Regardless of how it turns out, January 20, 2021 is going to mark the end of an era. This will be the last of the baby boomers to hold legimiate power in sharing a significant vision of the future. While you would think it is now my generation’s turn to influence the future of our society and our planet (Gen X), I would suggest that my generation is going to end up simply being caretakers for a short transition period before a new era of real and substantive change is going to be ushered in. 

The reason is in part to do with social communications and an ‘influencer’ community that isn’t prepared to wait until they are into their 50’s and 60’s before assuming power. Millennials are used to making things happen. They are well connected. They see the future in terms of being responsible, mobile, and flexible rather than authoritarian, static, and rigid.

This will in turn lead to new ideas on how politics, both foreign and domestic, need to be positioned. The future won’t be as much about nationalistic isolationism as it will be about inclusiveness.  Change will start to occur more from the bottom up with the new wave of voters opting for those political leaders that can balance dynamic priorities and traditional values.

Look at movements like #metoo, #blm, #thisgirlcan, and #schoolstrike. All movements that are challenging the way boomers and gen x’ers need to view the universe.

While my generation may understand that things need to change, millennials are actually making things happen despite the lack of access to legitimate power that comes with age. Millennials are making use of expert and informational power to a far greater extent and, by doing so, are undercutting the legitimately of those who expect to wield power based on ‘seniority’. 

Don’t get me wrong. I doubt very much that we will see a 30-something President or Prime Minister. I do however feel that the shaping of politics will be more heavily influenced by both millennials and Gen Z than at any time in the past. By that I mean the optimism of youth having a real voice in changing the future.

Yes, Gen X has done a lot to promote a new greener agenda. But we are the generation that essentially built the tools that Millennials and Gen Z  are now capable of truly benefitting from. We never truly got an opportunity to really push them to their limits because we were so busy testing and debugging what doesn’t work. 

The other aspect to consider is this: Millennials are the first generation to grow up with smartphones, real-time responses, and constant access to information. It won’t be good enough to simply agree that the Paris Climate Accords are a good idea. They will want to see change happening in real-time, not 20 years into the future. 

This push towards making things happen now, rather than later, will influence those Gen X’ers that do take up the reigns of power if they wish to stay in power. 

The next 4 years for both Canada and the US are going to be a period of radical transition and adjustment. Not just due to covid, but because the old fossils of a generation that doesn’t get #metoo or #blm, and why it does matter, are finally being put to pasture.  Canada has already started down this path. With luck the US will follow.

Or at least I sincerely hope so. I don’t think the world can survive more leaders that are putting themselves ahead of our collective well being. Its okay to be a little bit selfish. Its not okay to be selfish at the expense of our future, our children’s future, and our planet’s future.

— Kevin Feenan

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