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.