Has ‘millennials’ become a social stigma? The general consensus of Generation-Y is often associated with narcissism and entitlement, that we are the lazy-bunch, the ‘moved-back-in-with-my-parents’ crowd, the ‘blog-comment-selfie’ culture, the technology-dependent lifestyle, the ones who are easily bored and easily distracted. Needless to say that most of these perspectives and opinions came from nowhere other than our predecessors, Generation-X and the so-called ‘Greatest Generation’ (and they call us narcissist?).
Their best possible aspect of our generation is none other than how they define success which is absolutely different from how we define it. Now, on one hand, this could just be a difference of opinion, on the other hand, this stigma could stick with us for a long time to come. The old definition of success is as generic as it gets, everything from having settled down with a family in a suburban housing with a garage with a Mercedes-Benz that shines on the highway as you drive to a college-educated desk job, slowly but surely climbing the cooperate ladder onto the pages of Forbes. The wife doesn’t have to work (because he earns enough, should he not?) until she has to stay home and raise the kids so that your savings could send them to an Ivy League or Oxbridge where they study business and law so that one day they will become the ‘leaders of the free world’. The kids attend private school where they get scholarships and play baseball or soccer on weekends when the family gets to ‘participate’. The father does not bring his work home and the mother does not nag about why he’s late and the kids do all their homework and gets straight-A’s. Needless to say the purpose of such capitalistic aspect of success is none other than to make the ‘commies’ look bad… and it worked! Unfortunately for the Baby-Boomers, though, communism is not only dead but socialism is on the rise, (for those of you who can’t tell, there is a huge difference between the two).
So, how does our generation define success? We certainly cannot use the old one, they have been rendered ‘cliché’ and, frankly, boring. For one, their ‘aspect of success’ is far-off from their actual success; their ‘college-educated desk job’ is nothing more than a a fancy manegerial accountant, their Mercedes is actually on lease to impress friends and colleagues, the house in the suburb is on mortgage, the wife nags about why the husband is late, the husband bring his work home to ignore his nagging wife, the kids don’t all get straight-A’s because literature and calculus is not for everyone, they don’t end up in high-so universities because they might prefer science or art and not all of them become presidents and CEOs. To put this into economical perspective is equivalent to the ‘trickle-down effect,’ i.e. we are getting pissed on!
The simple fact is our generations have no generic aspect of success, at least not yet and why should we want one? The old axiom of the business-minded is that everyone ‘lives’ by selling something and that’s not entirely false – heck, by that standards we’re all prostitutes so why bother with education, right? Given that we are the most educated generation and we have to grovel for acceptance from the previous generation, it is safe to say that we may be the most under-handed and undermined generation to ever walk this earth, which says more about gen-x than us and, truth be told, we are not impressed with our predecessors. To add insult to injury, there are gen-y who, not only agrees with the old axiom of business and success, but insist upon thriving in such a world which is a real problem, but not to us, mind, to generation-z.
Now, to those gen-y who has the mentality of gen-x – fine, live and let live! But the ones who refuse to conform to this old mentality are the ones who struggles the most with their daily lives. For one, they value their education above all things and they know that kissing-ass goes against everything they have ever learned. As a result, gen-y has turned out more entrepreneurs at a faster rate than the previous generations, that being self-employed allows them greater freedom towards their goal and this is nothing short of bad news for the corporate world. (And, for the record, corporations are not people.)
As mentioned, the definition of success has changed but has yet to change into something particular. To put into perspective, when the names Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg are spoken together, two words will come to mind – ‘computer and ‘money’. However, that is the old mentality, the new mentality sees more than just the cause and effect, (in this case; cause = computer and effect = money), we see both what came before and what comes after, inspiration and aspiration – what inspired these people to take certain risk, what their goals and visions were and why they did it (and it’s not just because they can). This would sound delusional, but the fact is that if their goal is to make money just for the sake of making money, needless to say they will never be enough money to be made and this is hard-wired into our generation. So, the next time a new face appears on Forbes, we won’t care what they did and how they did it as much as why they did it. To put it bluntly, where the prior generations’ goal was to make money, millennials’ goal would be to find fulfillment and meaning, if not make one, and the only factor that really counts is passion for what we do. No passion, no point.
Steve Jobs have said something like this, in fact anyone who has ever had great visions and passion have said something like this, because not only is this nothing new, this has become obvious to us – hard-wired. This may be the great divide between gen-x and gen-y – passion! Needless to say, the previous generation would say that ‘passion’ could be used as an excuse for slacking, ironically enough their ‘holiday’ or ‘a round of golf’ is their excuse for slacking and why would they say this? The answer is dead simple – no passion! The old Confucian quote, “Choose a job you love and you’ll never have to a work a day in your life,” rings true today more than ever before, and this guys lived over 2,500 years ago. We take this seriously and with this in mind, we are willing to risk doing what we love than settle for anything less and such passions often require our own vision and motivation, not cooperate policy and bonuses. The old generation would argue that frying fries at the local Mc is nothing short of an opportunity and that is true even to us, the difference being that if we risk our livelihood at this ‘opportunity,’ it really becomes a chore and wouldn’t that defeat the purpose? When that happens, we call it an experience and move on to something much more fulfilling, don’t we?
In terms of passion, what some gen-y would do is skip this experience altogether, the result of which is not always wise, considering the state of the economy or student loan debts. The word ‘passion’ is often followed by the words ‘delusional’ and ‘impractical,’ after all there is neither job security nor guarantee. Personally, that’s the beauty of it. The world strives on intelligence and reasoning and being practical with our lifestyle would definitely fall into the categories. The problem is that we humans are not robots therefore not everything we do in life is reasonable – heck, to chose a ‘practical’ husband/wife is akin to having an arranged marriage with a man/woman you have never met for the financial and cultural benefit and who wants that? The only real advantage is that, at least in most cultures, the divorce rates drops to zero and no foul play could ever be conceived. No, we do not want that, we insist on finding an impractical love based on attractions, insist on risking our emotions and getting our hearts broken. The same mantra of finding a partner for life should be exactly the same as finding a job for life, and just like dating, we would risk greatly to find the right one.
Needless to say, with so much passion at hand, we certainly overlook the need to be smart. Part of that reason has to do with considering how smart the previous generation tried to be and what they accomplished. No doubt, without the aid of our technology, the previous generation is definitely more hands-on and that is something we missed out on. In our lifetime, we went from a globalized economy to globalized social networking. With information at our fingertips, sheer ignorant becomes sinful. Suddenly, we’re always connected to the rest of the world and keeping up with current affairs is mandatory which is not as easy as it sounds. For one, there are countless sources feeding us information unfiltered, which makes selecting and changing them takes an immense amount of time and for another, most of these information are either useless and unreliable, which often leave us with more questions than answers. Having considered this, the gen-y association with technology is often called ‘tech-savvy,’ which ranges from the ability to use several handheld devices to complete devotion one’s time online, either stock options or earning point on World of Warcraft. This makes the interweb more than just a tool, it’s a whole other universe where our personality could alter depending on our interest (from current affairs to pornography) – almost a second-life. To say we that we have become too dependent on technology may be a stretch, perhaps a better aspect of it would be that we make these technology much more relevant than the previous generation. Truth be told, the only people who have known to misuse technology is none other than those in power, from the Manhattan Project to the NSA’s PRISM program. No one needs reminding of what the aspect of nuclear war did to half the 20th century and what the spying program is doing to our privacy (even as you read this) – ironically they were both invented for ‘the greater good’ – one to counter the commies and the other the terrorists.
In terms of living online, it doesn’t just imply the extent of social networking but how much of oneself is part of it. True, it would be difficult for a gen-y to live without a smart-phone or facebook, but on the other hand, consensus showed that gen-z are no longer wearing watches for the most obvious reason. Generations ago having a watch would imply punctuality and everything that made a individual civilized. Today such devices have been reduced to a mere fashion accessories and status of success. Just as one cannot imagine a gen-z without a smart phone, one cannot imagine a successful baby-boomer without a fancy watch and having a fancy watch is an exact allegory needed to justify a gen-y’s narcissism. Because we are constantly connected, the only way to stand out is to express oneself and that cannot be done without introspection. Introspection is just about the only real privilege of gen-y, thanks to social networks. Through introspection, suddenly, we are forced to “know thyself,” to know our interest and personality and, most importantly, our passion. Once we know who we are, we also know who we want to be, our aspiration and once we know that, we owe it to ourself to stand and fight for it. Needless to say such a personal stance is often considered as narcissism and entitlement; what it really is deep introspection and self-entitlement. At this point, the old concept of success is long forgotten, until our predecessors tell us to ‘get a job’ and ‘settle down’. Unfortunately for them, when it comes to our passion, we are the generation that will never settle for anything less because fulfilling one’s passion is akin to finding (or making) one’s purpose in life. Now anyone who has found success in life through the old prospects would read this and scoff at the idea of overlooking job-securities, and they’re not wrong. On the other hand, chances are such people are a ‘nobody’ and the world is teaming with those. To these people the risks that we take in nothing short of naiveté, that the smartest thing to do is exactly what they have done, which maybe why they insist on us getting a business degrees because how else can we have success? The simple fact is that, in our generation, when it comes to living a fulfilled life, we know we have to be smart, but in all honesty, we would rather be lucky, and we are willing to risk it. Such naive aspect of passion is equivalent to naive aspect of success for the previous generations.
Is it safe to say that these institutions of the previous generations no longer earn our trusts? When it comes to cynicism, one would see all kinds of red flag. So what is a cynic? The ancient Greeks had their own Cynic philosophers, Oscar Wilde has his definition, so does George Bernard Shaw and Mark Twain (even George Carlin has one), one more negative than the other. Perhaps the best aspect of cynicism is exactly what it negates, in this case, naivete. With our level of education often come the nasty habit of critical thinking which forces us to ask questions when we are told certain things on any subject. To really understand the contrast of cynicism and naiveté is incidentally very simple; if one is regarded as better than the other then that type of thinking is sheer naiveté, because they aren’t just black and white, are they? I.e. to be cynical about one thing is to be naive about another.
So what is generation-y most cynical about? To really know, we must ask another question; what are we naive about? The answer – passion, and that makes us cynical about almost anything else. There was a time certain socio-political ideas and beliefs are based on passion, but are they still? When we say ‘democracy’ or ‘freedom of speech,’ are we echoing words spoken long before or are we giving voice to our own generation? Shouldn’t we have passed this stage by now? It is not a coincident that gen-y are voting less and less – why? Is it because we are lazy and don’t care about politics? Or have we realized what politics really is and no turnout rate can change that? Every political party do their best to stand apart by doing exactly what other parties do, from media-control and propaganda to dirty-dealings and corruption, and thus themselves prove to us what politics really is – power, nothing more.
And politics doesn’t end in governance, almost the exact same can be said for family politics to religious politics and cooperate politics. A generation ago the aspect of working for multinational, multibillion dollar cooperation is nothing short of success, what with benefits and bonuses, what more could anyone with business or law degree want? Until ones takes a good look and see through the facade of these ‘successes’ and we know, hard-wired, that no company can get that rich, that successful, that globalized without a certain degree of dirty-dealings in their underbelly. Now anyone can argue that that is how business is run, but excuse us if we refuse to be a part of a corrupted system and you can call us naive for it.
At this point the baby-boomers would argue that they themselves overcame such adversity through the Civil Rights Movements and it worked (and we thank you for that). But what the boomers do not seem realize is that what was for them a ‘movement’ is now a ‘lifestyle’ for us and nothing allows us more civil rights than the social networks. In fact, before it became a movement, there were individuals who were already living this lifestyle almost a decade prior and that small population has their own nickname – the Beat generation, they were the first counterculture, the first cynics against the establishments, the first rebels who looked the facade of civilization and turned it into a caricature.
At the same time the Beats were making their mark on society in the United States, in post-war Europe (particularly France) a school of philosophy was about to become so fashionable that it would alter the role of man in his society – existentialism. Spearheaded by Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, this philosophy questioned every aspect of social conformity and the establishments, essentially turning the individual into a cynic-with-legs. It seemed almost coincidental that the Beat movement and the rebirth of existentialism should occur during the same time, the only real difference between them is that the Beats comprised of younger populace who expressed themselves through books, music and poetry, whereas the existentialists were, more or less, philosophical and were relatively middle-aged (at the time). Generation-y, more than fifty years later, is arguable a mixture of these two traits, compounded with a globalized social networking that made the establishments of the older generations all too transparent. When we switch on the TV and hear something on the news, we cannot help but question how legitimate it is, how selective they are and what aren’t they telling us. At the same time Twitter feeds tells us any number of things about the same event, one that we can chose for ourselves. To drive the point of home between the generations, it is worth noting that the most reliable news network went from Walter Cronkite (boomers and gen-x) to Jon Stewart (gen-y); what does it say about your generation when our generation’s most informed comes from none other than a satirical newsman? To say that the corporate-run news channel is preferred to amateur journalism is, you guessed it, naiveté, and it’s not like we don’t want one of them, we want them both (so we can decide for ourselves).
However, this is not to say that there isn’t some degenerates on our part. The idea that we are easily distracted implies that we are distracted from the important things, ironically they don’t say exactly what distracts us (god forbid). Any parents will tell you that ‘kids-these-days’ are most distracted by their mobile phones or the internet as if they themselves aren’t (the ones that don’t probably don’t know how to use them at all). The things that distract us, on the other hand, tend to vary down to the individual – some are distracted by the Kardashians or the latest viral video on YouTube, others are distracted by news on the Twitter feed. Another complain that comes up is that we tend to get easily bored and the only thing that excites us comprises of entertainment and anything counter-productive. Note that the key word here is ‘productive,’ whereas boredom shows the sheer lack of creativity, so the next time you us yawning, it’s not just because we are lazy. When speaking of being productive, all sorts of old-mentality of work comes to mind, somewhere along the line of ‘work hard, play hard,’ note here how ‘work’ and ‘play’ are two different things. As to that, the idea of having settled down with a family implies that one does not ‘bring your work home’ – ‘home’ and ‘work’ are two different things. When it comes to productivity in the work place, a ‘work-life balance’ is ideal, some would even say essential, even though it is arguably non-existent. Some devote their lives to their family and work comes second, some vice versa (so much for balance, right?)
But what about being creative? What rules or mantra or cliché applies here? You certainly cannot schedule creativity any more than forced yourself to be inspired. To most working-class business and family, the idea of being creative often resonated with exclusivity, that only the wealthy and privileged could afford it. Personally, nothing is further from the truth – in the history of humankind, the best artists, writers, painters, musicians, etc, never started out rich, and most don’t even end up rich, (Vincent van Gogh only sold one painting in his lifetime and Edgar Allan Poe only made $15 for his best work – The Tell-Tale Heart, both men died skint). Needless to say these aren’t the best example when it comes to defining success through creativity, but the point is that in the age of social networking, a bohemian lifestyle is certainly more appealing to the creative minds than a desk job. At this point, ‘work hard, play hard’ goes out the window because, to the creative mind, work is play and they will bring their work home because work is home. (Heck, if a guy working a desk job is given a week off without bonus, he might kill himself).
Perhaps the hardest thing to grasp about the passion for creativity is not only they are not guaranteed but they are also immeasurable and in this empirical world, where everything from school grades to stock options are calculated, one can’t help but notice that something is rather out of place – almost a misstep. On one hand, it is advisable to calculate the best stocks so that one can turn a profit, on the other hand, how does one measure intelligence? Grades? GPA? Remember what Einstein said about judging a fish on how it climbs a tree? That sums up the very problem in this empirical world – everything has to be measured and the standards are way too generic. The school grades have been used to indicate if a student is intelligent – i.e ‘how intelligent/creative are you’ where it should be asking ‘how are you intelligent/creative?’ Note the crucial difference between the two question; one implies a given standard and the other is exclusively diverse.
At this point, you could argue that this whole article is nothing more than an adolescence whining about the state of the world (ahem, ahem, naive) and you could move on with your life’s success. You could also argue that our view of the world is almost too ideal, that we are detached from reality – a realist, would not agree with a single word of this article and why would they? There are two kinds of realist (opportunist) in this world, one that succeeds and one that fails, the only real (empirical) difference between them is luck (and none of them would agree to this). Well, to sum up, we may be the generation that would rather be lucky than smart, we know that nothing drives our purpose like our passion and, since we have come so far with technology, we believe nothing is impossible and nothing is inaccessible, we know that, in the end, this is the only way to live. To you we may appear cynical and rightly so, but to us, dammit, we are a generation most passionate and we have so much more to lose.