We interrupt this regularly scheduled vacation to bring you this tirade. WARNING: May offend some readers – will definitely offend Millenials.
I have been reading article after article extolling the virtues of the Millenial generation and how they may be the next “Greatest Generation.” Several folks have declared this generation of youth to be the most service-oriented since World War II. Others say they are the best team players and most willing to adapt to their surroundings. Simply put, power brokers, marketers and those in positions of serious pull have told we Generation Xers (and Yers, sorry to leave y’all out) that we are, essentially, a bygone dinosaur which never had a chance to fully develop because we simply weren’t strong enough, fast enough, smart enough, or brave enough.
Thank you for the attempt to bury our kind, Social Darwinists. Fortunately, after stumbling across several articles in recent weeks profiling the changing face and behaviors of Millenials vis-à-vis current events, I can safely say this about these much-ballyhooed World War II wannabes.
You ain’t all that!
Jean Twenge was among the first writers willing to call out this hypocrisy, first in her 2006 book, Generation Me, then in a 2012 story featured in TheAtlantic. In this article, Twenge quotes Christian Smith, author of Lost in Transition: The Dark Side of Emerging Adulthood, who not only calls out Millenials as frauds, but media and those in power as aiding and abetting their ill-achieved status of “the next big thing.”
“The idea that today’s emerging adults are as a generation leading a new wave of renewed civic-mindedness and political involvement is sheer fiction,” Smith wrote. “The fact that anyone ever believed that idea simply tells us how flimsy the empirical evidence that so many journalistic media stories are based upon is and how unaccountable to empirical reality high-profile journalism can be.” – from The Atlantic, May 2, 2012
Granted, there are plenty of members of this particular generational group who are genuinely hardworking, community-minded individuals with a desire to change the world for the better around them. This do-gooding mentality, however, isn’t a direct result of exposure to the so-called “hipster” lifestyle, but rather a combination of parental influence, community standards, and an innate, hard-wired desire to do, be, and create better than what they were given. Sadly, these folks are few and far between, indeed.
What we are facing is one of the more narcissistic, self-serving generations in history. If they can’t smoke it, snort it, or drink it, they seem to want to play it, game it, or find an angle to it. To many of these youths, everything they do can be justified as a game to be conquered, with life being regarded as so cheap that Social Darwinism is now fast becoming the religion of choice. Now, fortunately for the world, there is hope.
Step up, Gen X/Yers!
It’s very easy to dismiss us as a group of cynical, slacker hacks who laughed at Beavis & Butthead, found Daria pedantic, and were just south of chumps when we wouldn’t buy into the Britney Spears/NSync hype machine. What we lack in corporate mass-marketing buy-in, however, we more than make up in a genuine “want to” attitude which personifies our group. Ours was the one which fretted over Gulf War I being the alleged opening salvo of the Nostradamus-foretold, Third-Antichrist-driven third World War, only to later face down that fear and roll up our own sleeves when we had our defining generational moment thrust upon us in the terrible events of September 11, 2001.
Fortunately, it doesn’t stop there. We can still change a flat tire (I have yet to meet a Millenial who can even identify a tire jack, much less knows the actual verbal difference between “jacking up” and “jacked up.”) Our generation could easily survive without video games because, with a few spoiled exceptions, we were made to go outside and play. If fact, many Gen X/Yers are technophobes, preferring to live “off the grid.” Many of us were actively involved in Girl and Boy Scouts, 4H, Upward Bound, Boys and Girls Clubs, and YMCA. It’s the rare Gen X/Yer who doesn’t know how to at least check their own tire pressure, or understand how to wire a cassette-tape adapter to their Ipod. Give a Millenial a late model used car with near or over 100,000 miles, a flat tire and a tape deck, and their head is likely to explode, but not before smashing out several hours of Clash of Clans on their Iphone.
This is not to sound bitter – it really isn’t. How many Millenials do you know can actually show enough restraint to save some money from their job to afford cab fare or, better yet, know how to call a cab? They would likely say “wait, can’t you place the request online?” or “Isn’t there an app?” The simple fact is this – Millenials would do well to watch the X/Yers, learn closely from our example, and understand that cynicism is a learned trait. Their self-absorbed optimism can be transmuted into something far more world-serving, and ours is the generation who, through watching so many disgraces happen, can demonstrate what real community values really are and, in the process, instill enough tolerance that, in the end, they can get their collective generation heads out of their hineys.