Valor – Generation Y’s Elusive X-factor

Let’s face it: Never before has a generation been more educated, more informed, more empowered, more equipped and more prepared for success. We millennials have got it all – we’ve got technology to help us solve almost all of our problems, and our belief in not just our own abilities, but in the power of community as well, is unrivaled.

This freedom, this bubble of ‘prerogative’, continues to spur creativity and innovation ― ideals that have become synonymous with Generation Y. All of us can at least sense the inevitability of our obligation and responsibility as a generation to lead the world into a new age ― an age of competitive innovation, corporate social responsibility, accountability in government, environmental consciousness and care for one another.

But while we’ve got the tools we need, we still have more to do. Perhaps the words of Alan Turing ― a brilliant 20th Century computer scientist and mathematician who laid the foundations of modern computing and cryptography ― have never been more relevant:

“We can only see a short distance ahead, but we can see plenty there that needs to be done.”

Because in spite of all that we are, and despite what’s been availed to us, there is one quality we all seem so desperately in need of ― valor. I say valor because we are at war. The world is nowhere near where we would like it to be. And history teaches us the task of tearing down walls is never easy. In the words of Che Guevara,

“We have no right to believe that freedom can be won without struggle.”

Only extreme courage will make it possible for us to even just begin taking on the forces that would want to maintain the status quo.

See, I believe that as Generation Y, we just don’t want to sacrifice, or at least we don’t know how. Yet deep inside our hearts, we know all the facets of our world that need fixing. We know our politics is petty. We believe our education system can, and should, be better. We frown upon our own lack of commitment to taking care of our environment. We hate the fact that those we care about oftentimes can’t even start to lay claim to adequate healthcare from a system they themselves otherwise support. And we’re convinced our justice system doesn’t even begin to live up to the basic ideal of justice for all. We know these things.

And we know we have a responsibility to stand up for these principles, not just because they’re true, but because they give meaning to life as well. But we cannot do this without courage. And that’s why, as generation Y, we must wade into the deepest recesses of our hearts and find what lies inside each one of us ― bravery. We must not waver in our commitment to take our rightful place in the story of our advancement ― that of defining, inspiring and driving positive change in society.

The process of change has never been easy. But it is during times like these that we’re called upon to borrow inspiration from Frederick Douglass, who says:

“If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”

It’s time to re-write the script on the essence of our politics. Politics is big, and we as the Y-generation cannot afford to downplay its role in shaping every aspect of our lives, both as individuals and as society. Now, more than ever, the price of just standing by and watching as outsiders write our story is simply too high. This is our autobiography, and there’s only so much others can help us write! We belong in the driving seat.

And to those who love to distance themselves from the scent of politics, the great German playwright, Bertolt Brecht’s words are as much a reprimand as they are a reminder:

“The worst illiterate is the political illiterate. He hears nothing, sees nothing, [and] takes no part in political life. He doesn’t seem to know that the cost of living, the price of beans, of flour, of rent, [and] of medicines all depend on political decisions. He even prides himself of his political ignorance, sticks out his chest and says he hates politics. He doesn’t know, the imbecile, that from his political non-participation comes the prostitute, the abandoned child, the robber and, worst of all, corrupt officials, the lackeys of exploitative multinationals.”

We are called upon to hold our leaders to our highest ideals – accountability and integrity ― but for us to do that, these are values we need to live out ourselves. And we need to understand voting is not just a form of expression; it is an opportunity for us to see ourselves in others.

Even as we churn out ideas that revolutionize our economies, even as our businesses transform the world, we must not forget our obligation to protect and conserve our environment ― the very source of our prosperity.

And in the face of an increasingly competitive world, we cannot afford to run away from who we truly are ― one people, sharing a common destiny. Taking care of one another isn’t just a moral obligation; it safeguards our society’s political, social and economic stability. And it’s good for business too. That’s why we must give back to society and treat one another with respect.