In Defense Of Millennials

Feb. 20, 2013
Louis Waxman is a fairly decent guy. He's also a writer. Despite being afraid of heights, he lives in a second floor ...

Tom Brokaw is a jerk. Check out this excerpt from NPR’s Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me! hosted by Peter Sagal.

Sagal: Tom Brokaw, we have asked you here to play a game we’re calling “The Dorkiest Generation.” So, you’ve written a book about the World War II generation, you’ve written a new book about the generation of the sixties — the boomers. We don’t think you’re going to be writing one about kids today. They won’t even clean up their bedroom for goodness sake. But we also think that because they have been wasting their time…

Brokaw: I’m waiting for a member of this generation to write one that’s simply titled “My Generation Sucks.”

Sagal: The problem is we think these kids these days, these kids in their twenties and thirties — are they kids? I don’t know — they’re wasting their time playing collectable card games. These are the games in which you buy decks of custom cards and play them against their friends. It’s like Cribbage for kids who can’t get dates.

Brokaw: Right.

Let me start by saying, as a card-carrying (no pun intended) member of “Generation Y,” that we absolutely do suck. We’re awful. That’s well established. We’re neurotic, we have short attention spans and gluten allergies, we didn’t even fight in World War II — how lazy is that? Most importantly, as Sagal and Brokaw astutely point out, we spend all our time playing collectible card games against our friends because we can’t get dates. These fellas have hit the nail on the head in an intoxicating medley of condescension and self-righteous detachment that may, in fact, be unique to the baby boomers. Clearly we’ve got a lot of catching up to do.

But it’s true to say we’re a crappy generation. A few reasons why:

  • We can’t write in cursive.
  • We can’t find anything without GPS.
  • We’ve never watched M*A*S*H and don’t care to.
  • We view twitter, facebook, and the self-checkout station at CVS as reasonable alternatives to human interaction.
  • We don’t think twice about wearing spaghetti straps and flip-flops to work/class/church/etc.
  • We listen to loud music and skateboard where we’re not supposed to.

The list goes on. Tom Brokaw is absolutely right when he tells us we suck; as a whole, the millennial generation is hopelessly terrible. He’ll get no dispute from the likes of me. Implicit in his assertion, however, is the assumption that t=his generation, as it happens, is way better. Contempt for us millennials is made explicit elsewhere so frequently that it’s become almost a cliché (google worst generation ever, and you’ll see what I mean.) My gut impulse is, of course, to agree — I’ve got a strong predilection towards self-loathing wherever I can find it. Problem is, I just don’t think it’s true. Or at least I don’t think it’s especially true in our case. For now I’ll reserve the self-loathing for my individual shortcomings — this makes for better wallowing anyway.

Let’s say you grew up in the fifties/sixties. You might look down your nose at things like youtube and Xbox 360, referring to them as “paltry stupid-time,” or something equally dismissive. Even so, I’ll still take these preoccupations over bouffants, Ouija boards, and a tacit distrust of dark-skinned people any day of the week. The graphics are better, for one thing. I’m sure you think you guys were different at our age–that you were real movers and shakers–that you were the embodiment of counterculture and antiestablishment because you smoked a weak joint at a Grateful Dead concert one time and made out with a girl with dirty hair. You’ll excuse me if I don’t buy the free-love, power-to-the-people image. Here’s a deal for you boomers–I’ll stop texting and popping Adderall when you stop acting like you’re the only generation that ever got wasted and had anonymous sex.

You may be thinking, “Um excuse me, I grew up in the seventies and we, the proud children of Generation X, would never waste our time on foolish distractions.” If this sounds like you, I’ll respectfully invite you to go down into the basement, gather up your mood rings, your pet rock, and your “Metric System Sucks” t-shirt, and shove them you-know-where. It’s fine with me if you want to pretend your fads were more noble because they didn’t involve backlit screens and a modem, but at the very least, you people should own up to strapping us with AIDS and Jimmy Buffett.

I had considered admonishing the generation that came of age in the thirties/forties, but…

A. There’s no way any of them will find their way to this website.

B. Even if, by freak accident, one of them ends up on this page, there’s virtually zero chance they’ll figure out how to scroll down.

C. They may be the only generation in the past century that can legitimately claim they’re less shitty than us millennials.

Here’s what I think: Young people are forever the punching bag of society. Jews too, I guess, but that’s a topic for a separate post. I defy you to find me a single point in history at which parents, by and large, didn’t think of their children and their children’s generation as ungrateful little turds who have no idea how good they’ve got it. It’s essentially a truism. And it’s cyclical — a generation comes of age, gets stomped on by older generations intent on extinguishing its spunk, eventually becomes old news itself and, accordingly, feels compelled to shit all over whoever happens to be between the ages of eighteen and thirty at the time because in some weird, backwards way, this helps to alleviate the bitterness that this now tired, spunk-bereft generation feels. It’s a bit like how a college fraternity operates — but with less date-rape, thankfully.

It may be true that we’re the most entitled, technologically-preoccupied, distracted generation to date. We’re soft. We bruise easily and cry way too much. We don’t have a world war or a civil rights movement to rally us. We’re lonely, socially-inept, selfish. We have crappy jobs and bad attitudes. We’re seriously unimpressive as a group. No question. Fortunately, it’s not all terrible. For one thing, we’re, by far, the most tolerant generation. According to Pew, the level of support for gay marriage, immigration, and interracial dating among people 18 to 29 is far higher than in any other age group. That’s something, right? We might be a festering cesspool of ADD and narcissism, but at least we’re nice.

We’re desirable, for another thing; most abductions are of people under thirty. Answer me this: if we’re the worst generation, how come people keep taking us? And google no further than the average age of Victoria’s Secret models to find out how sexy we look in leopard-print bras. Take that, baby boomers.

Now, I’m not trying to court controversy, but if you’re a non-millennial, chances are you’ll take offense at my unfair characterization of the generation with which you identify. You’re probably thinking, “Wait just a second, buddy — I’m not a racist technophobe, I don’t have mood rings, and I barely even like Jimmy Buffett. Who are you to generalize so recklessly about such a huge, diverse group of people you barely know — to caricature us so haphazardly?” Come to think of it, that’s a really good point. We’d probably all do well to remember it (I’m looking at you, Brokaw). TC mark

Louis Waxman

Louis Waxman

Louis Waxman is a fairly decent guy. He’s also a writer. Despite being afraid of heights, he lives in a second floor …

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