As I See It: Those Accursed Millennials
July 24, 2017 Victor Rozek
I don’t know what’s wrong with these kids today!
Who can understand anything they say?
They are disobedient, disrespectful oafs!
Noisy, crazy, dirty, lazy, loafers!
While we’re on the subject:
You can talk and talk till your face is blue!
But they still just do what they want to do!
Why can’t they be like we were,
Perfect in every way?
What’s the matter with kids today?
That little ditty was sung by the wonderfully snarky Paul Lynde from the 1960s musical Bye Bye Birdie, still performed in high schools around the country. Beyond making old farts feel better, it’s brilliantly illustrative of the disdain heaped on every new generation by their self-identified superiors.
It is all but preordained that every generation will earn the ire of the preceding one. Imagine how the uber-straight “Greatest Generation” felt – after surviving the Great Depression and winning the Second World War – when they discovered half their offspring had become hippies, and the other half managed to dress normally but smoked dope. Still, this cycle of accusatory disappointment reached new heights with the Millennials. Never have so few been accused of so much by so many.
A quick search of the Internet will reveal that Millennials are responsible for the impending demise of everything from paper napkins to the automobile industry. America, as we know it, will collapse because those lazy freeloaders don’t support retailers, don’t frequent movie theatres, don’t exercise compulsively, don’t drink enough wine (the ones I know do), and don’t eat at McDonalds.
You have to ask yourself by what demented standard of cruelty would anyone wish McDonalds on otherwise healthy, young people? Putting that question aside for the moment, some of the baggage heaped on Millennials is just plain baffling. Millennials, critics claim, are killing golf. Well, maybe they learned from their parents that golf is an exercise in needless self-flagellation. Or maybe searching for a little white ball under the white-hot sun is not their idea of great fun.
But they’re killing Home Depot as well. The answer to this lament is in the name of the business: Home. As in, they can’t afford to buy one, and will likely never be able to buy one, so why would they need screen doors, dishwashers, and ceiling fans?
To top it off, somebody actually suggested that Millennials are killing good manners. I think if I was accused of being a plague on civilization, I’d be a little testy, too.
And speaking of testy, I contacted my niece to get her perspective on living the Millennial life. I began by asking what events have shaped her generation.
“I’m not sure that there is one huge thing other than technologic advancement that has influenced my generation. The access to limitless information has made us kind of both nihilistic and hopeful at the same time. We all want to feel like what we’re doing has meaning and that we’re contributing. I feel like we get bored if that’s not the case. Me in particular, I start to get antsy in a job when I stop learning new things and/or stop being appreciated.”
“Student loan debt is soul crushing and I don’t know if I’ll ever own my own home,” she continued. “I hope so. But I don’t see it happening anytime soon without some sort of loan forgiveness. I’ll be paying those off forever and I don’t even have as much debt as some people do, especially those who go to Grad school. And it’s nigh on impossible to make a difference or to get anywhere meaningful in your field if you don’t. So, it feels like we’re both encouraged and mocked for making these decisions. Growing up we were told go to college, get a degree, and life will be swell! Well, a lot of us have done that and find ourselves getting paid 12 bucks an hour if we’re freaking lucky doing a crap job that we get ridiculed for having anyway, and are then forced to go back to school and get into more debt!”
And as for all of the judgments heaped upon her generation:
“I am so sick of caring about how other generations view us. It’s ridiculous! Old folks have been spitting on younger generations since the beginning of time. It’s stupid that after all the stuff Boomers had to put up with from their parents’ generation: Vietnam, the draft, “The Man,” that most of those folks can’t see it’s the same damned thing. I feel more angsty now as a 27-year-old than I ever did as a teenager ‘cause I feel like what I have to say and what I think should hold some weight but it doesn’t! We get told we’re ridiculous and young and stupid when there is a lot of cool shit that could come out of youthful idealism! I mean, it’s our future anyway, why can’t we make it?”
Of course, eventually Millennials will have no choice but to make their own future, but they will be working with the huge handicaps they’ve been handed. Hey kids, how would you like some unaffordable education, and costly health care? How about low wages, and an ailing planet? And if you buy in now, we’ll throw in political leadership so dim they think science is a conspiracy.
It’s a form of Shifting Baseline Syndrome, a concept first coined in environmental studies that describes how each new generation inherits a further diminished planet, and that becomes the new baseline – their new normal. No sense in worrying about melting glaciers, if you’ve never known glaciers. Likewise, no sense in embracing the dominant cultural paradigm, if that paradigm has been nothing but punitive.
Millennials are the first generation fully conscious of their diminished inheritance. They see what they are losing and what is left over for them. Kierkegaard said: “The most painful state of being is remembering the future, particularly one you can never have.” It’s not that Millennials have been spoiled, it’s that everything around them has.
Perhaps technology, the driving force for that generation, will provide opportunities and answers. My niece is studying to be part of the scientific conspiracy. I wish her, and her generation, well. And I have at least one reason to be optimistic.
After doing her core dump on Millennial life, she posted this from something called the Millennial Murder Machine:
Scene: A nervous-looking older man meets with a Millennial in a darkened alley.
Millennial: What’s the target?
Man: I don’t know if I want to do this.
Millennial: People don’t come to us until they’ve made up their minds.
Man: Alright. Styrofoam cups.
Millennial: Six months and they’re gone.
Man: Can Millennials really kill Styrofoam cups?
Millennial: We can kill anything, but not cheaply.
Man: I can pay, I work for a plasti–
Millennial: I don’t need to know and frankly I don’t care. One of us will deliver a routing number to a Zurich account. Two billion Euros, then we start.
Millennial: It will be your last chance to reconsider. Once the money is processed you’ll have no contact with us again.
Man: I understand. It has to be done.
Millennial: Then it’s sealed. The cups will join chain restaurants and diamonds in the void.
Man: Thank…thank you.
Millennial: We don’t require thanks. Participation is its own trophy.
Even though he never met one, Gandhi understood Millennials: “If I had no sense of humor” he said, “I would long ago have committed suicide.”
If it worked for Gandhi – who overcame more than a few daunting challenges of his own – it can work for Millennials.