The Beef

I’ve spent most of my life – virtually my entire adult life – first raising and now working with millennials. And getting used to their various quirks – like, the way the seem to collect diagnoses and physical and mental illnesses (or at least their labels) the way they used to collect Pokemon cards. If I had a nickel for every group of millennials I’ve heard comparing being celiac and dysthemic to being “on the spectrum” and having anxiety, I could contribute enough money to get a republican elected in Alexandria Ocasio Cortez’ district.

Bemusement turns to irritation when they start yapping about “the world the previous generations left them”. The Great Recession, “climate change” and Trump, I guess, all combine to make millennials all goth-y about the world around them.

I’ve tried – without much success – to expose the idea that maybe, just maybe, the world they’re growing (Still. Interminably) is actually, if not better, at least no more malignant than the worlds their elders had:

  • Their grand, or sometimes great grand, parents of the “Greatest Generation”, of course, had the Great Depression and World War 2 – with some of them adding Korea and Vietnam. They had hard economic times after the war, as well as a sharp little recession in the late sixties – after which, in their thirties and forties, they got to start watching the social fabric fray throughout the sixties.
  • Their children, the “Baby Boom”, had Vietnam and the immense social dislocation that brought, the JFK and RFK and MLK assassinations, the turning of our major cities into dysfunctional hellscapes, the miserable miasma of the seventies with stagflation, an unprecedented political crisis in Watergate, and shag carpeting, and of course the ongoing Cold War.
  • My generation – I’m not a baby boomer – started out being told overpopulation was going to kill us all; India was going to starve itself down to 100 million people, and there would “inevitably” be food riots in the US by the 1980s. If pollution didn’t kill us first, of course. The seventies – which I remember from the news as a kid – gave way to a recession as brutal as the 2007 one (but shorter, and followed by the sort of robust growth that usually follows recessions, thanks to conservative policies, not that the Jon Stewarts of my generation were any smarter about economics than the Jon Stewarts of the millennial generation, whoever they are). Terrorism in the Middle East became a constant lifestyle. And just as we started getting into adulthood, this mysterious disease started killing people off; gay guys, drug users and Haitians, at first, but – we were assured – it was going to affect us all, and could even kill us all off! And above it all (to me, anyway), the Cold War, with its constant, ambient threat to incinerate us all (I grew up in missile country, and it wasn’t an abstract thing at all), with bombers on standby and Europe split down the middle with barbed wire and troops and mines in between, and Jakov Smirnov an A-list star. Plus we had the 1980-81 season of “SNL”, plus “I’ve Never Been To Me“, by Charlene.

It never really sinks in. But then it never really does, with the young.

David Harsanyi moves from memory to fact, to prove the point – millennials just don’t have it that bad, and to the extent they do, it’s largely because of lifestyle choices. From his conclusion:

Of course life has a new set of challenges for every generation, and no one expects millennials to sit around prefacing every complaint by noting, “Hey, life is better for me in so many ways.” But it’s simply untrue, despite a sense of unearned victimhood, that millennials have it harder than those who came before them. In most ways, the opposite is true.

I’d urge you not just to read athe whole thing, but to pass it on to a millennial close to you. Presuming they’re not triggered.

7 thoughts on “The Beef

  1. For what its worth India probably WOULD HAVE BEEN reduced to 100 million people and there would have been food riots here in the US if it wasnt for the greatest man to ever walk this Earth, Norman Borlaug. The man who saved (at least) a billion live. The fact that he isnt commonly known by everyone in the US is one of the greatest failures of our education system.

  2. Every generation thinks it’s special in all ways good and bad. And that is what it is. Also what is, is that nothing changes. One of the things that makes Victor Davis Hanson so amazing is how he can draw parallels from ancient times to now. Nothing changes – that French saying in this regard is nice too, the more things change, the more they remain the same.

  3. We are also living in the longest consecutive time of worldwide peace in recorded human history, ironically mostly thanks to nuclear weapons. Try explaining that to your average millenial…

  4. A few years back I wrote about the experience of cleaning up an old rural cemetery that had been reclaimed by the forest. It is where my great-great-grandfather, George is buried, and his wife, Henrietta, who died giving birth to my great-grandfather. The cemetery was “opened” in 1860 and was active for about 100 years. Clearing brush amidst the old stones had me thinking about how hard the life was, and how common death was, in ways we can barely grasp today. As I wrote then:

    It’s hard not to dwell on the body-breaking and dangerous labor, the capriciousness of disease and infirmity, the hardscrabble existence gouged from this earth. And yet I also picture the bond of community and common cause that united them, even as each grim gathering returned to this ground to stand around the just-turned earth that is now packed and sunken before me. I see some weeping, because that is expected, and I see some that are stoic, because it is what they expected, but they grip the arm of their neighbor and walk away from that place because tomorrow they will plow another furrow, or create another child, because what else is there but the hope and the faith that this crop will prosper, that this child will live to make a difference, and that the next generation or even the one after that, will not have to suffer like this, and maybe, just maybe, they’ll appreciate it.

    It’s a very sunny day, and unseasonably warm for late November. My long-sleeved denim workshirt is sweaty and I wish I had brought a tee-shirt or something lighter along to work in, but who expects 70s at Thanksgiving in Missouri? Poor me. Oh well, I just unbutton my sleeves and roll each one up to the elbow, and retake my grip on the mattock, and as I do so it occurs to me that that’s what those around me would have done. I take another hack at a yucca and imagine I hear my great-great-grandpa snort.

    “Let it rest, George,” I say, under my breath.

  5. Reading the above post just made me think about whenever I hear a millenial bitch about their student loans or healthcare or global warming or whatever they have no idea how lucky they are to have the luxury of being concerned about these things when in 90-95% of human history your life would be well over half done, if you are lucky, at this age and you would struggle to put food on the table to feed your family, its only within the last 150 years that that has changed. We live in amazing times and all my generation is bitch, bitch, bitch about it.

  6. Night Writer;

    It is really cool to walk through old cemeteries like that. Last fall, I visited my grandparent’s graves outside of Renville, MN. To your point on how common death was back then, led me to recall four graves where the people in them died in the mid to late 1800s, in their late 70s (the oldest one was 78), which was a rarity at that time.

  7. What people cannot get from other social institutions, they will try to get from the government, and politicians will respond. This is simply human nature.
    Some conservatives rightly say that the state cannot replace social institutions like family, church, and community, but they endorse free market capitalism which is as caustic to those institutions as the government. The most uncaring, inhumane institutions most people have to deal with are government bureaucrats and their employer’s HR department.

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