A recent cover article in Time magazine has the internet all abuzz about millennials. There have been a slew of great mashups of the cover, and the folks over at the Atlantic Monthly have been so kind as to totally debunk the article’s claims.
But the real reason I forked over the five simoleons to buy the issue of Time in question was to see how the article’s subtitle played out. After all, Joel Stein’s piece is actually titled “The Me Me Me Generation: Millennials are entitled, lazy narcissists who live with their parents. Why they’ll save us all.”
So how will these apathetic, self-involved youngsters save us?
Well, according to the article, the most important thing these millennials have going for them is…being nice.
(Being nice? Really? Photo: Karen_O’D/ flickr)
The author kind of phoned that one in, wouldn’t you say? Because frankly being nice ain’t gonna save a thing.
So what will save us?
Allow me to propose five ways millennials will actually save the world.
1. Narcissim = Communities without institutions
Narcissism is such a dirty word. It evokes preening vacuity.
These millennials can’t stop taking selfies, and asking all their “friends” whether they should wear the skinny jeans or the pantaloons, or whatever hideous thriftstore bargains pass for fashion these days.
First, can we please shake off the collective amnesia and remember that the baby boomers were plenty narcissistic (they’re actually called the Me Generation, after all)?
They took all the great social programs and institutions that their parents, the “Greatest Generation” had produced with their literal blood, sweat, and tears and leveled them in a cocaine fuelled ego-binge known as the 1980s, all to save a few tax dollars to buy their next BMW.
(In the 80s, even cats did cocaine.)
Second, what the Time article characterizes as narcissism in the millennial generation is in fact interconnectivity. Checking in with your peeps means that you know what they’re up to, and they know what you’re up to, who needs help, who has time to grab a beer.
It’s the production of community in the absence of big institutions.
So in the place of state-run institutions — which are a double-edged sword at best — we’ll have overlapping, horizontal communities of happy kids who never knew what a safety net was.
(Don’t look down ‘cos there ain’t nothing to catch you. Photo: Sjors Provoost / Flickr)
That’s right: the New New Deal doesn’t need a government to fund make-work projects (who needs the Hoover Dam?) when there’s suspended coffee to be had.
2. No respect for authority = The end of war
Joel Stein is shocked by millennials’ disrespect for traditional hierarchies. He tells us of the disturbing story of an intern who directly emailed the CEO of the corporation where he “worked” (not sure if it’s work if you’re not getting paid, amirite?)
Apparently millennials just don’t understand that they need to actually put some shit-eating hours in at the bottom, for which they’ll eventually be rewarded by climbing up a rung on the shit-ladder and making other people eat their shit. After all, this never-ending cycle of shit-eating is what makes the corporate world go round.
(Eat it. It’s good for you. Photo: melissaclark / flickr)
Pardon my flare for the dramatic, but did you know that this very pronounced disrespect for authority, hierarchy, and power without legitimacy MIGHT SAVE THE HUMAN RACE FROM SELF-INFLICTED DESTRUCTION?
Think about it: if millennials were around in the 1930s, we would never have had to question the “I was just following orders” defence for the atrocities of the Second World War, because no one would have been following those horrific orders.
Yeah, that’s right. The Greatest Generation doesn’t look so great when their generational sensibilities (rule-following, blind deference, and conformism) are actually responsible for the Holocaust.
(Photo: B Rosen / flickr)
So thanks to the millennials, there will be no more war. Besides, how would it look to your friends if your status update said “Just finished gassing another batch”?
Contorted, emaciated bodies do not a good instagram pic make.
3. No respect for authority = The downfall of the banking sector
This healthy disrespect for authority will also spell the doom of the banking industry. Why? Rather than paying off the crushing student debt that marks this generation, millennials are more likely to just flake off.
Think about it. Why pay off your liberal arts education when all it got you was a shitty job as a barrista?
Just declare bankruptcy (or don’t) and walk away. Then watch all those bankers scramble to repossess your fixed gear bicycle and your “leased” smartphone.
And it’s not as if kids these days actually need credit — not when they manage to put more funding into projects through crowd-sourced platforms like Kickstarter than the entire budget of the National Endowment for the Arts. Who needs a bank loan when you can just beg strangers for money?
4. Living with the parents = Business opportunity
Baby boomers have had their dreams of retirement quashed by this generation of ingrates whose teat-suckling will just never end. Never mind that what the Time article describes as “laziness” is a result of the largest economic downturn since the Great Depression.
Increasing the size of the average North American household may actually be a boon to baby boomers. For one, aging parents can re-infantilize their children and regain meaning in their lives.
(Dad’s life is empty when you’re not at home. Photo: peasap / flickr)
But why not also turn cramped housing into a business opportunity? With unemployed kids at home, baby boomers can do what they do best and exploit those less fortunate than themselves.
Buy a few industrial sewing machines, set them up in the basement, and get your kids and their friends over for a good old-fashioned “craft party.”
(Why aren’t boomers already monetizing this? Photo: moon hazel / flickr)
These millennials love the DIY (Etsy anyone?), and since they’ve all been interning forever, they’re totally habituated to working for free. So why not strap them to a sewing machine and get them churning out some homemade clothing items?
The kids will learn a skill, the baby boomers will have a retirement income, and manufacturing will start trickling back from China. And it’s that easy.
5. Disengagement from reality = The end of the state
After every election, the pundits can be counted on to complain about this generation of youngsters and their apathetic, lazy, disengaged ways. They just don’t care about the issues, they have no sense of duty, they’re more interested in taking pictures of their food than waiting in a gymnasium for half an hour to practice their democratic rights.
(Whoa so meta! This is a photo of a dude taking a photo of some food! Photo: thejanner / flickr)
But what’s really going on here? I contend that this disengagement isn’t about apathy — it’s actually about too much pathy … er, pathos.
Millennials are mad as hell and they’re just not gonna take it anymore. Well, at least they aren’t going to lend the state legitimacy, especially when the state seems to be constantly working against the interests of young people.
Need examples? How about subsidizing the petroleum industry (baby boomers are counting on being dead by the time the climate change-induced megastorms destroy everything), extending the age of retirement (who are we kidding, no one will retire in the future), and making education cost more than it’s actually worth?
(We found this cool photo and thought we’d put it here. Photo: Tony Fischer Photography.)
So kids don’t vote. How exactly will that save us all?
Well, by my projections, by the year 2043, all the people who vote will be dead.
And once no one is voting, the state will start to wither away — a process the boomers certainly did their best to stimulate, what with their decision to cut taxes down to functional zero and kill all social spending. With no actual voters, politicians will be reduced to squabbling over trivialities, calling each other dreadful names, and generally being useless.
Wait, I just described the present…
With the state and the banking sector crippled, families living in giant multi-generational dwellings, and each individual digitally connected to every other individual, a new horizontal, flattened, connected, cooperative society will emerge.
And best of all, your new ironic T-shirt that points this out will be made by your neighbour, not some kid in a horrific factory.
(Actually you can buy this shirt on allriot.com)
So Joel Stein, it’s not because millennials are nice that they will “save us all.” It’s by making the most of the very traits that you chalk up as their failings.
Sounds like utopia to me.
Andreas Krebs is the publisher of riotwire.com. rabble.ca is a co-promotional partner with riotwire, Canada’s new hub for political satire.