Last night here at the Hayride, John Binder had a really interesting post about what he called the “villification” of the millennial generation going on in some conservative quarters. What set Binder off was a piece at Breitbart by Ben Shapiro calling millennials the “worst generation,” and that piece cited a number of studies showing that America’s late teens and 20-somethings are politically ignorant, wrapped up in celebrity culture and so on.
Binder had a ready explanation for most of Shapiro’s criticisms. And he concludes…
For conservatives like Ben Shapiro to deem millennials as “the worst generation” is to disregard the liberal influences previous generations have created and pushed down the throats of millennials in order to keep their agenda going and grow their own base.
Millennials are not the beginning of the end, but a generation that is unconventional. There is room to be concerned, but vilification is unnecessary and more importantly, not helpful.
Shapiro is, of course, a millennial himself. So is Binder. I am not, and therefore can offer a more objective view.
Shapiro is generally correct, in that there is no question millennials, as currently constituted, are a terrible generation. He’s correct that the dumbed-down celebrity culture eagerly consumed by the 20-somethings and late teens in this country is not only insipid and valueless but an actual threat to our cultural survival. He’s correct that millennials are lousy with money, have far higher self-esteem than they should, mooch off their parents too often, display stunning ignorance about how the world works or their own surroundings and lack a work ethic.
All of those things are provably true, or at least provable in the sense that they can be backed up with empirical research.
But Binder’s conclusory statement is also true. Millennials are what we’ve made them.
Millennials didn’t invent political correctness or cultural Marxism, and they certainly didn’t inflict those horrors on America’s cultural institutions. Cultural Marxists have been in charge of Hollywood and the universities since before any of these kids were born, and to hear the worst of the “_____ Studies” majors utter leftist inanities is little different than to experience the exact same thing from an aging 1960’s hippie or 40-something cookie-usher working at a nonprofit somewhere. And if millennials are babies still dependent on Mom and Dad, maybe that’s because Mom and Dad allowed them to spend their youth in soccer leagues where everybody gets a trophy and put them in “time out” rather than actually inflict punishment on them for poor behavior.
If you teach a kid she’s a “special snowflake” all her life, is it her fault or yours when at 25 years old she’s boorishly insisting on being treated as a little princess by her boss at the Starbucks down the street?
Are millennials crushingly ignorant about the world around them? Absolutely. It ought to be alarming when they can’t name either of the senators from their own state, place Washington, DC on a map or think Stephen Colbert would be a good president. Go check out what they’re teaching in the schools and you’ll understand why these kids don’t know anything. Is that their fault, or somebody else’s?
What’s probably most fair to say about millennials is (1) they’re awful, (2) we made them this way, and (3) none of them are finished products.
Winston Churchill had the famous quote that if you’re not a liberal at twenty you have no heart and if you’re not a conservative at forty you have no brain. What he meant by that statement was that life, lived in the world of reality, will make thinking people conservatives. Life is conservative. Life teaches conservative lessons: there is no free lunch, unintended consequences are everywhere, there is no substitute for hard work, most of our problems are self-inflicted, and so on. Our cultural institutions don’t teach those lessons to the young, and in fact subvert parents as they attempt to teach them to their kids. Try to teach your kids values when they’re watching network TV every night or listening to Kanye West or Justin Bieber. But take one of these special snowflakes fresh out of the Fantasy Factories that are our higher education institutions and give them 10-15 years of trying to apply that cultural Marxist indoctrination in the marketplace, and what you’re going to end up with is not the same set of attitudes with which you began.
It so happens that the millennial generation is probably more poorly prepared to handle its adulthood than any of its predecessors. That’s what a country in decline, which this most certainly is – just look who’s the president and it’s undeniable! – will produce. But when today’s 20-somethings become tomorrow’s 40-somethings, and they’ve got to dig out from the mess previous generations (most specifically the Baby Boomers) have made, they might just surprise us all.
I’ll be willing to bet that in a decade or so it’ll be millennials, and their changing attitudes, which kill off political correctness in this country. It’ll also be millennials, and the triumph of their experience over the crap they’ve been taught by the educational system and the celebrity culture, who finally put an end to all this racial insanity the Left has inflicted on us. Millennials will likely be the generation which insists on the reform or replacement of most of our failing, obsolete New Deal/Great Society political institutions – Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the downwardly-spiraling public school system and so forth – and changes the American political contract.
I’m willing to bet those things because the millennials are a generation which has been failed, lied to, propagandized, indoctrinated and scammed by the cultural Left, and many of them are starting to recognize that fact. And unlike previous generations, who had the relatively easy pursuit of riches in our post-war economic boom to salve the insult of their miseducation (an insult which wasn’t as acute as that inflicted on the millennials in the first place), there is no soft transition into middle age. For the millennials, the realization will come (is coming) hard. And their reaction is likely to be, if not rage, an iconoclastic attitude we haven’t seen before.
There is danger in that, of course, because the same people who have so mistreated the millennials in the first place are going to try to use their unhappy realizations as a pretext to take this country even further from the roots of its success. But what we’re already seeing is that the power of the cultural elites in this country to shape attitudes of adults is on the wane. The current “controversy,” if that’s what it is, over vaccinations is a great example of this – people are so suspicious of authority in this country that you can’t even get them to buy into the government coercing folks into vaccinating their kids against measles and mumps. How are you going to convince a bunch of frustrated 30-and 40-somethings who are already disillusioned with everything they’ve been taught that centralizing power among the same people who lied to them in the first place is a good idea?
When the millennials begin to become a more fully-developed generation they’re going to be a complete wild card and the results could well be chaotic. But in chaos there is often progress. I’m willing to put up with Binder’s – and Shapiro’s – generation for a while; let’s see what becomes of them before we judge too harshly.