Saturday, April 28, 2018

Millennials: The Road to the Future...Past?

Everyone should by now know that I love statistics. For me, statistics are like opening a present. You never know what "goodies" await inside! There is simply so much information embedded in those numbers if you just know where to look. I also have a strong interest in future trends' in predicting which way some policy action or social trend will take us. One of my particular interest has been tracking the social and political inclinations of Millennials (those born between 1982 and 2004). The reason is that Millennials are the largest voting bloc in America, and their actions will dictate the course of American domestic and foreign policy will into four or five decades just like my generation (the Babyboomers) has done since the 1960's.

One of the key areas of interest is how Millennials relate to politics in general. We've all seen how some Millennials reject free speech or freedom of expression, especially if it's different from what they've been conditioned to believe, thanks to academic indoctrination and social media "echo chambers". We've all seen them go on violent protests when they don't get their way, or shout people down and/or boycott and try to bully anyone who is speaking on a topic they disagree with. We've also seen them "demand" special areas to "decompress" or have a good cry in.

There are also those who demand that everyone else comply with their actions or beliefs, such as no "cultural appropriation" of some hair or clothing style (or even listing to certain music). We've heard stories about them insisting on using non-gender specific pronouns or on there being numerous sexual genders to select from, including no gender at all! The list seems just to go on and on. What has emerged, however, is an overall consensus that Millennials are spoiled, lazy, shallow, self-centered, and completely lacking in any actual social skills.

While all of this may or may not be true, the fact is that they are now at the age when they are going to be taking increasing control of our society (and as our parent's generation once said of us, "God help us"), which brings me to the crux of this article--where are they taking us? One trend that I've always noticed is that each generation seems to look back to the generation of its grandparents. My generation, for instance, looked back to the era of the Roaring Twenties. It was very independent, fun loving, carefree, and distrustful of a government trying to tell everyone how to live. It was booze, sex, and all that jazz! That generation was a reflection of the "Gay 90's"---1890's that is---and so forth.

The Millennials are a reflection of my generation, their grandparents, with their freeform lifestyle, belief in the youth and having all the answers, arrogance toward, well, practically everyone. There is also a very strong distrust (even disdain) for government and even society itself; more so than even my generation. Millennials have, for example, largely rejected the antiquated choices of Democrat or Republican. Nowadays, Millennials are mostly Independents. In fact, Independents are the largest voting bloc in the US, while Democrats and Republicans fight over a shrinking portion of the pie. Millennials are also more issue oriented; coming together to work on ad hoc projects and then going their own way once the project has reached an end.

One interesting trend which I've noticed is the preference for "socialism" among Millennials. Now, I'm not taking about the old Fabian Society version of socialism. This is more the democratic socialism of Northern Europe, which has been pretty successful until recently and the arrival of "migrants" who lack the same values and traditions of their host countries, not to mention work skills. This trend was first noted about a decade or so ago. I expected it to eventually fade as Millennials graduated from the naivety of high school and the idealism of college and edged into the workforce, but it hasn't. It's actually become ever more prevalent.

One study, conducted by YouGov and a Washington DC based advocacy group, Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, found that one in two Millennials said they would prefer living in a socialist (democratic) or communist country than in a capitalist one. In what was once a plurality of support for capitalism among Millennials, has changed. This particular poll indicated that 45% preferred a non-capitalist county, with 7% actually preferring a communist country (another 7% said they'd like to live in a fascist society). However, a scary aside to this poll is that the majority of Millennials were unable to accurately define communism!

When asked about free speech, a majority---71%--- agreed that free speech should be protected. However, 48% thought that free speech should be limited or curtailed on social media. Meanwhile, 45% thought that free speech should be restricted on college campuses in order to avoid "offending" someone. Sorry, but I thought on the purposes of college was to foster critical thinking skill and conduct a full examination of life in which free, open, and honest dialogue was essential. Even at the height of the anti-war movement and mass campus protests, never was freedom of speech or expression by any side restricted. In fact, one of the key facets of the protest movement was to open up dialogue on the campus between the students and administration (as an aside, liberal college professors outnumber conservative ones by a ratio of 33 to 1; the opposite of what it was in the early 1960's).

In another poll, from April of 2018, the number of Millennials who favor socialism (democratic) is 44%. Now, this is slightly down from a previous poll from 2015 in which 53% had a "favorable opinion" socialism, the number is still high and not dropping off as much as it should have. The first presidential election in which Millennials took part was the election of Barack Obama, who received a huge amount of support, although that number significantly dropped off for his reelection (then again, they had little in the way to choose from--- John McCain or Mitt Romney).

It seems the Millennials were deeply disappointed in Obama's performance as President. However, they were increasingly turned off by Hillary Clinton and her campaign. 75% of Millennials supported the self-avowed (democratic) socialist, Bernie Sanders. When Sanders lost in what turned out to be a rigged primary, there were few who switched their allegiance over to Hillary's camp, even knowing that there was a realistic prospect of Donald Trump being elected (talk about being caught between the devil in a pants suit and the nave with the bad comb over).

Many Millennials still remain loyal to Sanders today; the main disappointment in that he didn't try to run as Independent (there were already two third party candidates on the ballot, Jill Stein of the Green Party and Libertarian Party candidate, Gary Johnson, which insured that the protest votes were watered down). I suspect it's not just for his political stance as much as being seen to be outside the corporate duopoly, which was the same thing which I suspect got Trump elected. Still, Millennials don't seem to grasp what communism meant to those who lived through it. For the majority, it meant cramped rundown apartments (often sharing with another family), universal medical care with second or even third world conditions and long waiting lines (months or years for some procedures), having money but not having anything to buy; empty shelves in the grocery stores and when there was something available, poor choices, poor quality, and small quantities. Power failures were commonplace as was the availability of clean reliable water.

Schools were typically excellent in terms of instruction, but the availability of technology to augment it was all but non-existent. The infrastructure was in decay, making some roads and bridges dangerous to use. Even the availability of automobiles was restricted to government officials or those who knew whose palms to grease. It wasn't a pleasant life. How many times did you ever hear of people trying escape into China or behind the Iron Curtain? I don't know of any. Of course, Communism and Democratic Socialism aren't the same, even though people often mistakenly use the terms interchangeably, even in political polls and surveys.

Democratic Socialism embraces capitalism, albeit while restricting or capping it. It was quite successful in Northern Europe, principally among the Scandinavian countries for decades. Some point out that the taxes were extremely high, which there were. However, everyone benefited from the high taxes in the form of universal healthcare, subsidized housing and groceries, modernized infrastructure (including roads and bridges), beautiful parks, shorter work weeks, mandatory vacations (and availability of state owned cottages on beach or lake fronts or in the mountains, etc) and an emphasis on being environment friendly. There's free education through high school, which was outstanding and typically ranked in the top ten globally, and depending on where you live, free or subsidized college. There was a strong pro-worker environment with excellent benefits, and so on. By the way, they are consistently ranked among the happiest and healthiest countries in the world.

What made it so successful was that the population was largely homogenous. Everyone shared a common work ethic and social values were very similar. Everyone worked to benefit everyone else because that, in turn, would benefit them. The system began running into trouble several decades ago, which has accelerated in recent years due to the uncontrolled influx of "migrants" from Africa and the Middle East who don't share the same traditions or values, nor do they have a similar worldview when it comes to gender roles, religion, or even work ethics. As a result, many chose not to work and draw on the system for everything. This has resulted in those who do work having to pick up the slack. The result is a strain on the system to the breaking point. In order to compensation, the quantity and quality of the benefits the system offered have declined.

So, where does that leave us? First off, we have a large voting bloc which has a poor understanding of a political and economic system in which they claim to want. They have shown a unwillingness to accept the opinions of those they disagree with, as well as a willingness to sacrifice basic rights guaranteed in the Constitution; a "throwing the baby out with the bathwater" approach. Their approach to serious problems seems naive or simplistic, which reflects their understanding of issues and a lack of serious critical thinking skills (not to mention people skills). Their education too has been very limited; one sided if you will. Some go as far as to call it "indoctrination", and it isn't far from it. They lean toward appeasement in order to try and make everyone happy; at least those who they seen as leaning Left or "oppressed" that is.

On the plus side, they understand the political and economic system in this country is broken beyond all hope of "reform". They understand better than most that the America the Founding Fathers envisioned is gone. America is now an Oligarchy with a growing police state. Politics are rigged between two corporate owned parties, while the corporate owned and controlled media attempts to manufacture, manipulate, and spin public opinion. It decides what is and isn't news, how it's presented, and what questions we will ask and what opinions we will form.

Millennials have shown to be smart enough to walk away from the artificial Republican-Democrat divide for the most part, even though they philosophically lean Left (a significant number, however, also lean libertarian which has yet to be explored). Many have called for term limits, an end to gerrymandering, an end to "Citizens United" and unlimited corporate financing of political campaigns, and ending barriers to keep out or handicapped Independents and third parties; all good things I should add.

However, it's their naivety which perhaps threatens this nation the most. The Babyboomers were never a single large monolithic groups. In fact, it was divided into two distinct cohorts. The first, born between 1945 and 1955) was the more famous Beatniks, hippies, and Yippies. They were much more independent, free spirited and social cause oriented, However, the second, born between 1956 and 1964, turned out to be much more conservative, pragmatic, and a strong distrust of government. Thus far the Millennials haven't shown that level of distinction yet, but there's still hope.

Millennials think socialism would create a great safe space, study finds

Poll: Nearly Half of Millennials Prefer Socialism To Capitalism

How Millennial Socialists Endanger America

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