Jamal is a graduate of Northeastern Seminary and writes on a broad range of topics. His writings are based on other points of view.
Two weeks ago, I was on Facebook after I had finished seeing Rogue One for the second time. I was on a Starwars high so there was a lot on my feed about it that I was just laughing my ass off to. While skimming, I came across one Facebook’s many, many memes. It was of Darth Vader and Kylo Ren, with descriptions written beneath each picture. Kylo’s was subtitled, “Millennials: complain about everything and cry when they don’t get what they want’. In contrast, Vader’s was titled, ‘Gen-Xers: take fucking responsibility for their actions and work for what they have’.
Reading this immediately snapped me out of my Starwars euphoria. Of course this wasn’t the first time I have heard such complaints. Maybe it was because I’ve seen so many more since the elections last month? Whatever the reason, I read through it again and took notice and exception to what I could only call a prejudice.
The ‘Fucking’ Newbies
Using ‘Prejudice’ is strong but I think accurate because it’s casting judgment on an entire group. I don’t like pigeon-holing myself by categories and labels. I find them restrictive, judgmental and used to by others, and myself at times, to determine what I should and should not be doing or enjoying. Having said that, I am not a Millennial, but a Gen-Xer, if you need the reference. So I am not writing this as an apologetics piece to defend them out of some sort of group loyalty, nor is this a cloaked attempt to link myself with Millennials.
Although it was just a meme, I found it an idiotic and unjust criticism from older generations. Half my friends are under 35 and the rest over. I see a lot of bashing from both ends. The criticism that older people have of their successors is based on the perception that Millennials are self-absorbed children.
They need their toys: Ipads and Netflix and Instagram, but are not willing to work for them or save up if they can’t afford it. They want everything for free, believing that services, music, rights, and other products of society should be given to them rather than them earning it. They get upset at the most insignificant insult and look for offense when there is not one directed at them. They fucking squirm at the thought of work and sacrifice when circumstances get hard. And they will protest a fucking storm when they don’t get what they want, but will peter out in a week or two for the comfort of the latest Facebook post.
Many of my older friends hold these opinions based on their own legitimate experiences with Millennials, not just what they see on Youtube. They view them as the children of social media and selfies, with their fingers and eyeballs enslaved to their devices. Youtube, Facebook, and Instagram are their parents and mentors, not their biological family. And without that ‘family’ they would shrivel up like children lost in the dark that can no longer find their way because they lack any direct social skills.
Three Fingers Pointing back at You
Some of this true. Millennials are the most tech savvy generation the human race has yet seen. They grew up in a culture that is the most diverse and advanced in history: growing up with other races, cultures, and sexual orientations, with infinite amounts of knowledge literally at the press of a button. It is easy to see where some kid can get a full head.
However, those who judge Millennials often forget that we ourselves have had the same shit thrown at us as well. This is especially true of Generation X. Much of the technological innovations and its spirit come from the 1980’s. We were the first generation accused of watching too much TV. Instead of Instagram, it was MTV and Hollywood who were our parents.
We gave ‘materialism’ it’s name and defined what it was for everyone else that came after us. We didn’t start clothing and hair trends, but we did turn it into a multi-million dollar business. Tent pole Franchises came into being under our watch. All of this is in 2016 is in many ways our own creation.
We are hardly in any position to attack Millennials as a whole for being-self centered crybabies. Maybe you remember that one 80’s anti-drug commercial where the father walks in on his smoking pot and snatches it away from him. He angrily chastises him for doing such a stupid thing and asks where he learned such things.
“From you alright! I learned it from watching you!” the son yells back.
Maybe we should actually try watching the commercial again…on Youtube of course.
The Devil’s Due
Every generation is going to have its misfits and goof-offs, people who don’t give a fuck about anyone but themselves. I worked with this one kid who was 23-years old who and had a child. When someone asked him if he was going to try and get a better paying job, he replied glibly, “Hell no. I’ll just wait for the check!” Later on when he was asked if he knew what a word was, he simply replied back, “Google.”
I get the where the judgments are coming from. However, that doesn’t take away from the fact that there are many other Millennials who do work their asses off just to get by. And that’s with bachelors and Master’s degrees! The resentment that many of them have towards us who are older isn’t entirely misplaced, just like ours wasn’t against our own parents. Some of their problems come from inherited issues, like us with the ‘Me’ Generation of the 1970’s. And yes, some of them just say it to be lazy, but not most.
We want to be appreciated for how far we come, the struggles we went through to get where we are. That’s natural, that’s human. If we want that respect and acknowledgment, we have to be willing to give it too: credit given to where credit is due. Millennials continue what Hippies started with becoming a less-bigoted society. Interaction with others who are different is a cross-generational effort. We may not get people wanting to change their sex, or how using Youtube and Twitter can result in a side business that actually rivals and takes some revenue from the larger businesses. That doesn’t mean though that they’re slackers.
Many have served in the Military and died, just like in our generation and those before us. Many have been successful at carving a life out for themselves despite hard economic conditions, and they maintain a commitment to social justice that begun forty years ago. Many have taken art and music like Hip hop and digital design to new places not previously available or created. These are things to be respected and praised, not attacked, just like how we helped make home computers a common phenomenon and pushed for more cross-pollination of music.
There are some things that Millennials will have to work on and will as they get older. Many have accused them of being thin-skinned and too sensitive to insults when they can just simply go the other way. This has been somewhat true, such as with the social media phenomenon of ‘SJW’s or social justice warriors: people who are often as controlling as the injustice they fight against.
They may need to rely less on technology if environmental factors limit or even remove access to them. And as diverse as they are, there is still a tendency of provincial thinking: becoming too caught up in their own circles or righteousness to see what is happening beyond them. The world is becoming more globalized every year, and ignorance is no longer bliss but a detriment and a time bomb waiting to go off.
And they will need to be wary of the sin that every generation since the Beatniks has been guilty of, generational ego. That is the sentiment that ‘we’ are the new thing and are doing things never done before: that there are none before us who have attempted what we are trying to create. I watched one Youtuber's video where when talking about sex, they dismissively regarded 1950's dating as being outdated, even though it was a major shift in how the sexes interacted. The basic pattern it set forth is still followed, but because of the failings of the era, those aspects were ignored.
That being said, every generation has its challenges. That aspect is a cross-generational reality. It is what links us together as part of the human race. Many from all generations have called for a more peaceful world where we there is less conflict. If we truly still believe in that, then we should appreciate and learn from each other.
More conflict is what drove us into the social divide we have now, highlighted by the recent presidential race. Learning from each other can help us progress in a way that is mutually beneficial to all, without ego or willful arrogance. Ultimately this isn’t about defending one generation or attacking another. It’s about trying to develop a society based on mutual respect rather than distrust and verbal accusation. And that road is a two-way road.
The greatest generation will be the one that can both look back at what came before, and look forward with an eye to the future and the ability to evolve and adapt.
Kathleen Cochran from Atlanta, Georgia on January 02, 2017:
We did do Vietnam and Korea with the draft and today only 1percent serves.
Kathleen Cochran from Atlanta, Georgia on January 02, 2017:
As a baby boomer with 2 gen xers and a millennial, I'd remind my generation that it has been these 2 groups who have been doing the fighting and dying for us that our parents, the greatest generation, also did for us. With these groups ahead and behind us, it should behove us to ask, who is it who has had it easy?