The hippies of the sixties wanted love; the beatniks sought transcendence. Then came the punks, who were all about rage. The slackers and generation X stood for apathy and worry. And, now coming of age we have generation Y, also known as the “millennials”, whose birthdays fall roughly between 1982-2000.
A fascinating article by William Deresiewicz, excerpted below, posits the millennials as a “post-emotional” generation. Interestingly, while this generation seems to be fragmented, its members are much more focused on their own “brand identity” than previous generations.
[div class=attrib]From the New York Times:[end-div]
EVER since I moved three years ago to Portland, Ore., that hotbed of all things hipster, I’ve been trying to get a handle on today’s youth culture. The style is easy enough to describe — the skinny pants, the retro hats, the wall-to-wall tattoos. But style is superficial. The question is, what’s underneath? What idea of life? What stance with respect to the world?
So what’s the affect of today’s youth culture? Not just the hipsters, but the Millennial Generation as a whole, people born between the late ’70s and the mid-’90s, more or less — of whom the hipsters are a lot more representative than most of them care to admit. The thing that strikes me most about them is how nice they are: polite, pleasant, moderate, earnest, friendly. Rock ’n’ rollers once were snarling rebels or chest-beating egomaniacs. Now the presentation is low-key, self-deprecating, post-ironic, eco-friendly. When Vampire Weekend appeared on “The Colbert Report” last year to plug their album “Contra,” the host asked them, in view of the title, what they were against. “Closed-mindedness,” they said.
According to one of my students at Yale, where I taught English in the last decade, a colleague of mine would tell his students that they belonged to a “post-emotional” generation. No anger, no edge, no ego.
What is this about? A rejection of culture-war strife? A principled desire to live more lightly on the planet? A matter of how they were raised — everybody’s special and everybody’s point of view is valid and everybody’s feelings should be taken care of?
Perhaps a bit of each, but mainly, I think, something else. The millennial affect is the affect of the salesman. Consider the other side of the equation, the Millennials’ characteristic social form. Here’s what I see around me, in the city and the culture: food carts, 20-somethings selling wallets made from recycled plastic bags, boutique pickle companies, techie start-ups, Kickstarter, urban-farming supply stores and bottled water that wants to save the planet.
Today’s ideal social form is not the commune or the movement or even the individual creator as such; it’s the small business. Every artistic or moral aspiration — music, food, good works, what have you — is expressed in those terms.
Call it Generation Sell.
Bands are still bands, but now they’re little businesses, as well: self-produced, self-published, self-managed. When I hear from young people who want to get off the careerist treadmill and do something meaningful, they talk, most often, about opening a restaurant. Nonprofits are still hip, but students don’t dream about joining one, they dream about starting one. In any case, what’s really hip is social entrepreneurship — companies that try to make money responsibly, then give it all away.
[div class=attrib]Read the entire article here.[end-div]
[div class=attrib]Image: Millennial Momentum, Authors: Morley Winograd and Michael D. Hais, Rutgers University Press.[end-div]