At it’s heart, Star Wars is a film series about generations of the same family, and in The Force Awakens we get to see a unique dichotomy between the older heroes and the newest generation, but that dichotomy also exists in our own world. Every family has a Vader who complains about Kylo Ren’s long hair or his non-traditional lightsaber. Older generations have been complaining about younger ones since a long time ago on a Mediterranean island far far away when Xenophon and Plato first decried the “moral decay” of youth. So it’s not surprising that the Millennial Generation gets a lot of hate these days, especially on random articles posted by your aunt on Facebook. However, we here at The NYRD pride ourselves on being Millennials, and it strikes us that a lot of the criticism leveled at “these kids today,” is more unreliable than the hyperdrive on a certain Corellian light freighter.
The Boy has No Patience…
The exact years vary by source, but the Millennial Generation is often pinned as being born between 1980 and 2000. Children of the Baby Boomers we were raised in the shadow of Generation X. Millennials are often criticized as Impatient, Lazy, Entitled, Self-Obsessed, Scruffy-Looking Nerf Herders. Though we are going to disagree on most of those points -whose scruffy looking- we can also admit that there is at least some validity in these charges. After all, Kylo Ren is a caricature of certain Millennials, but -like the Ewoks- we are also a product of our environment, and our youth.
Time Magazine declared Millennials as the “Me Me Me Generation,” and they did so partially because a study by the National Institutes of Health found that “narcissistic personality disorder” was almost three times higher for people in their twenties than for people who are 65 or older. However, what that study failed to mention is that young people are always generally more narcissistic than older people. That is the personality trait you expect in a twenty-year old, and one that fades as we get older. A paper at NIH.gov found that there was actually “no increase in narcissism in college students over the last few decades,” because Anakin and Luke were just as annoying as Kylo Ren when they were young too. Basically, all college students are “entitled little Siths,” and Baby Boomers were the first “Me Generation.”
It may surprise you, however, to find that in 2011 75% of Millennials donated to charity, 71% actively raised money for a charity, and 57% volunteered their time to a cause or organization, and that is more than any other generation of people did that year. More to the point, this not an anomaly. Millennials actively tend to engage with causes and organizations to try and improve the world, but not in the same ways previous generations did. Political activism on college campuses is down, compared to the Hippies of the 60’s and 70’s, -but then again so is cocaine and LSD- but the American Congress and political system are also seen as broken and corrupt by almost every American, not just Millennials. So, our generation tends to engage world problems more through NGO’s and non-profits rather than through the Democratic or Republican parties. Half of all Millennials are not registered with any major political party, but were integral in the election of President Obama. This newest voting generation is engaged, just in differently. Millennials, as whole, tend to have a more of a global view on things. The Internet has connected the world in previously unthought-of ways, and as s result we tend to trust it more than TV -for better or worse. You see, a lot of the negative press that Millennials receive comes about because we do things that no longer fit traditional carbonite frozen molds.
401K, Why Aren’t You at Your Post?
For example, Stormtroopers originally started out as clones because when you’re looking for a faceless obedient workforce you can’t do much better. Millennials have proven more and more that they are not clones in some grand Galactic Empire, but that does not mean we are lacy. In fact, worker productivity has increased by 37.6% since 1995, even as wages have remained stagnant and unemployment has fluctuated between 5% and 8% over the past decade. Nearly 80% of college students work part-time while attending school, a figure that has steadily risen over the past 25 years, thanks in no small part to absurd tuition costs and a more competitive job market. The charge of “laziness” may come because Millennials have proven to be much different workers than the past generations. We have less desire to dress in suits, and less loyalty to our places of employment. We don’t do well on a time clock, preferring a more fluid job-life balance. We are often the first out the door at quitting time, but we are no less productive, especially if we’re passionate about what we’re doing. The Greatest Generation worked long hours for the good of the company, and Baby Boomers worked long hours to make the overtime money. Millennials, on the other hand, don’t want to work the long hours, just enough to keep us going. Our place of employment and our job title are not indicators of our identities.
Millennials are the most individualistic generation, but individualism has been on the rise in America since the late 1800’s. The steady move from blue collar to white collar jobs in the US is at least partially responsible. Baby Boomers were raised with the idea of the “American Dream,” the idea that everyone who worked hard enough could earn all the money they could ever want, and that idea influence their lives. Then America started moving away from a production-based economy. Factories and other jobs were shipped overseas, and the number of college graduates rose. Millennials watched in droves as their parents lost jobs with companies they had worked at for decades, -all with nothing but a pat on the shoulder- and suddenly career loyalty or working your life away for forty years no longer seemed to make sense. Companies, especially corporations, proved they had little loyalty to their employees, and that was a lesson Millennials took to heart. Now with a vast workforce of millions of college educated people, companies have become even less interested in employee retention and more concerned with their bottom line. It should be no surprise that the newest working generation is less concerned about finding a career, and more concerned about living our lives. We now expect to change jobs dozens of times and even change career fields once or twice. Workers are faceless clones in an ever growing army that are both expendable and replaceable. There is no fulfillment of identity or purpose in that kind of environment, especially considering more and more Millennials do not even see money as a motivating factor, but that is not the only institution we are changing.
Han and Leia got married at some point between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. A lot of people claim that Millennials do not have the patience or commitment for marriage, but that’s not exactly correct. Yes, traditional marriage has begun to break down for the Millennial Generation, not because of dedication. Only 26% of Millennials have currently tied the knot, which is minuscule compared with the fact that 48% of Baby Boomers were married when they were our age. Yet, it also worth noting that divorce rates are now the lowest in the United States since the 1980’s. This is partially due to the low marriage rate, but also because the new median marriage age is 27 for women and 29 for men. Many Millennials are getting married older or not at all, because we tend to hold the union as less sacred.
Many people in our generation grew up as a product of divorce, two parents who rushed into marriage in their early 20’s only to discover they actually hated one another, often with one or possibly two kids caught in between. We’re not saying Kylo Ren fell to the Darkside because Leia and Han split up, but he is more likely to spend time finding himself as a person -or as a dark Jedi- before running off to marry his high school sweetheart. The Greatest Generation got married after the war, committing fully till “death do us part,” even if they hated one another. Baby Boomers followed their example, but as their marriage progressed and life goals changed things fell apart. Getting married after high school or college is too young. Boomers watched their parents have long lasting relationships and believed it was what they had to do, but 50% of the time it didn’t work. Generation Xers and Millennials then grew up knowing first hand the process and pain of divorce and loveless marriages. We are getting married later or not at all partially because of what we witnessed as children.
When Almost 900 Years You Be…
Kylo Ren fell to the Darkside, and Millennials aren’t perfect, because of course we aren’t. We might be the generation to solve climate change or put a man on Mars, but we are also the generation that invented the selfie, perfected cyber bullying, and created the Kardashian -a creature that takes more than a thousand years to digest your soul. Accusations of being “entitled” are exaggerated but not completely untrue, but every generation has had their mistakes. We do not want to make this article an attack on anyone, but it is worth noting that no one is perfect.
After all, Baby Boomers spent their youth rebelling against Vietnam but grew up to wage war in Iraq and Afghanistan. They preached about loving the Earth and your brother, but contributed significantly to rising CO2 levels and and rising racial tensions. Baby Boomers are the richest generation, and yet have created economic policies and college debt that has ensured that Millennials will be the first generation not to do financially better than their parents in over a century. Also, Donald Trump… We point out these out not to be mean or spiteful, but just to make a point. We all have flaws, but we are also all products of our time. Our generation is the most educated generation and the most skilled. We are also the most tolerant and racially diverse, with 15% of all Millennial marriages being interracial, more than any other generation. We are also the generation that is often closest with our parents, seeing them as friends rather than rivals, because there is no war, Generational War or Star War.
Even the idea of “generations” is as much a fantasy as Lucas’ opus. There are over 80 million “Millennials” now in America, -more than even Baby Boomers- mostly thanks to immigration and a changing population. However, those numbers aren’t exact, because generational lines are blurry and ill-defined. Baby Boomers are actually the only discernible population trend thanks to the “busyness” of their parents after the war. The rest of us are just left to be defined by vague ideas and changes in technology and culture, but isn’t that kind of the point we are making? Millennials are only different because we were born in different times. We have better access to technology, education, healthcare, and all sorts of privileges that past generations never had.
Millennials are smart, caring, and incredibly. We might harness technology that can save this world, and it is because of the older generation. It is their gift to us. Our problems and concerns will always seem weird and trivial when viewed by people who had to worry about The Great Depression or nuclear war with Russia, but don’t we want the world to be better for our kids. When we say things like, “Back in my day we had to walk ten miles in the snow…” aren’t we really just saying, “I’m sure glad someone invented the car for you.” So, parents, go give your Millennial a hug, just make sure he’s not holding a lightsaber while standing on a catwalk over a deep abyss.