This idea runs parallel, in some ways, to the assessments of Twenge and Sasse and other conservative commentators. But Harris’s conclusions are precisely the opposite of theirs: instead of accommodating the situation even further, he argues, kids should revolt. “Either we continue the trends we’ve been given and enact the bad future, or we refuse it and cut the knot of trend lines that defines our collectivity. We become fascists or revolutionaries, one or the other.”
George Packer made the point in The Great Unwinding that OWS failed because it had no cohesive goal. It had no solid demand. It was a bunch of angry people getting together to register protest and expecting that something good would happen.
In the 2016 Presidential primaries, Bernie Sanders won more young votes than Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump combined.
Don't ask me why, but the class that came directly after mine were a bunch of pussies. When the administration tried to force our class to carry ID cards we flung them into the ceiling. When they tried to make us make up eight bomb scares by forcing us to stay late on Tuesdays we walked out. When they cut our time between classes by a minute we all showed up a minute late. When they tried to fire an English teacher we walked eight miles across a gas-pipe bridge with razor wire on it to protest at the admin building. But as soon as we graduated they closed the campus, gave everyone ID cards and made 'em all stay late if they had so much as a snow day.
Both classes were squarely Generation X so take it as a metaphor, not an example. One cohort would not accept any bullshit. The other rolled over in the face of any provocation. Hey, let's get back to the article:
“You suck, you still get a trophy” is how Twenge puts it, describing contemporary K through five as an endless awards ceremony. Harris, on the other hand, regards elementary school as a capitalist boot camp, in which children perform unpaid labor, learn the importance of year-over-year growth through standardized testing, and get accustomed to constant, quantified, increasingly efficient work.
So. We've got a cohort that was constantly rewarded even when it wasn't earned. They were trained to respond to accolades rather than tangible rewards. They grew up in a universe that was centered on them. Now they're poor, reviled and systematically denied the success that wasn't just promised, it was an assumed part of the environment.
When you're used to living one way, you'll assume things will return to normal. You won't accept that things are permanently worse until long past the point of reason. In the meantime, depression, anxiety, a sense of failure and a sense of betrayal will permeate. And if everyone you've ever known your own age is going through the same thing it's hard to smell the rat. When society tells you it's normal for Kim Kardashian to be rich and famous while you go into debt driving for Uber, you really gotta sack up to tell society to fuck off.
Once you've told it to fuck off, though, it's really hard to welcome it back.
The image of millennials has darkened since Strauss and Howe walked the beat: in their 2000 book, “Millennials Rising,” they claimed that the members of this surging generation were uniquely earnest, industrious, and positive. But the decline in that reputation is hardly surprising. Since the nineteen-sixties, most generational analysis has revolved around the groundbreaking idea that young people are selfish.
Let's put this in context: In the '60s, the "selfish youth" were the 'boomers. They've never ceased being selfish in the eyes of those who study them. In the '70s, the "selfish youth" were either 'boomers or barely teenagers. In the '80s the "selfish youth" were Gen X, who were busily being hated by the 'boomers because they didn't do all the shit the 'boomers wanted 'em to. In the '90s it was suddenly about Jerry Yang and shit and how suddenly these "selfish youth" were internet fucking millionnaires while the 'boomers got their 401(k) eaten by the dotcom bust. In the '00s it was about the 'boomers' kids and the fact that they didn't want to leave college and now it's about the 'boomers' kids and the fact that they aren't buying all the shit in the 'boomers' portfolios.
So it was never about "selfish youth." It's been about the fuckin' 'boomers the entire time.
And once the Millennials figure out not to get mad, get even, it's gonna be all about the 'boomers.