Mil­len­ni­als are not so spe­cial

The Denver Post - - OP-ED -

’ve never been one to buy into the overly broad gen­er­al­iza­tions about the col­lec­tive per­son­al­ity of a gen­er­a­tion. Per­haps Tom Brokaw came clos­est to scor­ing a bulls­eye when he coined the term “Great­est Gen­er­a­tion,” de­scrib­ing those who weath­ered the Great De­pres­sion and then went on to winWorldWar II.

On the other hand, post-WorldWar II baby boomers didn’t fit as eas­ily into a uni­form mold. They­were split over the Viet­namWar. Somewere Democrats; somewere Repub­li­cans. Some hated Ron­ald Rea­gan; some loved him. Beat­niks, hip­pies and flower chil­dren got a lot of me­dia at­ten­tion butwere out­liers, not typ­i­cal. (Do­bie Gil­lis and May­nard G. Kreb­swere friends but not a lot alike.)

The gen­er­a­tion-nam­ing in­dus­try fell on hard times be­tween 1965 and 1980 and couldn’t even come up a catchy term for what they dubbed as Gen­er­a­tion X, a gen­er­a­tion that lacked a vivid dis­tinc­tion. When time ran out for that one, Gen­er­a­tion Y fol­lowed. That group has now been re­named the Mil­len­nial Gen­er­a­tion, cov­er­ing those born roughly be­tween 1981 and 1995.

Th­ese were the school kids, now in early adult­hood, who were cod­dled and reared on self-es­teem, even when un­de­served. They were herded into soc­cer-play­ing hives (be­cause it’s safer than foot­ball). Their nan­ny­ists dis­cour­aged them from keep­ing score in sport­ing events where there would be no win­ners or losers, with ev­ery­one get­ting a “par­tic­i­pa­tion tro­phy.” Through­out their K-12 school­ing and col­lege education, they were in­doc­tri­nated by lib­eral teach­ers and pro­fes­sors.

This was re­in­forced by the lib­eral cul­ture of Hol­ly­wood, TV and so­cial me­dia. So they’ve been bred with a sense of en­ti­tle­ment. They’re self-ab­sorbed and nar­cis­sis­tic. They want their col­lege loans to be for­given be­cause re­pay­ing them would be a hard­ship. Mil­len­ni­als are the Peter Pan gen­er­a­tion that won’t grow up. But they haven’t flown away to Never Never Land; many are still liv­ing in their par­ents’ base­ments.

Mil­len­ni­als are early adopters of tech­no­log­i­cal break­throughs. That’s a virtue in this elec­tronic age, al­though most of that en­ergy is chan­neled in friv­o­lous so­cial com­mu­ni­ca­tions, idle chat­ter and en­ter­tain­ment. It’s un­der­stand­able that mar­keters of goods and ser­vices would be sen­si­tive to the pref­er­ences of mil­len­ni­als. This is an emerg­ing, siz­able con­sumer group. But in or­der to con­sume in vol­ume, they’ll have to have a job that pro­vides them with pur­chas­ing power.

So here’s the rub. Mil­len­ni­als, we’re told, are picky about work­ing con­di­tions, in­sist­ing that em­ploy­ers ac­com­mo­date their de­mands, in­clud­ing: ten­der lov­ing care, in­de­pen­dence, fre­quent pos­i­tive feed­back, flex­i­ble hours and so on.

It seems to me they’re ex­ag­ger­at­ing their bar­gain­ing power. I imag­ine an ex­traordi- nary, in­di­vid­ual mil­len­nial might be such a val­ued prize as tomerit such treat­ment, like aHeis­man Tro­phy­win­ner, for ex­am­ple. But in this lag­ging econ­omy, beg­gars can’t be choosers. As in­di­vid­ual job ap­pli­cants, the masses of or­di­nary mil­len­ni­als will be com­pet­ing with oth­ers of their ilk­who’d be happy, or even des­per­ate, to take a job on an em­ployer’s terms. Which leaves those picky mil­len­ni­al­swho don’twant towork on some­one else’s terms the op­tion of rais­ing cap­i­tal and start­ing busi­nesses of their own towork their­way out their par­ents’ base­ments.

In the 1950s and ’60s, it was fash­ion­able to dis­par­age the “rat race,” de­scribed as the com­mon af­flic­tion of toil­ing away at an un­ful­fill­ing job to sup­port fam­ily and all the fi­nan­cial obli­ga­tions as­so­ci­ated with a con­sumerist life­style. Well, the rats ap­par­ently won. It’s still with us and al­ways will be. It’s called life, and it’s not so bad. Pover­tys­tricken bil­lions in ThirdWorld coun­tries should be so lucky.

Cer­tainly, not all mil­len­ni­als fit the fore­go­ing de­scrip­tion. I’ve known some born in this time frame who are unas­sum­ing, sel­f­re­liant, hard-work­ing, suc­cess­ful con­ser­va­tives. The more deroga­tory pic­ture I painted of mil­len­ni­als is, of course, a gen­er­al­iza­tion. But isn’t that what gen­er­a­tional stereo­typ­ing is all about? Mike Rosen is a KOA News Ra­dio per­son­al­ity.

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