Generation-Z. A Digital Nation?
What is a nation to you? If you want to be exacting about it, you may say that a nation is a body of people united by common descent, history, culture, or language living within the confines of a particular country or territory. And you would not be wrong.
But in the modern context, in an age of hyper-connectivity — irrespective of geography — such a definition produces more questions than it does answers.
Could online platforms enable a cultural diaspora to condense back into a nation? Allow them to claim cultural sovereignty over their own corner of the internet? Enable them to develop social codes and conducts that rival geographic law? Could nations form, and borders be drawn, on the cultural map of the internet?
In brief, could we see the rise of a digital nation?
I think we already are. And it may, ultimately, be humanity’s saving grace.
Besides a shared set of core values, principles, and social codes; what is the most important pillar of a nation?
I would argue that it is history. More accurately, a shared cultural narrative. History changes a little every time we retell it so a narrative is more important to nationhood than the record itself.
But the internet as we know it has barely existed longer than a single generation; the unit often used to measure the depth of a nation’s history.
What historical narrative could there possibly be then? And who, exactly, is alienated enough from their own country’s historical narrative to subscribe to it?
Well, history shows us that it is often the natives of a given region who keep a tight grip on their own cultural narratives in resistance to those that are imposed on them through fiat.
So, the question we need to ask ourselves is this, then: Who are the natives of this brave, new, digital world?
Who regards the internet as an indentured and inalienable part of their cultural reality?
In brief, who are the digital natives?
I think we already know the answer to this.
The body of people who know no world before the internet. United in their common humanity, their shared art, culture, and humor; and living every day within the boundless confines of the internet.
It should come as no surprise, then, that in 2021 an 18-year old in New York and an 18-year old in Singapore often have more in common with each other than they do with their own grandparents.
United in their common views and principles, online communities form across geographical and political boundaries. And this free flow of ideas can give rise to cultural narratives separate and independent from their countries of origin.
Now, I can already hear your objections; A generation of pen pals. So, what? A passport is a passport, and my kids still go to school down the street.
True, but when all is said and done, human history is really just the history of ideas. And confining the free flow of ideas, either through language or through fiat, to the regional boundaries of a country has been the model of human society for hundreds if not thousands of years.
The exact same thing can be said about money. Again, just another idea.
But this is all beginning to change with the advent of digital natives. Through memes, through bitcoin, through facetime. Right under your nose.
Grassroots run deep. Go figure.
When in human history has a single generation ever — even in theory — constituted a nation?
Never. Not even once.
And this weird phenomenon may be exactly what we need to face the problems threatening our future today. Where the greatest obstacle to our global focus is a lack of forward-looking unity. And where the institutional approach of the United Nations is becoming porous to populism.
There is potential in this idea, both economic and political, to elevate the youngest cohort of the global population to their highest-and-best use. But it must first be explored, examined, and documented from all angles. And this “blog” so to speak is the beginning of that process.
So, every week, a new article will be released here, on medium, to explore the hidden opportunities available to Generation Z.
Being so young, we have a long runway, so it’s best to start early. And with all the damage that the COVID-19 pandemic has done to our future-outlook; I know this is needed.
So, Stay tuned. There is a lot here.