Mocking Millennial Minimalists: There’s a Better Way

“No one actually likes John Mellencamp. And stop calling him the ‘Cougar!’”

As someone who has been on the internet, ever, I hear a lot of concern and even Pokemon-fueled disgust about millennials. Just…so many things. As the marginally informed millennial that I am, I hear buzz words. “Existentialism.” “Synergies.” “Taxes.” These things that we know are out there, but don’t necessarily wrap our minds around.

One such buzz word is “sharing economy.” You may not realize, but it’s getting to the point where just about everything you need, you can do with a quick click.

These services emphasize getting more with less. Philosophies like “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” are growing in popularity with an emphasis on minimalism.

First, put your hands on everything you own, ask yourself if it sparks joy, and if it doesn’t, thank it for its service and get rid of it.

So is this a rampage of minimalism? Or is it skepticism of ownership? Maybe a little of both. And this huge shift in the economy seems to be tied directly to the way millennials want to experience life.

In research conducted by PwC, guess who was the most stoked about the sharing economy?

This sounds familiar…

And just about everything is following this trend. Home ownership is down to the lowest level since 1965, when they started counting, due in large part to millennials, with the“lowest ownership rate of their age group in history.” With Spotify, you don’t have to own your music. With Netflix, you don’t have to own your movies.

Kristen Soltis Anderson explains in her book, “The Selfie Vote,” that a big part of this is the fear millennials have of being defined by something. We don’t want to own CDs or DVDs that will say something about us. We don’t want to be called a Republican or a Democrat. We don’t want to be identified with a certain religion.

More and more our country doesn’t even define us clearly. Globalism brings an increased similarity. An interesting, not-real-life example of this is in the TV show Firefly. When the earth “dried up,” they found a new system of planets. Because of the two prevailing super powers when this fictional human race left earth, their culture is a combination of Chinese and American with conversations switching sporadically between English and Chinese. My life as a young person has never been more similar to someone the same age in Hong Kong, Uganda, and London than it is today. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

But we still listen to music and watch movies. We still have feelings about politics and God. But if we’re not letting religion, political party, or possessions define us, what is?

The Bernie Sanders movement has become the equivalent of your drowsy teenager waking up and suddenly shouting an opinion. Who knew millennials had something to say other than “Damn, Daniel.”

Recently, talking to a friend I mentioned that millennials are sort of despised as the least informed generation. And she was surprised. “I feel like I’ve heard the opposite because we have access to constant news.” But on questions like “who is your senator? What bills have they introduced?” Millennials don’t know any of that stuff. But Bernie inspired young people in insane quantities. They became intensely engaged in the election. And these young people were embraced into the political dialogue with open arms, right?

Sigh…

Wrong. Millennials were mocked incessantly. They want affordable college, affordable healthcare, and social and economic equality generally. Instead of saying, “Oh, millennials care about education, healthcare, and equality apparently . . . maybe we should talk about this,” people made fun of them.

As Anderson points out, “neither party has particularly stepped up as a champion of reform for K-12 or higher education.” Not only are millennials buried under complex mountains of student debt, but they’re looking forward to an increasingly remote and complex professional world. Education is going to have to change to teach people to live in the unstructured sharing economy. An educational system set up to teach you to play the game isn’t going to work in an economy where there aren’t any rules. We’re aware of this as an issue and don’t see any good solutions.

When you feel loyalty to something, you learn a lot about that thing. People feel loyalty to sports teams and so they know everything about that team (players, stats, etc). But young people don’t feel that loyalty to any political party. Some of my friends do and they’re vocal about it. But the majority don’t. If the Bernie Sanders movement proved anything, it’s that political indifference does not preclude a lack of belief or passion. People are waiting for something they can get behind.

When I spent a semester at the University of Cambridge I interviewed 20 of my peers for a video. These were people from all over the world; Singapore, Hong Kong, India, the U.S. Almost everyone wanted to start a social business or start a non-profit. Most millennials want to change the world.

So maybe instead of making fun of the things millennials are getting behind, why not attempt to engage in a dialogue? If it’s disconcerting to you that more millennials prefer socialism to capitalism, let’s talk about that, instead of shouting incoherent randomness about Hitler.

I sat in a hotel ballroom with a member of the Republican National Committee, and I point-blank asked the question, “tell me, a millennial voter, why I should be a Republican?” And he mumbled something about how people are frustrated and unsure of how to solve problems. That’s not what I asked. I’m not asking you to sugar coat it. I’m asking you to talk to me. Listen to my opinions and let’s reason together, and maybe, just maybe, we can make it so that the world sucks a little less.

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