I've never been one to buy into the overly broad generalizations about the collective personality of a generation. Perhaps Tom Brokaw came closest to scoring a bullseye when he coined the term "Greatest Generation," describing those who weathered the Great Depression and then went on to win World War II.
On the other hand, post-World War II baby boomers didn't fit as easily into a uniform mold. They were split over the Vietnam War. Some were Democrats; some were Republicans. Some hated Ronald Reagan; some loved him. Beatniks, hippies and flower children got a lot of media attention but were outliers, not typical. (Dobie Gillis and Maynard G. Krebs were friends but not a lot alike.)
The generation-naming industry fell on hard times between 1965 and 1980 and couldn't even come up a catchy term for what they dubbed as Generation X, a generation that lacked a vivid distinction. When time ran out for that one, Generation Y followed. That group has now been renamed the Millennial Generation, covering those born roughly between 1981 and 1995.
These were the school kids, now in early adulthood, who were coddled and reared on self-esteem, even when undeserved. They were herded into soccer-playing hives (because it's safer than football). Their nannyists discouraged them from keeping score in sporting events where there would be no winners or losers, with everyone getting a "participation trophy." Throughout their K-12 schooling and college education, they were indoctrinated by liberal teachers and professors.
This was reinforced by the liberal culture of Hollywood, TV and social media. So they've been bred with a sense of entitlement. They're self-absorbed and narcissistic. They want their college loans to be forgiven because repaying them would be a hardship. Millennials are the Peter Pan generation that won't grow up. But they haven't flown away to Never Never Land; many are still living in their parents' basements.
Millennials are early adopters of technological breakthroughs. That's a virtue in this electronic age, although most of that energy is channeled in frivolous social communications, idle chatter and entertainment. It's understandable that marketers of goods and services would be sensitive to the preferences of millennials. This is an emerging, sizable consumer group. But in order to consume in volume, they'll have to have a job that provides them with purchasing power.
So here's the rub. Millennials, we're told, are picky about working conditions, insisting that employers accommodate their demands, including: tender loving care, independence, frequent positive feedback, flexible hours and so on.
It seems to me they're exaggerating their bargaining power. I imagine an extraordinary, individual millennial might be such a valued prize as to merit such treatment, like a Heisman Trophy winner, for example. But in this lagging economy, beggars can't be choosers. As individual job applicants, the masses of ordinary millennials will be competing with others of their ilk who'd be happy, or even desperate, to take a job on an employer's terms. Which leaves those picky millennials who don't want to work on someone else's terms the option of raising capital and starting businesses of their own to work their way out their parents' basements.
In the 1950s and '60s, it was fashionable to disparage the "rat race," described as the common affliction of toiling away at an unfulfilling job to support family and all the financial obligations associated with a consumerist lifestyle. Well, the rats apparently won. It's still with us and always will be. It's called life, and it's not so bad. Poverty-stricken billions in Third World countries should be so lucky.
Certainly, not all millennials fit the foregoing description. I've known some born in this time frame who are unassuming, self-reliant, hard-working, successful conservatives. The more derogatory picture I painted of millennials is, of course, a generalization. But isn't that what generational stereotyping is all about?
Mike Rosen is a KOA News Radio personality.
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