There has been so much talk about today’s generation or “these young people” as some like to call them and how self-serving they are. It seems that kids/young people of today also have less respect for authority even though they are more ambitious than ever. But let’s examine each generation and a few characteristics of them all:
The oldest recognized generation living is The Silent Generation. This generation was born anywhere from the mid-1920’s to the mid-1940’s (think Great Depression babies) and most notably includes those that have fought in the Korean War. This generation is very loyal to this country and they are hard-working but they are also traditional, almost to a fault. They represent less than 13% of the population.
Baby Boomers were born in the mid 1940’s to the mid 1960’s. They are very independent and work centric but are quite competitive and feel like everyone younger than them feels entitled. They maintain high morals & values but don’t totally embrace equality, (including gender or race equality). They represent close to 30% of the population.
Generation Xers were born in the mid 1960’s to about 1980 or so. They don’t seem to have a good work life balance but we are able to adapt more to change. They are definitely more diverse but we also have more relationship issues. They represent close to 30% of the population.
Millennials, also known as Generation Y, were born around 1980 to about the year 2000. Millennials are definitely more tech savvy and great multi-taskers, but are also less focused and don’t have an appreciation of working hard. They represent close to 30% of the population.
Generation Z are those born after the year 2000. Although it’s too soon to tell anything about this generation, it is alleged that this current generation will be the heaviest medicated (think bi-polar, ADHD, etc.). However, this generation is the most technologically advanced as they “grew up” with iPads & smart phones.
However you may view this younger generation, just bear in mind that we are what we are because of the previous generation. After all, we didn’t raise ourselves!
Read more about this current generation below -
Almost two years ago, I penned an essay called “Why U.S. College Students are So Stupid.” It’s far and away the most widely-read article I’ve ever posted on this website, at one point, garnering acclaim from the dude that co-founded Sun Microsystems (and for all my detractors: when was the last time a legit billionaire praised something you wrote, by the way?)
I’ve been out of school for more than a year now, and virtually all of the criticisms I had about my college classmates seem to still hold true for my post-baccalaureate cohorts. It’s not so much a general anti-intellectualism I detect in some of my Millennial brethren as it is this comprehensive ethos that rejects effort, independence, self-sacrifice or productivity completely — in other words, a generational philosophy that seems to embrace self-indulgent shiftlessness and shun self-responsibility like Dracula in front of a crucifix.
Of course, this isn’t to say that ALL Gen Y members share all of these attributes, but I assure you — a whole hell of a lot of Millennials display some, or even all, of the following ten character flaws that I believe, tallied up, could result in our generation completely destroying America’s financial and social frameworks. That may sound like hyperbole, but think about how much generational ideology shaped the world the Greatest Generation inherited, and how much of the “Baby Boomer mentality” forged much of our current cultural infrastructure. The world is most certainly in the hands of Gen Y, and tasked with the gargantuan obligation of getting the modern world out of the economic and geopolitical quagmire that our parents created is something that not only are MOST Gen Y kids in the US unprepared for…it’s a generational challenge to which they remain completely oblivious (or worse, even unconcerned.)
So, what’s wrong with today’s youth? Well, for starters, here are ten common characteristics that you can chalk up as MAJOR generational problems among my peers…
We have absolutely ZERO ambition in life.
It’s a fundamental question everyone who has ever done anything halfway worthwhile in life has asked themselves: what is it, exactly, that I want to do with my life? For some truly dedicated individuals, that causa sui is apparent from an early age, who then spend their young adulthoods scrapping as hard as they can to turn fantasy into reality. In other words, the general course of success is “you pinpoint something you want to do, you get qualified to do it, and then you…get this…actually do it.”
Problem numero uno for Gen Y is that a large number of kids these days have absolutely NO ambitions whatsoever. They have no idea what they want to do as a profession, and as a result, make no real efforts to expand their knowledge or skill sets through post-secondary education. Granted, Gen Y kids may have interests and hobbies, but outside of some grandiose daydreaming, they never muster up enough energy to actually get up off their asses and make a concentrated effort to pursue those things as sustainable careers. In their heads, Gen Y kids may envision themselves as the next big comic book writer, or the next John Mayer or the next Kevin Smith, but they lack the general discipline to even remotely go after such “aspirations.” And then, it’s back to satiating the immediate wants: another game of “Tekken,” another hour or so on Facebook, another toke of the bong. Why do things when it’s so much easier to lay on your duff and squander the entire afternoon instead?
We seek “meaning” in things that provide us with virtually no return-on-investment.
Gen Y kids have wealth of knowledge on a lot of niche areas — in other words, pretty much all of us are walking Encyclopedias, porting about detailed data on things that have absolutely zero practical import, like “Star Wars” or “Street Fighter.” While slaving away in community colleges and our minimum wage paying jobs at Foot Locker, we dwell upon “social activities” that are both costly and result in hardly — if any — financial benefits.
Many Millennials have an insane, beyond-vested interest in their online portfolios — in other words, electronic “socialization” apparatuses that give us “proxy meaning” as a substitute for interest in things that are both financially lucrative and intellectually productive. Facebook, blogs, online gaming, YouTube…all mechanisms that give Gen Y youth the illusion of social impact, power and community, while their actual influence in the world, as both consumers and wealth producers, remains virtually nada.
We’re a bunch of nihilistic puds that blame everybody but ourselves for our failings.
Gen Y kids have no idea what they feel strongly about — politically, religiously, spiritually, morally, ideologically or philosophically. As such, they take refuge in either fringe movements (be it supporting an utterly unelectable lunatic fringe third party candidate or supporting the insane drivel of “conspiracy theorist” barkers) or they completely abandon the pursuit of meaning altogether. In short, they become amoral individuals with no real sense of what has value and what doesn’t — they just drift through life sans objectives, cynically mocking and berating everything they come in contact with.
And with this nihilistic mentality firmly embedded in their skulls, they feel as if it is literally impossible to surmount whatever contemporary hardships they encounter, and instead revel in their own inadequacy like piglets playing in a slop bucket. Others tend to blame their personal failings not on a lack of effort, motivation or determination (not to mention poorly thought, individual decision making) but instead on these massive constructs — some of which, like the “banking system,” are completely abstract. Long story short? Gen Y kids cling to “failure” like a security blanket — a universal rationalization that exempts us from self-blame or pursuing any impetus to better our own circumstances.
We’ve made “entertainment” our religion
One of the very few things Gen Y kids have a reverence for is entertainment. Their movie and television watching habits take on this weird ritualistic quality, and they speak about their favorite writers — almost always those of the science fiction-fantasy-comic book variety — as if they were canonized saints. In many ways, the lives of Gen Y kids revolves completely around their preferred form of “fandom” — in turn, making the entire Millennial Generation a throng of individuals more than happy to be consumers, with no aspirations at all of becoming genuine producers of value.
Fandom has replaced faith for my generation, with the epistles of yore being abandoned in favor of the DVD box set. The most pressing ideological choice for Generation Y isn’t Protestantism vs. Catholicism, but “Star Wars” vs. “Star Trek,” and instead of debating the social implications of conservatism versus liberalism, the most passionate discussions we engage in are about DC versus Marvel. Now, just how much would you trust industry and national security to an entire culture that vaunts such trivialities above political, economic and social matters?
We’re utterly incapable of doing anything without the Internet
Alike nuclear energy, the Internet has proven a double-edged sword. On one end, it revolutionized both industry and the press, creating a trillion dollar social pillar (and that’s just Apple’s presumptive net worth, mind you) that made running businesses and media enterprises simpler — and more cost-efficient — than at any point in human history. Never before have we had access to information so great, and with it, never has the potential for self-employment, true grassroots social activism and individual, intellectual bettering been so facile. And serving as the “Hiroshima and Nagasaki” counterpoint to the equation, goddamn, has the Internet utterly infantilized an entire generation.
Here’s a fairly lengthy manifesto I once penned, detailing the myriad ways the proliferation of the Internet has permanently damaged my generation’s ability to think and socialize. With the expansion of mobile media devices, it is now true that Gen Y kids NEVER leave the Internet — they even sleep with their Internet-powered Smartphones beside them in bed, perpetually anchored to the World Wide Web like toddlers clinging to their mothers’ skirts. Without the aide of the Internet, we can’t cook a dish, drive anywhere, do homework or arrange meetings with more than one person at a time. If the Internet just up and vanished tomorrow, my cohorts would literally be thrust backwards into a mental Dark Age — leaving them not only utterly incapable of managing their lives, but completely oblivious as to how human life can function at all sans a tablet or MP3 device.
We don’t know the difference between “want” and “need.”
Generation Y cannot make even the foggiest distinction between materialist “want” and financial “necessity.” We think we can delay paying bills indefinitely, and that we can put as much over-the-monthly-limit charges on our credit cards as we so desire. We use student loans to buy flat screen televisions, and bitch about not being able to pay rent when we spend a sum tantamount to rent in needless cable television, Smartphone and various online application subscriptions every month. And don’t even think about the term “budgeting” — we just spend as much as we can, on whatever we want, with money we don’t technically have, and that’s that.
Things like “savings plans” are becoming alien concepts to my generation. The concept of living within your means — or god forbid, below them in order to save up money for a rainy day — is not only foreign to Gen Y kids, its completely incomprehensible. As hyper-consumerists, we’re completely oblivious to the “consequences” of our reckless spending on utterly unneeded leisure and luxury items. Which, in turn, leads to yet another criticism of the Millenials…
We’re never responsible for our own actions
One of the commonalities shared by my cohorts is that, no matter what they do, it’s never THEIR fault. If they have to file chapter 7 bankruptcy at the age of 20, it’s not because they unwisely spent money and were too ignorant to fully understand how credit works, it’s the credit card companies themselves for “targeting” them as easy prey. If we flunk out of a college course, it’s not because we didn’t study and bothered to show up for class, but because the teacher “had it in for us.” For Gen Y, everything in the world is a viable scapegoat, except the notion of self-blaming.
Even worse, we expect to have our records expunged, so that when we do mess up, not only do we NOT have to take personal responsibility for screwing up, we get to immediately start with a blank slate after whatever “penalty” we are forced to incur as a result of our poor decision making. Even worse, we expect someone or something to immediately “bail us out” at the first signs of trouble — that our credit card companies will “forgive” our debts, that our student loan officers will simply “wave off” our monthly minimum, so on and so forth. And speaking of pinning blame on others…
Because we think we’re “disadvantaged,” we don’t even try to improve our lives
The idea of “personal responsibility” is a foreign concept to Generation Y. No matter how much one messes up — academically, financially, occupationally, etc. — the ONLY thing we refuse to blame for such personal hardships is our own, less-than-wise decision making. And as such, we’ve become experts at “self-victimization,” turning ourselves into Omni-oppressed individuals that face so many (almost entirely) non-existent barriers to success that we simply cannot envision ourselves succeeding due to being so “unfairly” disadvantaged in virtually every area.
Of course, there ARE cultural obstructions that serve as obstacles to many youth. It’s absurd to think that things like classism and racism aren’t major social blights in the U.S., but by that same token, I believe it is just as absurd to claim that such institutions are SO ingrained in modern infrastructure that it is impossible for anyone that considers themselves a minority, in any capacity, to achieve a modicum of self-sustainability through hard work, determination, and that thing we used to call “personal will.” And don’t think it’s just the “big” variables that we see as barriers to accomplishment — gender, race, sexual orientation, etc. — it’s also some incredibly trivial “self-qualifiers,” too. You would be AMAZED at the number of young people out there that genuinely think they are being “held back” by the intangible “social framework” because they’re atheists, or vegetarians, or they have slight medical problems, or they have a profound inability to communicate with others without sounding like a jackass. We’re an entire culture that believes the world is working against us, and as such? We don’t even think things like “effort” are even worth it anymore.
We never stop letting our parents run our lives
Once upon a time, being an adult meant leaving your parents’ home, getting a job, and being in charge of your own financial well-being. For an ever growing number of Gen Y kids, all three of those things are becoming antediluvian ideals, replaced by a new social order where children never stop being children, even as their own thirty-hoods stare them directly in the face.
To say that Gen Y kids remain economically dependent on their parents — or guardians, or kin, or whoever was legally responsible for raising them as adolescents and teens — is like calling Rush Limbaugh “just a little plump.” Even after college, many Gen Y kids remain in their parents’ home, where they remain coddled, fed and fiscally supported as if they were pre-teens. There’s never an impetus to become one’s own person, and even if they do get the idea to just up and leave, guess who keeps paying for their rent, and utilities, and even their credit card debt? Independence used to be something young people would strive for: with Gen Y kids, however, it’s the most terrifying prospect in the known universe.
We’ve allowed commercial culture to become our only generational unifier
While stability in a post World War II, post Great Depression America was our grandparents greatest cultural concern, our parents greatest concern was making lots and lots of money (as the 1980s no doubt demonstrated.) Our generation, however, has made consumption our utmost social ambition: instead of striving for national success or interpersonal wealth, all we care about is buying crap. We go to school to work, so we can buy Apple computers and new cars and new tablets and new video game systems and a whole bunch of other nonsense that serves no other purpose than to drive us into bankruptcy. Commercialism isn’t just our foremost existential motivator, it has, in many ways, completely absorbed our culture in such a way as to make every other possible qualifier — be it religion, ethnicity or race — obsolete.
Now, on the surface, you may be wondering what’s so bad about that. I mean, what’s the downside to an entire generation of multiculturally diverse people coalescing into a color-blind, language-deaf monoculture, anyway? Well, the problem there is that this mass consumption causa sui makes us lose not only our preexisting senses of identity, but also, our morals and ethics, which are firmly attached to those personal qualifiers we lose in a commercial uni-culture where the only thing that matters is which brand you support. With material culture as our agreed upon highest power, we’re not only rejecting all of the norms and values attached to an industrious society, we’re basically obliterating every other form of meaning out there. The end result, I am afraid, could very well be an American society, 50 years from now, that’s even less socially conscious or conscientious than the Weimar Republic was in the wake of World War I.
All of that criticism is quite heavy, I admit, but that’s not to say that there isn’t still a little bit of time to alter the trajectory of Gen Y. Here are five potential remedies to wait ails the Millennials…but be warned, for these things to be effective, our generation has to actually make a concentrated effort here (a task beyond Herculean, I am aware.)
Bring back the notion of “personal responsibility”
As a culture, we could improve our overall lot in life by doing two things: believing that are lives have some sort of greater meaning (which exists beyond eating, buying and Facebooking) and then believing that we — as individual beings — are ultimately responsible for our own outcomes. As you can see, saving Gen Y from itself is already proving itself to be a steep uphill battle.
How do you get people to believe that they have the capacity to alter their lives for the better, and especially, do so in a way that emphasizes person responsibility as an utmost social value? For starters, the hyper consumer state — which promotes single-minded, self-absorbed individualness above all other causes — has to be dismantled. From there, Gen Y kids have to re-shift their priorities to “greater causes” than mere self-gratification, which, necessarily, would have to also instill in those same individuals a sense of “self-management” that would take precedence over theorizations of victimization. Until we get people realizing that they, as lone human beings, are responsible for their own contemporary conditions — and certainly, within themselves, additionally having the capacity to change those conditions — we aren’t going to be getting anything done, for a long time to come.
De-emphasize pop culture and place a greater focus on the real world
With such a ceaseless emphasis on entertainment, technology culture and other realms of inconsequential geekdom, there has never been an American generation so utterly unattached to the real world — meaning not only the economic/political/social realm with consequential affairs, but the world outside of the “Internet sphere,” where everything is reduced to memes, abstractions and “distant” matters that exist solely on the screen of one’s smartphone or tablet.
Imagine, if you will, what would happen if Gen Y abandoned its infatuation with manga and graphic novels and instead elected to immerse itself the works of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn or Erich Fromm. How would our generational ideals change is we replaced juvenile fare like Harry Potter, The Hunger Games and Twilight with the prose of Benjamin Barber, Daniel Yergin or Thomas Friedman? What if instead of being bystanders playing video games and watching WorldStarHipHop videos of real-life domestic abuse as entertainment, we become active observers of the political, social and economic arenas — in short, we became a peoples whose tastes were more New York Times than The Colbert Report, who prefer Newsweek to IGN, who would rather watch the documentary films of Errol Morris and Warner Herzog than mindless crap like “Iron Man 3?” The cultural dividends, I assure you, would be far greater than simply a more enlightened citizenry.
Turn Off The Internet
Of course, the Internet makes us lazier. It also gives us a universal “distraction” from being productive in the real world — why go job hunting, or why study for that exam, when it’s much easier to just play on Reddit all day and watch YouTube videos of people getting whacked in the testicles instead?
For all the good the Internet does as a business and information distribution tool, it also promotes a whole hell of a lot of idleness — as well as skew our sense of what “social interaction” is. That, and it’s freewheeling, internationally-binding copyrighting laws-be damned nature is, in my opinion, understated in its effects on how my generation perceives property and civility. Ours is a generation that simply believes it can “torrent” everything it needs, without consequences — certainly, not for us as brazen pirates, and doubly certainly not for the artists, publishers and developers that have seen their livelihoods become unsustainable due to the proliferation of peer-to-peer “sharing.” We see nothing wrong about purchasing custom-made term papers off the Web — in short, the Internet, and the culture surrounding it, plays no small part in our mass narcissism and ability to feel shame or guilt about our own doings. Curtail this “Internet mentality” — with its detached, unsophisticated and brutish character — and you’ll know doubt begin seeing a Gen Y ethos that’s a whole hell of lot more respectful and civic-minded.
Start reminding us that actions (and much more importantly, inactions) have dire consequences
For far too many Gen Y kids, being an “adult” means freedom to do whatever the hell they want, without anyone telling them they can’t or shouldn’t (which probably explains why must of Ron Paul’s supporters are all Millennials.) The rub there is, adulthood isn’t about being “free” to do whatever the hell you like, it’s about being responsible enough to dictate your own life and make your own decisions…and at the very least, acknowledging that what you do has consequences beyond your contemporary state when you do it.
This problem is compounded by the fact that so many Gen Y kids live in this perpetual present state, where things like “pasts” and “futures” are irrelevant — and even worse, many Millennials seem oblivious to the fact that what they do and say now might just have ramifications later on in their lives. Simply put, Gen Y has to shift its focus away from instant pleasures and towards longer-term ambitions, which means sacrificing individual wants for greater common goods. Granted, it’s not easy getting the most self-absorbed, non-civically minded generation in U.S. history to adjust its tune overnight, but if we can come to realize the direness of so many contemporary problems and how they WILL definitely affect us in the long haul — the economy, the state of health care, the funding models for social services, etc. — then maybe, just maybe, we might be able to start thinking about things beyond what we’re going to eat later in the evening.
Change the definition of what’s “important” in modern culture
Perhaps the likeliest means of shifting generational attitudes is also the most difficult — hence, why I positioned it last instead of first. Simply put, Gen Y is a product of an earlier generational ethos — that of our baby boomer parents — that vaunted materialistic excess, vapid class ideals and incessant consumption as a path to personal fulfillment. Since birth, we’ve been bombarded with a single message — buying stuff makes you happy — and as the nation’s staggering credit debt numbers demonstrate, that little self-cause has lead us into an economic quagmire the likes of which the U.S. has not seen since the heyday of the Great Depression.
What was important or “functional” for our parents just doesn’t work for us — mostly because the world left to us by our parents is a completely banged-up, environmentally, socially and economically desolate facsimile of what used to be the American Dream. Instead of following our parents’ ideals — buying expensive furniture with our credit cards, taking out gargantuan loans from the bank to pay for unnecessary hair transplants, cheating on our spouses and thinking that having lots of built-up equity will make us complete as individuals — we need to develop new ideals that celebrate things of substance as opposed to style. Maybe instead of celebrating a mass culture that promotes extravagant spending, we should champion a counterculture movement that encourages saving, thrift, charity and sound investments. Instead of promoting a social milieu of hyper-individualism and materialistic obsession, perhaps we should focus on collective improvements and concentrated efforts on real-life social issues — homelessness, wealth inequality, and if absolutely nothing else, the fact that our culture ISN’T getting a fair amount of representation in any political or civic arena.