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Why Millennials Aren’t “Retards”

Awhile ago a (less enlightened) friend of mine sent me a link to an article with the message “And this is why most millennials are retards.”

Feel free to take a moment to judge my friend I know I do.

All finished? Okay, moving on.

The article in question isn’t relevant. What was relevant for me was trying to find out what exactly is our problem with Millennials. I say “our” because I am about twenty years removed from their demographic (also I had to take five minutes here for a crying break as that information hit home… annnnd we’re back!).

I just don’t get why we are judging this generation so harshly especially when I really don’t feel we should be done blaming the Baby Boomers for ruining everything. Is this an attention span thing?

I haven’t had a lot of dealings with Millennials but most of the time the ones I have had have been pretty good. I find I sometimes prefer working with Millennials because Millennials are too young to know what can’t be done. Often when you share an idea with a Millennial (I’m getting tired of capitalizing that… is that an official noun? Let me just Google it. Ah shit) the reaction is: “Interesting. What are ways we can make that happen?” whereas when dealing with people over thirty the reaction is too often “here are a list of reasons why that won’t work.” And don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with pointing out reasons why a certain idea will be a waste of time but too many people over thirty tend to do that before really considering ideas.

My lady pointed out one thing that Millennials do have that no generation has had before which is a sense of being entitled to a good life. It’s kind of funny to say but this is the first generation that think they should be able to have careers rather than just jobs. Not only that but more than one career even. Fancy!

Okay but even if we go with that, that still doesn’t explain the weird random anger. Millennials are the vaping of generations: people hate them but no one can clearly explain why.

The biggest knock against Millennials is that they’re lazy and entitled. Some have said as much sometimes in a pretty funny way. They’ve been coddled and told they’re awesome and now are full of themselves. That might be true but I think that’s only half of the picture and I think we don’t like to look at the other half because we don’t come out looking so hot.

When I was young (Jesus Christ I just typed that phrase in real time without any irony… God is dead) the biggest wolf at the door was the Soviets and the threat of nuclear winter. Now I’m not going to say that wasn’t a bit concerning. I’m not sure how good an idea it is for a grade schooler to watch this (quiet recesses next day at school FYI). But by and large that was it. Also you pretty much were under the impression that the Americans had the Soviets locked down and I’m sure my opposite number in Ukraine thought the same about the Russians having the Yankees under control. Climate change was “pollution” and although it wasn’t nice it wasn’t going to cause the end of the world in the foreseeable future. Terrorists were a fucking punchline and your job prospects generally weren’t terrible.

"Okay, kids. Brush your teeth and get to bed."

Another big difference is that the news almost never “broke.” Whatever was happening was never important enough to interrupt Cheers or Family Ties. The only memory I have of the news interrupting something I wanted to watch was the Challenger disaster interrupting Transformers one time when I went home for lunch and I think we can all agree that was a good call (it was a repeat so no biggie).

Now compare that to what these lazy dicks have grown up with. First of all the notion that climate change had to potential to end the world didn’t really enter the zeitgeist until the early ‘90s according to my questionable memory. So from the ‘90s onward, that doomsday clock was ticking. Now add to that pile twenty-four hour news. For the first time ever there was news breaking all the fucking time. Twenty-four hours a day. Don’t get me wrong, I know that news always breaks all the fucking time but before that time we weren’t being constantly reminded/bombarded by bad and/or critically important news and that made it easier to function and take positive action. You’re more likely to be able to disarm a bomb if someone isn’t yelling a countdown into your ear. More on this later.

The 24-hour news stations also had a problem: they needed eyes on screens. So what do you do when something doesn’t endanger the lives of people watching? You tell them everything that might endanger their lives and package it like it’s less a “might” type situation and more of a “DEFINITELY WILL ONLY SECONDS FROM NOW” type situation.

And also 911 happened which I won’t go into because I’m gonna assume you’ve heard of it. But the culture of fear that followed couldn’t have been great for someone still figuring out their life views.

My point is: Millennials have grown up not only coddled with too much self-confidence but they’ve also been raised in an era of the constant emergency. The constant BREAKING STORY THAT IS THREATENING US ALL. They have never had moments of the same kind of only semi-threatening quiet I had growing up. The emergency became the norm.

An interesting add on is that they’ve also grown up with messages like: “if you cut sugar, then whatever else you eat is going to kill you and if you cut that whatever you replace it with is going to kill you. “ News outlets constantly feature stories about how eating such and such a food will lead to any number of terrifying deaths. Of course the companies who make those foods then counter with their own stories and “studies” proving that eating whatever the suggested alternative to their product was would lead to a different kind of (and maybe even more terrifying) death.

In the glorious (not really) pre-ethics 1960s, some dude named Seligman conducted a bunch of experiments on dogs involving electricity (a lot of electricity themed psycho-social research in the ‘60s. Wonder what that’s about). By constantly shocking some dogs regardless of their behaviour Seligman discovered two things: 1 – The concept of Learned Helplessness in which subjects become depressed and inactive when they are made to believe no action they take will make any kind of difference and 2 – He really had some deep fucking issues around dogs and empathy. Seriously how can you be a psychologist and not wonder if you should see a psychologist at that point? But given this is there any chance at all that what sometimes comes off as “laziness” amongst Millennials is just the feeling that the shocks will come no matter what they do?

So to recap: yes you have a generation of people who were given way too much self-esteem but this is the same generation that during their formative years was given a lot of messages that indicate we are constantly in danger. They have been told that even if they somehow dodge the terrorist attacks and survive the poisoned food and air the planet is dying and there is nothing anyone can or will do about it. In that situation, isn’t laziness the sanest option?

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© Nile Seguin 2016