Millennials get called a lot of things: lazy, entitled, narcissistic, the “me me me” generation. Regardless of these labels, we millennials have one thing that no other generation has ever had – we are the only people to be reaching adulthood during the 21st century, the most technologically advanced and information-driven era the world has ever experienced. With this, we are afforded certain privileges. The internet allows us to connect with people and cultures from all over the world on a daily basis. Improved transportation takes realistic travel to new heights and new destinations. We have access to concepts and technologies that older generations never dreamed of, and more often than not, we are ready to use them. These facts alone makes us some of the most innovative and educated individuals in society.
Perhaps one of the reasons that older generations complain about millennials is because our 21st century lifestyles can come into conflict with more traditional values. Ideas that past generations found innovative, millennials can find somewhat mundane. Technological communication is a perfect example: my mother didn’t get an email until college, my older sister got an account when she was 14, I got one when I was 10 (which my sister complained about endlessly at the time). On the flip side, I, the youngest, was the first in my family to know how to properly use an iPhone. The “me me me” generation is all about putting our own spin on things, even if it involves challenging mores previously viewed as commonplace.
Now, take something like human rights. While arguably, as a concept, human rights have existed since, well, humans, they weren’t really implemented into comprehensive policy until 1948 with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Since then, and particularly in the past 20 years or so, the fields of international and domestic human rights have boomed. My generation is the first to grow up in a world where the innate equality and defense of all human beings is the rule, not the exception (even if not always acted upon).
So how do millennials like me think about human rights? How are we expanding on previously held definitions and standards? What does the future of human rights, led by my generation, look like?
Over the course of the next few weeks through a blog series, I hope to answer these questions from both my own personal views and the views of my peers. Potentially more importantly, I want to close the space that may lay between my generation and the ones that created the foundations on which we are building. I may never be able to teach my mother how to put her phone on “Do Not Disturb,” but perhaps I can help her understand what human rights means to a millennial like me. After all, when it comes to something as meaningful as human rights, understanding where we agree, differ, and the reasons why can only be beneficial to all involved.
DISCLAIMER: McCain Institute for International Leadership is a non-partisan "do-tank" that is part of Arizona State University. The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not represent an opinion of the McCain Institute.