘lockdown’. In 2021, it’s ‘vaccine’.
The highly anticipated vaccine rollout had many Gen Zs hopeful for a more normal year than last, especially year 12s who had important milestones to look forward to. But despite Australia being one of the world’s success stories in domestic pandemic management since March 2020, a sluggish vaccine rollout (remember ‘it’s not a race’?) came to haunt Australia.
Only 3% of Australia’s population was fully vaccinated around the time a cabin crew driver from Sydney was diagnosed with COVID-19, a case which triggered Australia’s deadly third wave and eventually sent the majority of Australia’s southeast coast into months of lockdown. While the HSC did go ahead (though delayed), many Gen Zs were again forced to learn from home, missing out on final sporting carnivals, year 12 retreats, graduation events, formals and more.
But there is a light at the tunnel: with 74% of Australia’s adult population now vaccinated, states are starting to reopen and international travel has resumed. Here’s hoping the many Gen Zs will get the gap year they’ve been dreaming of.