Zoomers and the Constitution


Many in Generation Z think it is an obsolete relic

A 2019 study by the Pew Research Center compared generations’ views on important social and political issues, focusing on the similarities between millennials and generation Z. Topics examined include racial relations, diversity, climate change, capitalism, socialism, and the role of the government. This last item, the government, appears to be the institution for Zoomers.

According to the survey, seven in ten Generation Z respondents believe that government should play a greater role in their future. Rather than private enterprise and individual risk-taking, government bureaucracy will make the 21st century safe for democracy and solve the problems that most alarming Zoomers: social justice and climate change.

On this Constitution Day, I wonder how the lifespan of our founding document and its place in American culture will last in this century. As Millennials and Zoomers climb the ranks of powerful institutions such as the government, the courts, the media and academia, they will finally have the power to run America and its relationship with the Constitution. What comes of their misguided idealism? Will their revolutionary spirit wane if maturity brings with it banal challenges, such as mortgages, or paying off student debts? Or will the energy that we have fully displayed through our institutions this summer burn like a California wildfire?

Older generations should be as curious as they are fearful as they wonder: What does the constitution actually mean to some normal Zoomers, those who don’t riot or protest in the street? The silent majority of Zoomers who do not participate in the turmoil but who believe no less the fundamental assumptions of Black Lives Matter, for example, and will agree with the radical demands of the organization? Well, their answers may shock readers – or it may come as no surprise.

One Zoomer understands the constitution as “a set of ideals that were a bit hypocritical for the time, as part of our population was enslaved”. He continues, “While it may have helped build this country, we need to stop looking at outdated documents in a world that is completely different from a few hundred years ago.”

Another Zoomer, who has a Ph.D. candidate, is quite harsh and no less sure of his statement: “Blind adherence to a document is groupthink and deprives individuals of their ability to reason for themselves.” He has failed to mention that blindly sticking to social movements like Black Lives Matter can be equally – if not more – damaging to critical thinking. But the constitution, he says, is much worse.

A recent graduate praises the freedom granted and protected by the constitution, but still describes the document as “outdated.” That is perhaps the most important recurring theme in my generation, the idea that the document is ‘outdated’. To many Zoomers, the constitution almost seems like good advice from a parent or grandparent that one should follow diligently, but still won’t. The founding document is fast becoming a problem with the solutions to 21st century dilemmas, which is why it should be outright rejected, the consequences doomed.

A Zoomer, who works as a quantitative analyst at a hedge fund, wonders, “How can something written so long ago and at such a different time adequately solve our modern problems?” His feeling is a bad mix of technocratic pride and Panglossian optimism.

But there is still hope for concerned readers. “The Constitution is the second most important document for our country, after the Bible,” says a student. She concludes, “They both give life and freedom to the people.” But maybe not, as an aspiring orthopedic surgeon jokingly says, “I want the constitution to burn.” It’s not a very funny joke, because sometimes the truth is told with jokes.