Complaining about the millennials has become something of a pastime over the last decade. It probably started in the 1990’s when people began to notice that the young were acting a little weird compared to previous generations. Raised on video games, good economic times and technology, young people coming out of college in the late 90’s seemed to lack anything resembling humility. By the time we got to the 2000’s, someone had come up with a cool new moniker for the next generation and everyone was bashing the millennials.
I noticed the same things as other people noticed about the kids, but my bet was reality would beat the stupid out of them as it has every generation. The fact is, every generation has had it a bit easier than their parents and that means each successive generation has come into the world a little less prepared for reality. My generation certainly had it easier than my parents and grandparents. My grandfather used to tease me by saying his generation was wooden ships and iron men, while my generation was iron ships and wooden men.
The millennials are now in their 30’s, at least the leading edge is in their 30’s, and it does not appear that reality has had much of an impact on this generation. Talk to employers about them and they start reeling off stories about the problems they have had with their young people. I know a number of business owners who have thrown in the towel and no longer hire anyone under forty, even if it means paying above market rate. These are companies that used to hire college graduates and train them for their specific work. Now, they let others do it.
Time waits for no one so whether anyone likes it or not, the millennials will be in charge soon enough. Look around the mass media and you see lots of boys and girls in their late 20’s and early 30’s offering up opinions and commentary about how you people screwed up the world. Since being a chattering skull requires little in the way of talent, it is no surprise this is where millennials are making their first impression. TV skulls just have to read their lines and look concerned. The on-line types just need to do the social justice warrior act.
The thing that you can’t help but notice with this generation is the strange solipsism that is their most highly developed feature. You see this in debates on-line as well as in the media. It usually takes the form of “explain to me why….” and assumes the thoughts and emotions of the person on the other end have no value. Their only reference point is their own feelings toward whatever it is in question. If the counter argument to whatever is under discussion makes them blue, it must be wrong, regardless of its factual accuracy.
This piece by a young writer named Mathew Sheffield is a good example of the new brand of millennial journalism we can expect. Sheffield turns up on mainstream conservative sites so I suspect he is being groomed to be the next big thing. His article features the abundant use of pseudo-data that is popular with millennials, but the distinguishing aspect is it is mostly a long treatise on how conservative media is not paying enough attention to people like Mathew Sheffield. After all, if Fox News is not catering to him, they may as well not exist.
On his twitter profile, you see the catch phrase popular with young educated people. “If you can’t defend your opinions, perhaps you need better ones.” Some formulation of that pops up on social media and internet forums and it is always uttered by a young person. They can’t imagine why someone would not be eager and willing to explain and defend their opinions to them. On twitter you often see old people respond with, “I’m not google. Do your own research.” The response to that is always some form of “Your unwillingness to indulge me means you must be wrong.”
The thing is, this generation is just as smart and educated as previous generations. You could argue they are better educated. More young people have had exposure to college material than ever before and all of them graduate high school. I grew up with guys who dropped out at 16 and then went into the army when they turned 18. That’s unheard of today. The difference is that the millennials were trained to focus their curiosity inward, rather than outward. Instead of trying to understand the world, they focused all their time understanding themselves.
This very well may be the inevitable consequence to the post-scarcity world. We live in an age when poor people are fat and have gaming consoles and 60-inch flat screen televisions. For middle and upper middle-class young people, the risks in life are not physical in the form of hunger and violence. The risks in life are all emotional in the form of lost status and hurt feelings. Once again, it turns out that Huxley got the future more right than Orwell. In the post scarcity world, everyone is focused on self-actualization, because otherwise life has no purpose.