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GenZ and the 'End of the World' Phenomenon

November 12th, 2008: The day the trailer for the movie 2012 was released. It was a petrifying awakening for the younglings, an entire generation who was thoroughly convinced of the world ending in 4 years. But the feeling of impending doom was no different for the adults at the time.

The 2008 global recession hit astronomical waves of mass layoffs and evictions, with millions entering poverty and struggling to make ends meet while unforgivable governments were more interested in saving corporations who, in fact, very much attuned of their actions culminating into this very crisis.

In essence, the year 2008 is where it all went spiralling. The year which gave us a glimpse into the coming decades of unfettered chaos. The year where the ‘end of the world’ phenomenon was gripped tightly by the knuckles of the GenZ population. The children were unable to enjoy the bliss of ignorance, the young adults whose hopes of a thriving future were short-circuited, and the matured ones simply assumed a glitch in the matrix which will never occur again. But when has older ever truly been wiser?

In retrospect, the world most certainly did not end in 2012. But the GenZ generation finds it difficult coming to terms with our survival since. A thorough majority of the young generation has adopted fatalistic and cynical attitudes. They believe in no future, choosing instead to live in the antithetically soothing misery of not believing in a future. They have no plans for retirement, marriage, children, property ownership, nothing, zip zilch nada. Although if one puts on a comparative lens to view the reality between the 1990s and 2010s, the discoveries allow to better comprehend why GenZ are the way that they are; and the outlook is alarmingly everything but optimistic.

The GenZ population was greeted by the first pandemic of the century when they first entered adulthood post-graduation; and the odds were not in their favour.  The consequential lockdown dimmed all possibilities for kickstart into a bright future. Instead, exposing the cracked pillars buttressing today’s society: deliberate mismanagement by money-blinded leaders intending to generate infinite profit and a total disregard of the dire need for robust infrastructures and policies in preserving quality human life. COVID-19 took the lives of millions since it commenced its indiscriminatory rampage, and as a side hustle (or perhaps a hobby), it also killed the global economy.

In a classic remake of a predictable novel, amidst the 2023 health crisis was the retelling of the 2008 financial crisis: mass layoffs with millions entering poverty. The circulation of economy began to flow one way: Towards e-commerce and pharmaceutical companies. The billionaires ruling the domains quadrupled their profits, all the while millions who persevered through the fatal health risks were dragged into the rock-bottom of poverty. The rapid escalation of economic circumstances engendered by the pandemic erratically shattered any illusion of a fair meritocratic system, instead unveiling one vile truth of an irrevocably broken system where one side of the scale held by a select few hangs heavily in pride and wealth and its counterpart hollow of hope and desperation. Such was the orientation party organized for a precedingly traumatized GenZ: into a future where most belatedly wished the world had actually ended in 2012.

The recurring resurgence of economic recessions uncovers the blatant geriatric behaviour of today’s economy and discloses the proximity of its inevitable death; and such senile conditions are always accompanied by persistent chronic illnesses. The young adults whose livelihoods are entirely dependent on the wellness of the economy are regrettably the ones who are bearing the brunt of its symptoms of its sickness without any reaping a morsel of benefits. Today, GenZs are entering a relentless system reeking of soaring youth unemployment and humiliating underemployment.

Entry-level job seeks must commit to arduous labour to sustain themselves in the hiring market. The process today is to wait an average of 8-9 months to secure a full-time job by applying to 200+ jobs with a specifically tailored CV and Cover Letter for each application highlighting 3-5 years of experience and a Masters’ Degree from a reputable university and the ability speak 10 languages. That is not all, after applying online, the applicant is expected to ‘connect’ personally with the HR managers of said companies and network with hundreds more through boring stale confabulations. All these dauntingly laborious efforts to most likely get rejected or choose to earn half of what our parents earned at our age with a high school certificate. 

Many, without parental support, are incapable of surviving financially without a job. Their desperation for renumeration propels them towards service jobs they are overqualified for, earning minimum wages despite possessing qualification to excel at the corporate world. In an exceedingly cruel joke, the money earned is insufficient to pay the bills in a a cartoonishly inflated economy. The wages remain constant through decades, but the apples at the grocery store is three times costlier, and the rent ten times higher. Without stable shoes of employment in an era of abrupt terminations, every other aspect of GenZ’s future lives are decimated. The deficiency of a proper source of income has pushed GeZ into becoming the poorest generation deprived of privileges such as owning properties, getting married and having children.

The climate is also equally and horrifying inept at failing us. With each passing year, mother earth is breaking her own previous records of the hottest days. This, of course, in line with the 2030 deadline of climate change reversal looming over humanity, witnessing our shameless incompetence.

The most educated generation is enlightened of these grim realities while those in power are in denial for whatever unforgivable reasons. The potency of a viable future is a rigged game for GenZ, and with each passing year we are introduced to levels unknown to have won by anyone new to the game. With an older generation incapable of sympathizing with our predicament and opting to rather scrutinize an entire generation on matters beyond their control, the belief that GenZ has been doomed into misery is further consolidated, underscoring the genesis of the ‘end of the world’ phenomenon.

Let’s face it, what could a future in a warming planet possibly offer except for mass extinctions and colossal natural disasters? Or perhaps the conflicts, wars and genocides, exacerbating across the globe could vouch in support of the GenZ? Because there is nothing extraordinary transpiring in the present to lift any desire for the (spoiled) future to come sooner, particularly for a community which has embraced cynicism and fatalism.

This is of GenZ, an incomprehensible generation perfectly convinced of the world ending soon.