At the end of 2016 the world looks like an absolute mess, thank the stars the Millennials are here to fix it.
Hundreds of thinkpieces have been written on the indolence and selfishness of Millennials as a part of a longstanding tradition of the criticising “the young people” and more than enough work has been done to show the nonsense of the claims these pieces make, especially by showing that they are a part of a longstanding tradition of complaining about “the young people.”
I think the one aspect of these complaints worth examining though is the feeling of an impending sense of doom. Though this can simply be explained in part by viewing the past through nostalgia coloured glasses, there is no doubt that the young are increasingly experiencing this sense of dread as well. The world is a lot bleaker than the one we grew up in and as adults it seems like we face apocalypse from every corner, maybe because we do.
Strauss-Howe generational theory posits that American civilisation specifically or Western Civilisation overall moves in cycles like waves upon a beach. Civilisation reaches a cultural high where all strive towards common goals and unity, experiences and awakening where individuals desire freedom from the bonds of civic unity, goes through an unravelling as the threads that hold society together start to come apart, and then falls into a crisis wherein the situation becomes so dire that eventually people must stand and fight together, save the day, and build a new and better tomorrow, which starts the cycle again with a new civilisational high. Each of these is roughly matched with a generation who grows up in one period and, influenced by it, matures in the next, eventually retiring into the third. These generation archetypes are the Artists who mature in a cultural high, the Prophets who are adults during the awakening, the Nomads whose time is the unravelling, and the Hero generation who must do the hard work during a crisis.
This pattern or cycle takes just over the length of an average human lifespan so that the lessons of one stage in the cycle pass from living memory as that stage re-approaches.
According to Strauss & Howe, we exited the Unravelling stage of postmodernism and the Culture Wars around 2004/2005 which means the last ten years have been the building blocks of a crisis. The last Hero generation who had to deal with a Crisis were the G.I. Generation whose challenge was the Second World War.
With the the wars of the United States in the Middle East, the Great Recession and now the rise and election of a bigoted racist demagogue it’s pretty easy to see why the Millennial Generation is classed by the Strauss-Howe theory as the next Hero Generation. We are going to need to be.
Millennials have been criticised as lazy and obsessed with social media and frivolous novelty. What I think that actually means is that we are a generation who has grown up learning to use technology to amplify their hard work, connect with one another, and exercise radical inventiveness and ingenuity, which is exactly how we will fight the oncoming battles and rise to a new and better tomorrow.
Apologies to Strauss & Howe for butchering your carefully crafted work to try and provide a small amount of hope in a slightly dire time.