I used to be full of passionate, self-righteous outrage about the boundless socio-political injustice in the world. I was wrapped up in existential angst about reconciling hope and justice in an indifferent universe, a world where the evil usually prosper and the good too-often suffer… then I got a life. Y’know, it’s hard to be too wrapped up in the “abstract” when the “particular” says the rent is due. Like other twentysomethings who decide to grow up, I discovered a lot of the things I was up-in-arms about as a freewheelin’ youth were inconsequential in the face of the grim realities of adult life.
My parents working long hours at difficult jobs, the terse tedium of local civic affairs, embracing ancient traditions of faith as well as timeless ethics of moral behavior… as a young man I found these quaint cultural relics to be outmoded and anachronistic. I was all for the brotherhood of man, at least until I started having daughters of my own. It’s all well and good to have hope and ideals, but they should be anchored with a healthy does of skeptical pragmatism.
I think about this anytime there’s a new poll of report about that broad demographic swath of 13- to 29-year-olds called “Millenials” everyone from sociologists to ministers are wringing their hands about. To give you the CliffsNotes version on just about every study out there: this current generation of young people is uniformly jaded about politics, religion, and societal norms. Shocking!
Even if we accept the idea that an entire generation shares a collective aspiration and worldview (spoiler alert: they don’t!), the views of Millennials, a group that includes every person born between the years 1981-2000, isn’t new or particularly scary. Times change. Every generation has a new set of problems. Human nature is unmoved.
Now, I don’t mean to sound like the graying, grumpy, pushing-40 cynic that I am, but I don’t give a bucket of warm spit for the collective opinions of 13- to 29-year-olds. As far as I’m concerned, most of these Millenials need to pull up their pants, get a job, and stay off my lawn. No doubt to a wet-behind-the-ears Millenial the whole world looks like a bra-strap just waiting to be snapped, but until you’ve bought in and brought something to the table (other than a wealth of untested opinions), you’re better off asking more questions rather than offering answers.
Millennials, like young people through the ages, are more apt to believe in quixotic solutions for society’s troubles. In other words, more of them are liberal.
But when asked specifically about the state’s role in society, white Millennials favor a smaller government that provides fewer services over a bigger government that provides more services. Non-white Millennials, by a wider margin, prefer bigger government that provides more services. This mirrors the split we see in all other generations.
This generation of young people also consider themselves political independents. That’s a growing trend in every generational subdivision. Nevertheless, I’m sure once this fresh generation is tasked with cleaning up the colossal government-generated fiascoes I and my Generation X cronies left them, many will undergo a serious change of heart. Political affiliation isn’t static, after all, and neither is the world that informs an individual’s views.
Same goes for other things like civic involvement and church attendance. Once you own some property, or try to run a business, or begin to raise children, the more you’re keen to participate in these institutions. Or, at least, you should be.
I’m not a betting man but I’d wager this current crop of young whippersnappers — once they start getting careers, spouses, mortgages, and offspring — will fall in line just as their forebears did.
They’ll still complain about those who came before — the natural birthright of every American — and cast a suspicious eye on the next crop of young folks rising up to take their place.