by R.C. Roberts
You hear it everywhere: the Millennial joke. Everything from the jokes about Tide Pods to the jokes about how millennials are supposedly “cry babies”. Our ideas are lampooned as being uninformed, or made whilst clutching a keyboard. We are often characterized as living with our parents, being lazy, and being narcissists (albeit not in the actual, psychological sense of the term, but in a rather hodge-podge, threaded together idea). When these older individuals discuss with a Millennial what they think, often not only are the Millennials dismissed for “our lack of experience”, but often our very axiological identity is attacked as being “warped” or “lacking real priorities”. We are socialists, and we are consumerists. We are too beholden to our parents, and we do not listen to our elders. We cannot live on our own, and we are too independent. We are a contradiction to others, an anomaly in a worldview that takes itself to be perfect.
I am a Millennial, something I know many individuals do not take pride in saying, especially in my age group. You will find, far more often, millennials who will to shit on their fellow millennials, than allow themselves to realize that they understand them. They will say, snidely, that they “don’t get” why their generation is so dumb, apparently having educated themselves on their fellow man through a diet of memes and older comedians. Such a stance will get you acceptance, and even a cheap laugh, but it should be, to those of us who care, a sign of stupidity.
Millennials are not stupid. We are not lazy. We are not crazy. We are not narcissists, and we are not evil. Like every generation before us, we have our good traits and our bad ones, and we are doing the best we can with the shit we got from the Baby Boomers and those in Generation X who leeched off of the Baby Boomers instead of fixing problems. These problems are the following, although not exhaustively:
- The Conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, as well as conflicts in various regions of the world
- The questionable alliances of the last few generations, as well as the fallout from American regime building from the Cold War
- A fragile economy, that has become politicized (As in, whenever we see something political happen, the Stock Market will respond in some way)
- A mounting National Debt (which is above $21 trillion now)
- Industries that are constantly either in a state of uncertainty, or have a “bubble” which will then pop and send us right back to a recession
- Political scandals, from the DNC influencing the race of Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton so Clinton can win, mounting evidence of Russian interference in US Elections, as well as a broken system that constantly disenfranchises voters in favor of donors and big business, who use crony capitalism to influence who wins races
- Environmental problems that are mounting, from climate change to the possibility of food shortages
- Massive intrusion onto online and personal privacy
- Social tensions, from the Transgender Movement, the Black Lives Matters movement and police brutality, to the rise of “Fake News” and the acceptance of biases as long as they are popular or seen as socially virtuous.
- The rise of ideological peddlers, who constantly try to popularize and impose their ideological beliefs through universities, education programs, and social media.
Millennials everywhere (including those who disassociate) have all been subject to what I would argue is the largest smear campaign of one generation onto another. This is not to say our generation is perfect, but our generation has not been allowed to define itself at all, constantly answering for things rather than being allowed to “be” anything. We are constantly having to explain how we would solve the problems brought forth by the generations before, made the butt of the jokes of our elders, who miss the irony in the fact that we may not have answers (yet) to their problems, but neither do they, and that is why they are “our” problems now.
Interestingly enough, part of this smearing seems to be, let us say, historical: In a stand up routine by the late George Carlin, done on his album Back in Town, in 1996, in which he says the following:
“No, a lot of these – hold on a second. A lot of these cultural crimes I’ve been complaining about can be blamed on the Baby Boomers. Something else I’m a little tired of hearing about – The Baby Boomers Whinny, Narcissistic, Self-indulgent people, with a simple philosophy: “Give Me IT! It’s Mine!” “Give Me That! It’s Mine!” These people were given everything – everything was handed to them. And they took it all – took it all, sex, drugs and rock-n-roll and they stayed loaded for 20 years and had a free ride, but now they’re staring down the barrel of middle-age-burn out and they don’t like it, they don’t like it, so they turned self-righteous and they want to make things hard on younger people. They tell them to abstain from sex, say no to drugs, as for the Rock-n-Roll they sold that for television commercials a long time ago, so they could buy pasta machines, StairMaster’s and soybean futures. You know something: they’re cold bloodless people, it’s in their slogans, it’s in their rhetoric; “no pain, no gain” “just do it” “life is short” “play hard” “shit happens” “deal with it” “get a life”. These people went from ‘do your own thing’ to ‘just say no’. They went from: “love is all you need” to “whoever winds up with the most toys wins”. And they went from ‘cocaine to Regaine’. They did. And you know something they’re still counting grams, only now its fat grams.And worst of it is, the rest of us have to watch these commercials on TV for Levi’s loose fitting jeans and fat-ass Docker pants because these degenerate yuppie boomer cock-suckers couldn’t keep their hands off the Croissants and the Häagen-Dazs. And there big fat asses have spread all over and they have to wear fat ass Docker pants. Fuck these Boomers! Fuck these Yuppies! And fuck everybody now that I think of it.”
Sound familiar? It should. This is what the Baby Boomers, and apparently by extension Generation X, call Millennials. This is the general attitude, but apparently it seems to be more of a projection than a description. A ghost from Christmas’ past rather than an inkling of the future.
Why do they do this? What is the point of this smear campaign? Why are these generations so hard on a generation that is, for all intensive purposes, has only just begun? I would argue that there are three reasons.
First off, it is partly a sense of guilt. Since we “won” the Cold War, what has this country done? I can tell you; we have done little to nothing. Everything done by one administration is often dismantled by the next administration. Everything is about politics, and nothing good is allowed to last because the “other” political party did it. We are constantly going back and forth between the “Silent Majority” and the progressives, watching the boat rock back and forth. They have achieved very little compared to, say, winning World War II, handling the Great Depression, or settling the Cuban Missile Crisis. God forbid those after them achieve anything.
Second, I would argue that it is due to the trend by the Millennials to, for the most part, question the values of our society. We are committing ourselves to the mission of Nietzsche, albeit slowly. We are re-valuing all values in our society, questioning everything from God (in whom our money says we trust), to the socialist-libertarian dichotomy of economic discussions, to the socially agreed on traditions that once regulated behavior. We understand the Founding Fathers, but we do not revere them with the hero worship of past generations. We understand the Constitution, but we are willing to question it. We see the old, entrenched positions of political pundits and are willing to move beyond them. This is not all good, I will say. In some areas, this questioning has led to the rise of extremes, that had been silenced by agreed upon traditions, and will thus have to be caged again. It has led to some positions about things like due process, consent, and legality that are problematic. It may not all be good, but it is entirely necessary.
This is something that the generations before us, having lived with and come to enjoy the traditions of our society, are repulsed by. Instead of engaging in this re-valuation, allowing their beliefs to be questioned, and maybe even trying to reconstruct the value of the traditions of the past, they are attempting to discredit, disregard, ignore, and mock those of us who are committed to this change. They are using the tools of their generation which got us to this point. It is not working, and they know it.
Third, and finally, this is being done because, as suggested above, this is all the generation before us knows how to do. They criticize, veiled in their postmodern irony, and tell us everything that is wrong. They would rather dream of a better future than work for it. They would rather, in fact, work their 9 to 5, lament the gritty reality we live in, but ultimately accept it. They want to make fun of God, but have a church to go to. They want to be against police brutality, but accept it as necessary. They want the new to give way to the old. Socialists will always fight capitalists, Republicans will always fight Democrats, and you will always do things you have always done. Because that is what they have lived with. Stagnation. And this new change, by a new generation, scares the hell out of them.
We, Millennials, are not lazy. We are not narcissists. We are not crazy. We are the re-valuers of all values, the generation ready to take that next, dangerous step into the future. We are willing to let go of the traditions of the past for the possibilities of the future. We want more, we want reconciliation. We want new values, and even the old values, if they hold up. We want to reorganize our society towards a new goal. We are tired of waiting, hoping, and having it be told to us that nothing will change. That it “just is the way it must be”. We want to reconstruct, we want to hope, we want to act. It may be the End of History for some, but for us, it is the beginning. The point is, hopefully, we can move in the right direction.