Often by circumstance, generations of young adults propel our societies forward, with optimism, perhaps naiveté, and a refusal to abscond hope for a better future. The Millennial generation is increasingly disillusioned and distrustful of our democratic institutions, not because the institutions themselves are the problem, but because the people operating within them are. From politics and government to the mainstream news media, free speech and our justice system, we are facing a crisis of the legitimacy of our western democracies.
Lack of leadership, political dogma, entrenched and incompetent elites, and abdicating our responsibility to ourselves and each other has grown out of a sense of complacency and is leading us down a dangerous path. The stable foundation of our established, first-world, democratic societies is beginning to crack, not because of a lack of merit but because these institutions have been neglected and abused by decades of largely uninspiring, incompetent individuals in leadership positions, aggravating the same major issues they created. We have allowed, by inattention and inaction, special interests — whether they be politics, government, lobbyists, post-secondary classrooms, the legal system, or the mainstream news media — to determine our frame of reference for too long. The credibility of these institutions is crumbling fast, providing a new opportunity to determine what we think for ourselves, outside of their elitist narrow lens and scope of interest.
We must think outside of the box, at a time in human history when so much information and opportunity is available with the potential to improve our quality of life through innovative thinking and intelligent-risk approach. We cannot afford to allow our societies to decline further into weakness and susceptibility to the benefit of elitists whose mission is to control all of us for the gain of their personal, narrow agendas. The lack of leadership has led to a rise of fundamentalism across our societies, Western and otherwise, and is one of our greatest threats because so many problems are stemming from it: fundamentalism, or dogma, is the strict adherence to the fundamental principles of any set of beliefs. It is a central tactic of elites whose mentality is to control the rest of us and force us to conform to their agenda and worldview.
Looking a Gift Horse in the Mouth
The overwhelming success of Canadian psychologist Dr. Jordan Peterson’s messages to Millennials of pursuing meaning and personal responsibility in our lives are indicative of a generation eager and even desperate to live a life of value, created in what we positively do for the benefit of ourselves and others.
Capitalism and democracy offer the field of potential for this positive benefit through individual effort to occur. In his 1992 book The End of History, Francis Fukuyama speculated that once we reached the end of history, where humanity had delineated a single, final form of the best political, social, and economic system — democracy and capitalism — that people may begin to fight against this system as a struggle “against the just cause” and “struggle for the sake of struggle” because there is no longer anything significant left to struggle against: democracy triumphed over authoritarianism and capitalism triumphed over socialism. Fukuyama warned that “if the greater part of the world in which they live is characterized by peaceful and prosperous liberal democracy, then they will struggle against that peace and prosperity, and against democracy”.
Most Millennials are live-and-let-live libertarians who see possibility in the diversity of humanity, not socialists who desire to live and force others to live by the choking, bland yolk of conformity. Postmodernists see the world inside out, as they seek to continually inwardly break apart every aspect of a human being into separate parts that are meaningless on their own, instead of recognizing their comprised value as a complex and unique human identity. The gullible and uninformed will soon wake up to realize they have been duped by militant postmodernists and socialist glorifiers who are attempting to implement their failed ideals on a next generation of assumed suckers.
The prosperity and abundance of opportunity the first world offers are currently being met with a fear-based attitude in the postmodernists and politically far-left, who need the struggle for the sake of struggle Fukuyama posited, their inner fear projected outward. In their own aimlessness, they seek to pull everyone else down into their confusion rather than grasp the liberating risk of charting their own individual path. They will not succeed; the end of history marks the beginning of personal actualization, which brings us full circle to pursuing and achieving meaning. Therefore, Dr. Peterson’s message is so powerful because Millennials are a generation in this point in history and time receptive to responding to what we know in our souls to be necessary and true.
Critical Issues Lacking Leadership
The European Union is one of the wealthiest regions in the world. Over a third of well-educated Millennials across Europe as a whole, and nearly half in countries such as Greece and Spain, are unemployed with limited prospects. Historically, Europe leans left politically, yet Millennial anger and frustration is fueling the rise of populist sentiment and nationalist movements across Europe. They see the EU and the establishment elites as creating and perpetuating the conditions resulting in their unemployment, compounded by the migrant crisis provoking an “us versus them” mentality as they watch their governments welcome outsiders while ignoring their own stagnant prospects for an independent life.
Regional ideological and political games threaten Canadian’s energy security and therefore economic prosperity and quality of life. Both governments and professional environmental agitators in British Columbia on the west coast and Quebec on the east coast repeatedly attempt to stall and block federally approved pipelines to transport Alberta oil and natural gas across the country for Canadian use and export, requiring import of the same from non-democratic and non-environmentally responsible countries such as Saudi Arabia. Prior to the discovery of oil and gas reserves in Alberta in the 1930s, the province had been one of the most destitute in the country. Today, Quebec, a province that refuses to concede new pipelines from Alberta to access its coast, does not contribute its weight economically to the country compared to its political influence but is the primary beneficiary of billions of dollars in annual transfer payments from Alberta, even while Albertans continue to struggle through a recession.
University campuses are increasingly ground for radical left militants threatening to shut down free speech and free thought in the juvenile name of toleration, equality, and “safe spaces”. By employing political tactics honed forty years ago, ideological veterans inside and outside of faculties are using Millennial students as — to use the term oft-attributed to Vladimir Lenin — useful idiots. The counterculture of students in the 1960s promoted dissent, challenge, and “dangerous” ideas on campus, but today these same tactics are causing violent riots to protest invited speakers, shouting down and silencing professors and academic staff, and calling everyone who disagrees with their platform “racist,” “transphobic,” or whatever other categorization suits the identity politicians that day.
The United States have the highest rates of conviction and incarceration in the world, particularly of African Americans and Hispanics. Many of those arrested are too poor to afford legal counsel or bail, so they’re represented by overworked public defenders, and prosecutors offer them terms whereby they plead guilty to serve a lesser sentence than the potentially harsher sentence resulting from trial — a no win situation that presumes their guilt rather than innocence first. The scenario contributes to and perpetuates systemic poverty, violence, crime, and the devastation of these families and communities, and worsens tensions between police (often over-worked and under-resourced) and the neighbourhoods they serve.
The greatest polluters in the world are developing and emerging countries, such as China and India, yet left-wing politicians in the West have taken the torch of reducing harm to our natural environments to an ideological and unsustainable extreme by punishing taxpayers with punitive fees and forcing industry toward predetermined end results rather than supporting an innovative process toward end goals. At this point in time, renewable energy is in nearly every case more polluting than fossil fuels. German Chancellor Angela Merkel publicly scolded American President Donald Trump for pulling out of the Paris Accord, while the actions of Germany and the other signatories have scarcely come close to meeting their own targets. In Canada, carbon taxes (whether by that name or another) are imposed on citizens at all levels of government, whereby a citizen pays more on their electricity bill in taxes (including a federal goods and sales tax charged on top of the carbon levy itself) than for the actual electricity.
Toppling the Establishment Elite
In his latest book, Skin in the Game, Nassim Nicholas Taleb asked, “how do you own people? First, by conditioning and psychological manipulation; second, by tweaking them to have some skin in the game, forcing them to have something significant to lose if they disobey authority.”
According to Aristotle (emphasis added):
“A man should live as he likes. This, they say, is the privilege of a freeman, since, on the other hand, not to live as a man likes is the mark of a slave. This is the second characteristic of democracy, whence has arisen the claim of men to be ruled by none, if possible, or, if this is impossible, to rule and be ruled in turns; and so it contributes to the freedom based upon equality.”
“These are, (1) the humiliation of his subjects; he knows that a mean-spirited man will not conspire against anybody; (2) the creation of mistrust among them; for a tyrant is not overthrown until men begin to have confidence in one another; … (3) the tyrant desires that his subjects shall be incapable of action, for no one attempts what is impossible, and they will not attempt to overthrow a tyranny, if they are powerless … Another practice of tyrants is to multiply taxes, after the manner of Dionysius at Syracuse, who contrived that within five years his subjects should bring into the treasury their whole property … The people, having to keep hard at work, are prevented from conspiring. The Pyramids of Egypt afford an example of this policy … all these works were alike intended to occupy the people and keep them poor. The tyrant is also fond of making war in order that his subjects may have something to do and be always in want of a leader.”
Democracy, transparency, and accountability are being undermined by the increasing scope and size of government and unelected bureaucracies, filled with self-serving people, not “civil servants”. Bureaucrats ignore the decisions of elected representatives if it suits them, because they know there’s another election coming up when that representative will be voted out for unfulfilled campaign promises, by the bureaucrats who refused to fulfill them, but keep their taxpayer-funded, pension-collecting jobs with no consequence. With perhaps the exception of Switzerland, the balance of power does not lie where it should, in the decisions of citizens, but increasingly with politicians, politicos, bureaucrats — the elites.
This is the bureaucrats’ game. They behave as though they are untouchable, which breeds arrogance and stupidity among their ranks. They are unelected and know they have (often union) job security, while politicians and their politico staff cycle through every election cycle, if they even last that long. Bureaucrats know the public will blame the politicians for not getting things done, and because we continue to elect increasingly less competent politicians (with equally less competent politicos “strategizing” and advising them), we perpetuate this attitude among those who actually decide how our tax dollars are spent, and how many more of them they need to fund what are often pet projects. There are no consequences for these people, who get rich at our expense, off their exorbitant taxpayer-funded salaries, whining when they don’t get raises (completely ungrateful for their job security while the rest of the citizenry suffers in economic downturns), and contributing nothing of value because if they were our democracies wouldn’t be in the early stages of death. They are parasites. They need complicity of the masses to continue their authoritarian ways. Their goal, through never ending tax increases, carbon levies, and red tape, is to redirect the responsibility and blame by turning us against each other (the middle class versus the 1%) instead of solidifying against them and keeping us preoccupied with the daily stress and struggle of financial lack so they can continue along their merry way, unaccountable for their failures.
Entrenched elites believe they are entitled to carry on as they always have and dig their heels in deeper when met with resistance. Politicians, government officials, and bureaucrats are increasingly unrepresentative of and unresponsive to the grassroots of society. Corporations put profit ahead of what is right for a human life and what is right for our environment — people deserve to be compensated in a way that is commensurate for a healthy livelihood, not just the bare minimum of human rights or legislation. Our “justice” system increasingly allows defendants to play the system for their benefit, delaying or even preventing justice for those who deserve it. The mainstream news media and Hollywood have become special interest groups, knowing when you control information you can more easily, and increasingly, manipulate the masses.
We believe that most people in governance and leadership positions — the elites, the politicos, and the bureaucrats — are not interested in bettering life for us and have proven they are in fact incapable or unwilling to do so. How many elections have gone by where you either haven’t voted, or at least considered not voting, because you felt the result would make no difference, even if a new government were formed with a new political party? The game is set, you don’t like the rules, so you choose not to play. The problem is, the players are the last people you want in these powerful, influential positions. Former UK Member of Parliament Douglas Carswell aptly labeled these oligarchical elites as parasites.
Shine Out the Dark
Democracy is under threat, not because Millennials don’t value it, but because democratic institutions have lost credibility having been abused by the people who run them. Millennials believe government has the potential to create a lot of good and positive impact on society yet is failing to do so because of the people running the show. Neither do we necessarily think government has a lot, or should have a lot, of influence in society. We care deeply about freedom of choice, whether we choose to exercise those choices personally or not.
We cannot afford to lose our democratic rights and freedoms, yet we are: freedom of speech, freedom of thought and religion, freedom of assembly, freedom of the press, personal privacy, the right to justice and equality before the law. These rights and freedoms are meant to ensure equal opportunity, but they and the strength of our democracies are now threatened by significant, growing problems that, if not addressed, will destroy our free societies. Stating this is not an exaggeration; most of the world does not live the way we take for granted. Generations before us fought and died to establish, preserve, and protect our rights and freedoms, and if we don’t pay attention, Millennials will be forced to make the same sacrifices. Now there are students on campuses spitting on the memories and memorials of the youth from generations ago, projecting their present-day privileged values on another era. In the twentieth century, war defined the generations protecting our right to freedom. Think about Europe at the start of the Second World War — how many people thought their democratic rights were secure, only to wake up one morning and see military tanks rolling down their streets? The loss of our democratic rights does not happen immediately, it’s like a frog in a pot of water being heated, slowly boiling to death. Many dictators and tyrants have used democratic means to gain power to govern antidemocratically. We are now at the simmer point.
We have elected ideologues instead of leaders, chosen fundamentalist doctrine instead of pragmatism and respect, resulting in less choice and flexibility for in our everyday lives. The elites treat tax dollars with little, if any, regard for the people from whom that money came. They don’t care about the poor, the middle class, or the 1%, they care only for themselves and the system that enables them. They force us to become more dependent on the state, leaving us helpless and unable to determine the best course for our lives, and unable and unwilling to protest in response, which creates societies that are unstable and susceptible to polarized influence and action. Millennials in socialist and communist countries (economic systems that have repeatedly proven throughout history to be failures) are the least interested, broadly speaking, of contributing to the positive improvement of their societies, likely because they feel limited or unable to catalyze change within the intensely controlled government structure. Over governance has choked financial independence from our citizens and burdened the Millennial and future generations with enormous debt. This is unsustainable, individually and societally, and must change.
To begin with, we need nuance. The elites who drive the conversation rely on outdated political ideologies because they don’t have any new ideas to bring to the table, which is why our problems get compounded. These elites don’t have the interest or backbone to allow necessary evolutions to take place, and narrowly believe from a closed-minded perspective that they can control every outcome with more regulation and more money.
Existing political parties, partisan organizations, and messaging do not resonate with Millennials. Across the globe we are witnessing political and governmental disorder because the people no longer believe and trust what the elites are saying and doing. Politicians including Millennial Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, American President Donald Trump, and French President Emmanuel Macron are a few examples of the “independent candidate” response from citizens to the challenges our democratic, capitalist societies are facing. Millennials will increasingly be at the front of the evolution of representation and governance going forward and will use democratic means against political, economic, and societal elites to achieve actual democratic ends.