Let’s get this out of the way right now: I love millennials. The ones I know are green, “woke” as it were, and ambitious. When millennials are criticized for wanting a “safe” place for instance, my response is:
“Did they create the bubble they grew up in? Last time I checked, five year olds didn’t petition the superintendent for trophies for everyone and no behavior standards.”
“Their heads are stuck in their phones” you may add.
That may be a valid complaint, but I also know people of my generation that do that; that is not exclusive to millennials. Socrates famously said: “The children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise.” Disappointment in the younger generation, then, is as old as time. In reality, it’s a maturity issue. When interacting with a 25 year old, you may be disappointed by their less than perfect response. But think back! How would the 25 years old you would have responded?
However, did millennials grow up differently? Most certainly.
Turn on the TV, on any given day, and the talking heads will persuasively lead you to believe that this is the worst of times. Is it though? Aristotle once said: “At his best, man is the noblest of animals. Separated from law and justice, he is the worst.”
Let’s take a look at discarded practice of eugenics. Eugenics – from Greek eugenes ‘well-born’ from ‘good, well’ and genos, ‘race, stock, kin’ – is a set of beliefs and practices that aims at improving the genetic quality of human population. I have only recently fully comprehended the horror of this practice.
My mother dated a man named Martin, almost thirty years ago. Martin was a true conspiracy theorist, from milk being a “deadly poison” to his claim to my daughter that “Betty Crocker is trying to kill you.” But people are a product of their circumstances.
Martin was once married for many years. For all his faults, he was exceptionally loving and affectionate person. He desperately wanted children. After trying for years, his wife – at the time – and he went to the doctor. The doctor was mystified that Martin should see a fertility specialist. Who has a vasectomy and then wonders why he can’t get his wife pregnant. Wait… STOP! A Vasectomy?! “I never had a vasectomy” Martin said.
Martin would soon discover that he had been sterilized during a routine tonsillectomy, as a teenager. His father, in the spirit of improving the genetic quality of the human population, made the executive decision that Martin would never be able to pass his juvenile diabetes on one of his grandchildren. Something that has really changed since millennials were born, is that women are no longer blamed for genetic defects. When Anne Boleyn gave birth to not one but two babies – that were so badly deformed, they didn’t survive – the only “logical conclusion” that Henry VIII came to is that Anne was most certainly committing incest and sleeping with her brother. She was decapitated for it. Not only was their an ambition to improve the population, you had the horror of people believing you must have done something to bring on the wrath of God, if there was something genetically wrong, if there was a life-long disability…
I can almost picture Martin with his wife, Rosie, who I never did meet. All the periods that came on time… Martin kissing his wife on the forehead and saying: “Maybe next month, honey. Let’s keep trying.” Discussions around seeing the doctor; the excitement when the period is three days late; waiting with baited breath to see a plus sign on the pregnancy results; seeing blood in the toilet – disappointment returns; wrapping your brain around the horror that you will never be able to have children and that your father made that decision for you… If you were to get a tonsillectomy and come out intentionally sterilized, you may be so shell shocked that now milk is a deadly poison.
This is just one example that millennials don’t have to deal with. Slavery, human experimentation, coat hanger abortions, separate – but equal – genocide. These were once acceptable practices. But the struggle of law and justice is as old as time. These are issues that have come to light since millennials were born: global warming, mass shootings, ubiquitous technology and all of its perils and pitfalls, which are too numerous to attend to here. This is where I stop. Every other problem that I can think of is just a spin on an old problem. “Fake news” as it were, was called yellow journalism some 100 years ago. Drug addiction? That’s been a problem for more 200 years. Taft was the first President to address the country’s drug problem. Racism? Please!
As my generation did – and many generations before – there have been fights and court battles and protests to change barbaric and unethical behaviors, thoughts and practices. This will surely continue. Remember, when dealing with millennials, that Aristotle once said: “He, who is a good ruler, must first have been ruled.” But also realize they will be changing the landscape of America. They will be fighting mass shootings, global warming. I hope they bring about a more civil discourse. Much of this may not be accomplished and may fall on Generation Z, who is currently too young to effect change. Change is coming; you can’t stop it. And that’s a good thing!
Millennials: wake up and get your coffee! You have work to do!
I’m pushing 50 and I need a nap. Boomers are retiring. The Greatest Generation is old and feeble. I’m passing the torch to you!