Harbinger’s of Change: Millennials, Gen-Y, Scorpio Generation or Whatever You Want to Call Us.

My generation has been labeled many things. Some positive, many not so much. In turn, and quite naturally, this caused various forms of backlash and perhaps some unintended consequences. But it can be easy to fall into the patterns of creating a storyline of “us. vs. them,” which this isn’t.

Instead I want to examine what I propose connects my generation; the truth.

Two years ago, Sam Tanenhaus of The New York Times wrote an article that summarized data by the Pew Research Center about Millennials, concluding,

"No wonder, then, that “Millennials are the nation’s most dogged optimists,” as Pew reported in a new study this spring. “They believe their own best days are ahead.”
They, and we, can expect some less-than-best days, too. Cultural transformations are seldom cost-free. And they’re not always permanent. A new generation, as yet unnamed, is growing up in the world the millennials have made and may already be working on its own revision of the nation’s moral life."

The last part of that paragraph bares repeating as Tanenhaus implies that it's the generation after Millennials that "...may already be working on its own revision of the nation’s moral life." In order for that to happen, it would also imply that Millennials are the harbingers of this shift, or at the very least, the catalyst.

While some people might be into name calling and shackling the current largest generation in the world with misleading labels while trying to analyze our spending habits, we’ll be over here, "...[rejecting] the presumed security of the corporate job and riskily pursue [our] own ventures, even if it means working out of [our] parents’ basement," as Tanenhaus succinctly writes.

Before diving any deeper, I acknowledge that my words don’t speak for all Millennials. However, this article is inspired by conversations on countless nights with many in my generation looking to understand who we are as individuals at the core; perhaps dialing down the small talk to wax on philosophic ideas of ways in which to make the world a better place by cutting through a lot of bullshit. I feel confident in saying many of us just want the truth, and maybe a little compassion for our fellow human beings to boot.

Perhaps as my generation has aged, our eyes have been opened to many of the half-truths and flat out lies we were nurtured with as children. This isn’t an indictment of our parents or past generations, because despite what some might think, if the movie The Big Short taught us anything it’s that most people trusted the lies they were told and didn’t really know what the hell was going on. However, our actions are naturally going to react in a way that not only moves closer to the truth, but might even upend a few things in the process of searching for that truth.

Several other articles from NPR, Forbes and The Atlantic reveal the details of how many in my generation are upending the economy and workforce not just through spending or TV habits, but also in many cases, upending the moral fiber and the conscious conscience of the world around us.

Many in my generation are CLEARLY frustrated with history seeming to not only repeat itself, but also the dazzling display of complex lies leaders across many institutions seem content to go along with. I think that’s partially why many in my generation are drawn to candidates who are perceived as having some integrity. Bernie Sanders (not an endorsement), who, despite his own flips on a few issues, is at the very least confronting so MANY of the lies we’ve seen not only our parents fall for, but we’ve even been fed as well. Blanket statements associated with the “American Dream” like, “Your vote counts” don’t carry the same weight any more, since to many that doesn’t seem to be the case, especially when certain political leaders flatly come out and say it. What also hurts these once revered institutions, like the news media, is the continued shellacking it takes under perennial Millennial favorites The Daily Show and once upon a time The Colbert Report. We’ve been told that at one point in history, news media’s supposed traditional role was to keep people informed and leaders in check. However, it’s no wonder many in my generation prefer their news from alternate sources when traditional news media outlets continue to devalue of the seriousness of presidential elections, turning it into a circus, noted recently on The Daily Show and a recent article in which New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow wrote,

“A strong argument could be made by all candidates — Democrat and Republican — that there has been some level of media malpractice as it relates to the amount of coverage received by their campaigns and that of the Republican front-runner, and they would be right. If any candidate had received the huge media coverage of the current G.O.P. front-runner, they would likely be in a stronger position now.”

It’s no wonder then that my generation is mostly disengaged with the whole voting thing.

These lies aren’t confined to political ones either. Twelve percent of millennials consider themselves vegetarians, perhaps in part due to the increasing number of documentaries out there revealing the truth about food production, specifically ones about meat in particular. So it shouldn’t come as a shock that fast food sales are slumping. Many brands have gotten the memo, now trying to win back visitors by shifting to healthier options.

We’ve also seen the dubious under-belly of the land and water circus exposed as harmful to certain creatures. Both staples of our parents generation; and now in both cases, forced to shut down some of their act due to public outcries after years of lying about the treatment of animals.

We’re tired of being lied to about all of our real history. Speaking of history, we’re tired of being lied to that our education system (among other things) is the best when clearly it’s not, nor is it an actual viable option for many who don’t wish to be in debt until death.

Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning have also set a tone for millennials in regards to moral quandaries. Snowden’s revelations have been credited with forcing several tech giants to rethink their stance on privacy while revealing the truth behind government surveillance.

What works for and against my generation are the high expectations in many areas of life, and that's ignoring the various spiritual expectations (real or not). Like all previous generations, ours will create enormous change to culture, spirit and living within all facets of the world, hopefully in a responsible manner so incoming generations will be better off. The difference, if any, between the generations is the rise of new technological advances. Never before has information and opinion been so easily communicated.

It seems as though as the technology progresses, that perhaps many in my generation are expected to solve problems under a timer, because if we can talk to someone on the other side of the world in real time or communicate with a robot on Mars, than we should be able to jumpstart a crumbling economy even though the world is $58,387,425, 495,037 in debt, and counting. Evidence for this feeling can be seen in the results of how quickly certain governments fell in the massive uprisings several years ago known collectively as The Arab Spring, later in Brazil and Taiwan which saw many Millennials and youth activists using technology to plan protests and reveal misdeeds. Also, while technology has greatly assisted in the realms of communication across nations, when combined with today’s fast-paced instant everything society, it can give the impression most things can be fixed quickly.

But when it comes to healing and self discovery, these things take time, not to mention the ever evolving nature of many moral issues. Luckily, once these changes happen, even in one person, the ripples begin. Ghandi once said,

“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. ... We need not wait to see what others do.”

Years later, His Holiness the Dalai Lama elaborated,

I think, at the heart of many so-called complaints from previous generations is a feeling, not of inadequacy, but bewilderment. It's important to remember that it's understandable why many of our parents’ generation might feel this way.

As some of these articles have suggested, many within my generation are shifting paradigms in terms of spending and social habits. Many of us would rather create our own path towards a fulfilling life than tread down the well worn roads our parents and grandparents paved for us. This can be quite a scary thing, especially because the previous generation has witnessed much instability over the years. Compared to my generation, they’ve quite literally seen double the amount of insane scariness.

While we've only witnessed such tragedies as 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, the economic crash as well as those two wars in the Middle East (while The Gulf War and Oklahoma City Bombing are a faint memory), our parents and grandparents have also witnessed the horrors of Vietnam, Presidential assassinations (and several very public attempts), disco and the tumultuous social and cultural upheavals of the 60's and 70's while our grandparents have not only witnessed ALL of these events mentioned so far but also WWII, The Korean War and growing up in the Great Depression. So it's understandable that previous generations would prefer a bit of stability.

Unfortunately, we are not the generation to create said stability, partially because we’re tired of all the bullshit, which might be why many in my generation seem apathetic, or at times entitled. However, looking closer, and again drawing from many conversations with Millennials on complex moral issues, I see “not an entitled generation but a complex and introspective one,” as Tanenhaus writes in his article. This introspection is not unlike what was witnessed in the late 50’s and throughout the 60’s.

For a moment, I wish to acknowledge that correlation doesn’t equal causation, meaning I’m aware Millennials are not the sole reason why these complex changes are occurring throughout the United States and other countries of the world. However, as the now largest and most influential generation in the US continues to age, voting not just on ballots, but with our time and money, it’s obvious to see why there is concern among some about a re-examination and in some cases redefinition of certain cultural foundations. Creating change isn’t always easy, but in some cases it’s necessary and long overdue.