“Millennial” Is Not A Thing

July 22, 2019

Culture, Uncategorized

millennials are lazy

My hunches are confirmed. I recently heard that the experts frown on our generational classifications because they’re not sociological categories. In other words, “millennial” is not a thing — nor is “Boomer,” “Gen X,” Gen Z, or Gen whatever.

Which should surprise no one. Pundits dissed my generation in the ’70’s just like they’re sneering today’s millennials: We were spoiled, lazy, and pampered louts who didn’t know the meaning of a hard-earned dollar. Television hypnotized us and shrunk our attention span to goldfish levels. I remember a specific and legitimate complaint from my parents: “The kids always move back in – after we emptied our bank accounts so they could graduate from college and get high-powered jobs.”

Memo to Millennials: You’re not the first generation to mooch off your parents while whining about them. We beat you to it by some thirty years.

We were also the salvation of the world, humanity’s last hope, and the upholder of western civilization’s highest ideals. Our mothers and fathers blew it (never mind that Tom Brokaw would later dub them the “Great Generation”), but no worries: We Boomers – who, like today’s Millennials, were supposedly enthralled with Norwegian-style social democracy – were here to save the day.

Apprehensions abounded even among the optimists, of course: We anti-clerical Boomers were abandoning churches at a thunderous rate; each was memorizing The Quotations of Chairman Mao; and all were fleeing the cities and flocking to desert communes. Who would fix the toilets in the ‘burbs?

Flash forward to 2019. Read the on-line gurus. We Boomers are now hidebound grumps who whine about today’s kids and tell everyone to get off our lawn; Millennials are enthralled with the four-member Democratic left-wing “squad” in the House, especially Alexandria Ocasio Cortez. Boomers sold their soul, voted for Ronald Reagan and all those conservatives, and intentionally pumped CO2 into the air so the Daytona Beach’s population could move to Maine.

It’s about time these generational caricatures fall. It’s all so much more complicated and transgenerational – and the societal makeovers we’ve seen have actually been incremental. Take the much publicized “sexual revolution,” for example. That began in the late ‘40’s, grew in the ‘50’s, and blossomed in the ‘60’s. Great Generation males bought Playboy – “for the articles” – and swooned before Marilyn Monroe’s whispers. Or take feminism. Sample the birth dates of its leaders: Gloria Steinem was born in 1934 and Betty Friedan in 1921. Germaine Greer, born in 1939, was also pre-boomer. And take the cartoonish political characterizations: Boomers were the radicals while the Great Generationers were straitlaced. In fact, the latter voted for Harry Truman, Eisenhower (a “liberal” Republican), John F. Kennedy, and Lyndon Johnson – back when Democrats leaned further Left than today. They handed Johnson a landslide when conservative Republican Barry Goldwater vied against him in 1964.

And let’s re-examine that designation, “Great,” which was assigned to that generation because it fought off Hitler and Tojo and blessed us with the GI Bill, then checked communism and fostered America’s greatest economic boom. True, that generation supplied many of the troops that battled the Axis powers, but Franklin Roosevelt’s administration aligned us with Britain and prepared us for war (somewhat). His appointees and commanders were as old as he – sometimes older. The same can be said of the Korean War and the great economic boom. What’s more, the “great” epithet stops us from understanding that generation’s trauma and near-sightedness: Its members grew up in the Depression and lived through history’s bloodiest conflict. They were done with adventure and winced at self-examination, so let’s not talk about anything except baseball. We’ll join the boy scouts, girl scouts, and Lion’s Club (not that there’s anything wrong with that), and confine religion to the hour-long Sunday morning church service (and don’t cross that noon deadline). Their religion was a don’t-rock-the-boat religion, bequeathing us an insipid God who allowed Dad to sing in the choir and lust through Playboy.

Much more can be said, but I’ll end with two points. First, these generations span decades and a breadth of experiences. The boomers, for example, were born between 1946-1964 – which means the rioters at the 1968 Chicago Democratic Conventional grew up in a different culture than the four-year-old boomers watching them on television. Second, we often view these generations in their youth and describe them in the past tense. It’s as if the Boomers and Gen Xers were given their diplomas and fell through a trap door. I’ve got news: We’re still around. We’ve climbed the corporate ladders and now pull power’s levers – so yes, stay off our well-groomed lawn. Scat.  We’ll turn on the sprinkler system if you don’t.

Or maybe we’ll shelve this nonsense and work together. What a thought: Boomers, Gen Xers, millennials, and all others see through the absurdity of our generational segmentation. Nuts to the whole thing. We cooperate in resolving the mammoth issue of the day: Climate change, for which several generations bear the blame.

A PS: A boomer friend and I were trading notes on a Facebook thread. She said this: “I NEVER heard anyone in real life say ‘groovy.’ That was just a term silly people on TV used.” I responded: “I used the word, ‘groovy’ once. I immediately thought, ‘I will never say that word again.’”

 

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About Charles Redfern

Charles Redfern is a writer, activist, and clergyman living in Connecticut with his wife and family. He's currently writing two books, with more in his head.

View all posts by Charles Redfern

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  1. The Alternative Mainstream - September 18, 2019

    […] — and It fails to honor veteran advocates with wrinkles. Perhaps most important, it draws artificial boundaries and alienates one generation from another. Remember the ’60’s and the youth culture, […]

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