Millennials are our only real hope for change.

Protestors sit in the street and demonst

Millennials, like all recent young-adult generations, have been demonized and denigrated by older generations. They have been called useless, dependent, entitled hipsters, and much worse.

But Millennials aren’t the first young adult generation to be regarded badly by their elders. Before them, back in the ’80s and ’90s (while Millennials were being born), Gen-Xers were dismissed by older generations as lazy, nihilistic, materialistic, uninvolved slackers. Before them, back in the ’60s and ’70s, Boomers were regarded as rebellious, hedonistic, disobedient troublemakers and “dirty hippies” who only cared about getting high and railing against the establishment.

Even the Silents, though largely ignored by older generations (because they tended to conform and obey when young, at least outwardly), were criticized for their “horrible and immoral music” (early rock ‘n roll) and the dancing that went with it.   But there were rebellious outliers even among young Silents:  the blue-collar “greasers” and college-educated Beatniks of the late 1950s and very early ’60s.

Returning to the Millennials, they have been called narcissistic, entitled, spoiled, and dependent on the parents who raised them well into their 20s and even 30s.

Let me correct a few things here.

Taking selfies is not narcissism. It’s a trend. In fact, studies have shown that true narcissists are less likely than others to post pictures of themselves online. Taking selfies may have something to do with vanity, but vanity doesn’t equal narcissism, although it may be a part of it.

Millennials are not entitled or spoiled. They are a generation that has not had the opportunities to achieve full adulthood, even if they attended college. Because of the dearth of good jobs for recent college graduates, or any decent jobs for high school graduates, many Millennials are forced to work at low paying McJobs that do not pay the rent and sometimes have to work 2 or 3 jobs just to make ends meet. For this reason, they often still live at home with their parents well into their 20s and sometimes even 30s.

Like all scapegoats, they are then blamed for their misfortunes, rather than the real culprit, which is a political system and an economy that will not allow them to get ahead in life. They look up at older generations, who had better opportunities in a nation where things were still affordable and where good jobs were still plentiful, and understandably, see how unfair it is.

bernie_atlanta

Millennials are called entitled and spoiled because they have taken to protesting and activism as a way to deal with what they correctly perceive as unjust, unfair, and outrageous. There is no reason why a college-, or even a high-school educated person should work harder and harder and still not be able to make a living wage. There is no reason why they should have to spend the better part of their adulthood paying back exorbitant student loans when all they can get is a job at a gas station or a fast food joint that barely pays enough to afford them the gas to get back and forth to said menial jobs. There is no reason why, like my son, they should be denied full-time hours just so their employer doesn’t have to pay them health insurance–and then be forced to take a second job to make the difference and still not be able to get health insurance because both are part-time.

It is outrageous. If they didn’t protest and take to the streets I’d be worried about them. They are not backing down though; they refuse to be victimized by this sick system.

In 2011, we saw the first obvious indications that this generation was not going to be a bunch of fearful sheep and just put up with the status quo. With the Occupy Wall Street movement which spread like wildfire across the nation for a few short months until it was silenced by the Powers That Be, Millennials showed clear signs of heeding the words of Dylan Thomas instead:

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

We saw it again in their almost rabid support of Bernie Sanders, a presidential candidate who represented those things that have been missing in American politics now for decades: empathy and generosity for all, a social safety net, a living wage, higher taxes for the wealthy and powerful, care and compassion for the vulnerable and disenfranchised. Sanders went surprisingly far in the primaries, nearly making it into the final two.

The first Millennials are thought to have been born in 1982 (though some sources put them as early as 1979).  The last Millennials were born in either 2000 or 2004 (depending on whose theories you believe), so not all of them were of voting age in this election. I believe if they had been, Sanders would have been the Democratic candidate instead of Hillary. Without the Millennial vote (and as a generation they are very likely to exercise that right, much more so than the Xers before them), I doubt that a candidate who proudly calls himself a democratic socialist (we need to get over the idea that “socialism” is a dirty word: it’s not communism and is a whole lot better than unbridled capitalism) would have gone as far as he did.

millennial_voting
How Millennials voted in this election.

 

Although Sanders ultimately lost out to Hillary, he still made a huge impact on not only the Millennial generation, but on the national zeitgeist in general. He did this mainly by making savvy use of social media, Twitter in particular. The overwhelming support for Sanders innoculated us all to the idea that it’s still possible that a true liberal (in the pre-1980s sense of the word) has a chance.

Now that Trump won the election, Millennials are rightfully outraged. They are not standing by idly wringing their hands and weeping, or cynically shrugging their shoulders as they say, “well, there’s nothing that I can do anyway.” No, instead, Millennials are protesting this election’s outcome. Trump is a man who can ruin their lives, and they have their whole lives in front of them. They are not going to just stand by and take it. They’re out on the streets protesting already, and are showing signs of the heroic generation they potentially are.

http://www.nytimes.com/video/us/politics/100000004715520/millennials-protest-against-trump.html

Way back in 1997, two Baby Boomers named William Strauss and Neil Howe wrote a book called The Fourth Turning.   I won’t describe the book in detail here; you will have to read it for yourself.  But it changed my entire outlook on history and on generations.   One of their theories is that history is not linear.   Generations (and history itself–historical “turnings”–as they are called) are cyclical.    The four generational “archetypes” and the four turnings repeat themselves approximately every 80 years, or the same length of time of a long human lifespan.   They correctly predicted that the Millennials would be a civically-involved, activist generation, even if what they envisioned was a slightly more conformist and conservative version of what they turned out to be.

generational_cartoon
Credit: Millennials Rising, Strauss and Howe, © 2000.

The four generational archetypes are Prophets, Nomads, Artists, and Heroes.     The most recent Prophet generation is the Boomers (their predecessors were the Missionaries), who are born in a First Turning (a time of prosperity and conformity).    The current Nomads are the Gen-Xers (who correspond with the Lost Generation), who are born during a Second Turning (the most recent was the Consciousness Revolution, which took place in the ’60s and ’70s).   Artists would be the Silents, who are always born during a Crisis, or a Fourth Turning (the new Artists are still being born now).   The current Crisis began either in 2001 with 9/11, or 2008 with the housing crisis (the jury is still out on the start date).  Finally, Heroes are born during a Third Turning (the most recent one being the Culture Wars of the ’80s and ’90s), when individualism is high but institutions built during the First Turning are beginning to unravel.   The last generation of Heroes were the GI Generation, also fondly known as The Greatest Generation, who are remembered as our WWII heroes and the builders of the prosperous America of the midcentury.    Almost all of them have died off by now.  They have been replaced by the Millennials.

This may sound like hocus-pocus, but it’s not.   The overall character of each of the four generational archetypes is influenced by the turnings in which they were raised and came of age in, and the parenting styles of that particular turning.   In turn, the generational character combined with the life stages they happen to be occupying at a given time (what S&H calls “generational constellations”) both foments and influences each of the four turnings themselves.

Here’s how that works:

Generational Archetypes.

Prophets, born in a time of prosperity, conformity, and increasingly indulgent parenting, become self confident but by adolescence, they begin to rebel against the stultifying conformity, and set off an Awakening (Second Turning).  During young adulthood, they are experimental idealists.   As they rise to power during midlife, they have become vocal, highly opinionated, and passionate about whatever values they have adopted, leading us into a Third Turning (culture wars mentality).  They tend to be judgmental and engage in black and white thinking, convinced that only their way is the right one.  Prophets’ parents are usually Heroes or Artists.

Nomads, born in a time of questioning traditional values and changing social mores, are often neglected by their self involved parents who seem more interested in their own personal growth instead of them.  In reaction, they become self sufficient early on (latchkey kids), but become cynical and reach adulthood with collective low self-esteem.  They tend to distrust the system, which they regard as having failed them and of all generations, they are both the most conservative and least likely to be politically involved.  They care more about pragmatism and “just getting things done” than about values and ideals.   Their parents are usually Artists or Prophets.

Heroes, born in a time of institutional failure but increasing choices and the beginning of the cultural polarization of a nation,  are increasingly protected by their stressed-out parents (who perceive the world as more dangerous), and are encouraged to achieve great things but also tend to be micro-managed and overly controlled.   As they rise into adulthood, they realize the things promised them are not going to materialize, and take matters into their own hands to change the system to one that will work for them.  Their parents tend to be Prophets or Nomads.

Artists, born during a national Crisis, are overprotected (“helicopter parenting”) and strictly disciplined.    They are the children most likely to be told to be quiet, stay out of the way and not bother the adults, who are trying to deal with a dangerous world.   Artists tend to be obedient conformists until midlife, when they finally begin to rebel, often spurred on by the Prophets born right after them.   But caught between two more powerful archetypes (Prophets and Heroes), they tend to never take one side or the other, and learn to be sensitive peacemakers instead, concerned with checks and balances, and “reasonable”and “fair” policies that don’t make waves. They attempt to bring people together.  Their parents are Nomads and Heroes.

It’s interesting to note that no Artist has become President during the Millennial Cycle (the 80-year historical period we are currently still in), but Bernie Sanders, a textbook example of the Artist archetype, came awfully close.

It’s also interesting that a Crisis forms just as peacemaking Artists are at their lowest point of influence–when they are in early childhood and very old age.

Turnings.

The four turnings are approximately 20 year time periods encompassing a particular national mood, which is shaped by the generational attitudes and the age brackets they happen to be in at the time.   Whatever generation happens to be in their prime adult years (midlife) and in the most important leadership roles, tends to set the overall tone for the turning in question.

Thus,

A First Turning, with Heroes in midlife (and Artists as their helpmates), is concerned with institutional building, scientific advancement, prosperity for all, family life, and indulgent parenting.   There is a narrowing of the gap between the richest and the poorest.  Sex roles seem to be at their least ambiguous.  A first turning tends to be unconcerned with matters of a religious or spiritual nature, idealistic values, or social change.  The last First Turning we experienced were the prosperous post-war years, until Kennedy’s assassination in 1963.   We are due to enter a new First Turning within 5-15 years, or whenever (and if) the current Crisis is resolved.

A Second Turning, with peacemaking Artists in midlife (and idealistic Prophets in rising adulthood), is a time of great social upheaval and a greater focus on matters of a religious, spiritual, or social nature.   Less value is placed on institution building, bureaucracy, and scientific advancement in favor of things of a more esoteric nature, such as civil or womens’ rights.   There is a great deal of experimentation with different lifestyle choices, but children born during this time tend to be dismissed as burdensome to self-development.  The most recent Second Turning was the Consciousness Revolution, which started with the first campus protests and the civil rights movement, and ended with either Reagan’s election in 1980 or his “Morning in America” speech when he was re-elected in 1984.

A Third Turning, with impassioned and judgmental Prophets in midlife (but with Artist checks and balances still in place and disaffected Nomads just trying to get by), is in some ways a continuation of a Second Turning, except that the pendulum begins to swing back to greater social conservatism and more law and order.  The left and right tends to become polarized, with both sides thinking only they are right and setting off ugly culture wars.  Institutions, which still thrived in the Second Turning (though they may have stopped being built) begin to atrophy and unravel.   Distrust abounds, especially toward government, which seems to take a backseat to shallow entertainment and “bread and circuses.”  Escapism into shallow entertainment continues into the Fourth Turning (the reality shows that have been popular since the ’90s are the modern equivalent of the circus freak shows, vaudeville acts, and dance marathons of the 1920s and 1930s.)  Sex roles are at their most ambiguous during this time,  and the gap between the wealthy and less wealthy widens.   The most recent Third Turning started with Reagan’s presidency in the early 1980s and ended sometime in the first decade of the new millennium (the most likely dates are 2001 or 2008).

A Fourth Turning, with pragmatic Nomads in midlife (and Prophets in high level leadership roles as early elders) is a national crisis, with no Artists to keep things in check. No matter what the Crisis itself is, things tend to go awry and quickly go out of control.   Children are overprotected and adults just try to get by as best they can, but have little trust in their government or the people who run it.  But it’s also during the Crisis that the seeds are sown for the new cycle that will begin with the First Turning: renewed community spirit and people in crisis helping each other.  This could be seen during the Great Depression and WWII.   What worries me is that so little of that is seen during this Crisis.

On crises that don’t end well.

If a Crisis ends very badly, it could spell the end of or the fracturing of that particular society, or even–in a very bad case scenario–the end of modernity or even civilization as we know it.    If a Crisis ends well, it will lead to a First Turning and a brand new historical cycle (we are currently in the Millennial Cycle, and have been since 1946).     If the Millennials are thwarted in their efforts to rebuild society to one that will work for them (and for everyone), we could fall into a Dark Age or a banana-republic-like dystopia with an accompanying loss of progress, or even of modernity.  In the very worst case scenario (should humanity survive), we could even revert to barbarism and the complete loss of technological and scientific progress.

As a nation, we need to take a lesson from history:  The Roman Empire had many of the same qualities as the United States does today.  The ancient Romans had impressive technology and scientific achievement for their time.  They were regarded as the reigning world power and other nations looked to Rome for guidance.  But ancient Rome, like the United States today,  was was  also bloated with hubris, greed, and narcissism–and an accompanying loss of compassion and mercy for those who were vulnerable or differed from what was deemed acceptable, and we all know what happened.

Following the fall of Rome, all of Europe fell into a thousand-year long dark age (what we know as the Middle Ages), where historical turnings came to a screeching halt and none to very little progress was made from one generation to the next, and where violence and harsh punishments were used to deal with minor infractions, where daily life was ruled by fear and superstition, and where lives were brutal, painful, and short.  Due to the great advances made in technology that have the potential to destroy the planet, if things go badly this time around, things could get even worse than the Middle Ages.

millennial_cartoon1
Credit: Millennials Rising, Strauss and Howe, © 2000

We remember generations only by their most recent deeds, not by their earlier ones.  In their youth, GIs, too, were regarded as spoiled troublemakers with shallow values.  Youthful GIs protested during the Depression and were at the helm of the riots of the 1930s.    Franklin D. Roosevelt, though not a GI (he was a Missionary), was their Bernie Sanders, and the prosperous America to come following the war would not have been possible without his New Deal, Social Security, the GI bill, and other programs that offered relief to the victims of the Depression and made it possible for even working class Americans to own their own homes and have a good life.   Now we are in grave danger of losing those things we gained during his presidency.

The Millennials, as a Heroic generation, are the current incarnation of the GIs and we need to give them a chance.  We need to stop treating them as if they are a useless, selfish generation of shallow hipsters, troublemakers, and losers.    If allowed to protest and mobilize against the very unfair policies that have been foisted upon them, as they grow a bit older, we are going to see them do great things.   Hero generations are civic-minded and very good at working together to build things instead of tearing them down (Prophet generations are better at tearing things down, although that is necessary too).

If this generation is not held back from doing what comes naturally to all Hero generatons, they can and will rebuild our society (or build a new and better one from scratch) that will take into account all the progress we made during the Consciousness Revolution and incorporate that into a new society where there will be peace, progress, compassion, and order.  It may be a little conformist and seem a bit culturally sterile, but it will be much better than what we have now. Millennials are the generation that will guide is into the new First Turning, if we only allow them to.

So please don’t hate on Millennials.  Look up to them as our only real hope for positive change.

Advertisements

How narcissism got to be a thing.

This article was originally posted on October 7 and 11, 2015 in two parts. It has been updated and merged.

narcissist_nation

Disclaimer:  It was pointed out to me that this post may seem overly critical or stereotyping of Baby Boomers.   I’m aware that the selfishness and lack of empathy we see today extends across ALL generations.  Also, many Boomers were never narcissistic and some were, in fact, abused or neglected, especially toward the end of that generation (which I myself am a part of).   But it is a fact that on a societal level, this was an especially indulged generation that led to an overall entitled mindset, even if many individuals never fit that trend.  As far as the neglectful parenting so rampant during the 1970s that is described, most of these parents were actually Silents, not Boomers (Boomers were more likely to indulge their Millennial children). 

*****

When I was compiling my lists of songs about narcissism, it didn’t pass my notice how few songs there were prior to the 1980s that focused on it. Oh sure, there have always been a few here and there (Carly Simon’s 1972 hit “You’re So Vain” immediately comes to mind) and there were always those “you/he/she done me wrong” love songs, but songs specifically about narcissism were pretty rare.

I think the reason for this is because it wasn’t until the 1980s that narcissism became so dominant in western (especially American) culture that it became a new virtue–something to aspire to if you wanted to be financially and professionally successful. And it wasn’t until the 1990s that narcissism became recognized as a real problem and websites, blogs and forums about narcissistic abuse began to spring up all over the Internet.

But I think the problem really started long before that, back in the post-WWII days when the Baby Boomers started being born. Of course there are exceptions, but as a generation, the Boomer generation was raised to be grandiose, entitled and lack a collective sense of empathy for others. As the Boomers aged, their collective sense of entitlement bled over into everything they touched–politics, business, and the culture at large. Today this narcissism affects all living generations, but generations older than the Boomers generally frowned on it.

Ripeness for the rise of a culture of narcissism.

I need to add that America was ripe for the rise of a culture of narcissism long before the hubris created by our WW II victory and our subsequent rise to the most powerful nation on earth and the arrival of what some believe was the most indulged generation of children, the Baby Boomers.

As a nation, we have always adhered to principles of “rugged individualism” and the “Protestant work ethic.” We have always eschewed communitarian values at the expense of individual achievement. But in the past, we were nicer to each other. People were expected to at least get involved in their communities when neighbors were in need and to show some grudging respect for those with less. Today, not so much. People were generally less about themselves and more about building strong families and communities. Even in the 1920s, another era of hedonism, greed, and other holdover values of the Gilded Age, these values had less hold on the population than they have today. That’s why during the Great Depression, someone like Franklin D. Roosevelt could rise to power and his New Deal (which allowed a prosperous decade like the 1950s to happen) was able to be implemented, though it certainly had its critics. Today, I doubt anything like the New Deal would be voted in by the majority of people, which is tragic.

1950s.

boomer_girl

After our WWII victory, America became very hubristic. We had become a superpower to be reckoned with the world over, and American life never seemed better. Life was very different than it had been even a decade earlier, and most newlyweds now had TVs, new kitchens with modern appliances that made a wife’s job much easier and left her more time to spend with her children, and often two cars. Employment was high and jobs paid well compared to the cost of living at the time. Young husbands were able to afford to buy tract homes and new cars on the GI bill, and could afford to support a wife and children. Of course, these were very conformist times too, and “keeping up with the Joneses” was a thing.

Enter the victory babies born in this national mood of optimism following the war: the Baby Boomers. Raised according to Dr. Benjamin Spock’s indulgent philosophy of “feeding on demand” and “Johnny will clean up his room when he feels like cleaning up his room,” Boomer infants and toddlers were pampered, indulged, and trained to be entitled. They were given anything they wanted and discipline tended to be light and consist of trying to “reason” with children. There was an endless array of new toys and snacks marketed to children, and mothers were made to feel like bad parents if they refused to comply with what advertisers told them to buy. The kids caught onto this attitude of entitlement, and if Sally got the new Barbie doll or Eric got the new battery operated toy truck, then Debbie and Paul had to have them too. The culture at the time was child-centered. It was a given that a child’s needs and wants always came before the parents’ and children were constantly told how “special” they were.

All that being said, I don’t believe on demand feeding in itself leads to feelings of entitlement; in fact it does just the opposite:  In an infant who hasn’t yet learned to separate themselves from the mother, such “indulgence” nurtures a child with high self esteem (NOT the same as narcissism) who is capable of healthy attachments to others. The problem is when the child continues to be indulged when older (spoiling), and many little Boomers boys and girls were, though certainly not all.

As they entered school, young Boomers’ attitude of entitlement and specialness carried over into the classroom. As a generation, they expected to be treated as little gods and goddesses, just as their parents had treated them.

1960s.

hippies

As the Boomers entered their teens, they began to rebel against the parents who had showered attention and material comforts on them. I believe this rebellion was due to a collective fear of engulfment by overindulgent parents. They were attempting to break away by reacting against the very lifestyle that had given them so much. Of course not every child had overindulgent parents, but teenagers always try to emulate what’s popular or cool. Rebelling against “the Establishment” or the Vietnam War (which also represented the values of their parents) became hip and cool. Adolescent Boomers, having been raised to believe they were unique and special (and most of those middle class and above were able to attend college and were often the first in their family to be able to do so) embraced causes that were anathema to the values of “the old fogies” and at first, really believed their causes were superior to those of their parents. They tuned in, turned on, and dropped out. They experimented with marijuana and LSD. They dressed in hippie clothing and wore their hair long, which horrified “The Establishment.” They listened to rock music, the louder and harder and more offensive to the older generation, the better. They protested the war, attended “love ins” and participated in campus sit-ins, and eventually riots. Young Boomers believed their values were exactly what the world needed, but their attitude was based on entitlement rather than realism. They were idealists who believed the world could be changed by smoking pot and listening to the right sort of music.*

* I’ve amended my attitude toward Boomer idealism some since I wrote this post. Idealism in itself isn’t a bad thing, and some of the youth movements of the ’60s had wonderful intentions–surely there’s nothing wrong with peace and love, and the anti-war, women’s, and civil rights movements (the latter which had actually started in the late 1950s with the Silents) all had their positive points and changed society for the better in many ways. The most disturbing thing about early Boomer idealism was its shallowness–the way it was so quickly abandoned when they entered full adulthood and as a generation they were able to move so quickly from “make love not war” to its polar opposite, “greed is good.”

Due to the sheer size of the Boomer generation, anything they did got a lot of national attention. Besides the many disapproving and negative news stories about the Vietnam protests, communal living, and recreational drug use, others were also beginning to emulate them. The next-older generation (The Silents), who had been largely ignored as they came of age, tried to seem younger by emulating the Boomers in their dress, tastes, and general lifestyle. The Boomers were never short on collective narcissistic supply (both negative and positive), and this continued to feed their attention-getting behavior.

Parents wondered where they had gone wrong, and why the children they had raised so lovingly had turned so rebellious and so insistent on “doing their own thing.” They wondered why this new generation seemed to hate them so much.

By the end of the 1960s, the “hippie lifestyle,” like everything else the Boomers would ever start, had become a lucrative market. But by the time The Establishment caught on, the Boomers were beginning to move on to other things, including embracing what they had rejected.

The power was still in the hands of the older generation of course, so narcissism had not yet become a noticeable part of the culture (although hubris and conformity definitely still was). By the 1970s, the first signs of a growing narcissistic culture would begin to make themselves felt.

1970s.

disco_ball

Boomers, now entering their 20s, had by now largely abandoned their earlier hippie incarnation for a more subdued “back to the land” movement, in which they opted for whole foods, fresh air, and healthy living. Others began to infiltrate the job market, often with degrees in esoteric subjects. Having children was something to be avoided, as Boomers wanted to prolong their adolescence or make a mark on the world. The Pill and newly legal abortion made all this possible. Around the same time, women began to demand equal rights in society and the workplace. The 70s wave of feminism was very anti-child and pro-career. If you preferred to marry and raise children, you were looked upon as a throwback to the 1950s.

Around the same time, various forms of non-traditional, humanist psychotherapies (EST, Esalen, etc.), grassroots religions, and cults became popular. Collectively known as “the human potential movement,” self-improvement and self-development became a priority for Boomers. Putting your own needs before those of others was not only normal, it was considered healthy. New York Magazine dubbed the 1970s “The Me Decade” for this reason. Couples opted to cohabitate rather than marry(because it was easier to break a commitment), and divorce was becoming very common. But the true victims of all this self-discovery were the children.

“Non-parenting” in the 1970s.

Children raised during this time (Generation X and tail-end Boomers) found themselves pretty much ignored, treated as second class citizens, or sometimes even abandoned by their self-involved Silent Generation or Boomer parents, who seemed to put their own needs ahead of theirs. This was a generation full of latchkey kids and kids prematurely taking care of themselves and their siblings while Mom attended to more interesting and “fulfilling” things.

To be fair, it wasn’t all the parents’ fault. The new “me” culture and the women’s movement, which gave women more options that just being mothers and housewives, gave them permission to turn their kids into second class citizens. Second-wave feminism especially (though this movement was probably for the most part a good thing) literally threw out the baby (Gen-X kids) with the bathwater in the 1970s. In spite of then-recent discoveries made by psychologists in the field of early attachment, women–including mothers–were encouraged to put their own needs first. I remember some “child-care” book my mother was reading that I thumbed through that actually advised mothers to not be “slaves” to their children–this attitude extended even to babies! Kids were considered to be small, demanding tyrants who hobbled women’s needs for independence and fulfillment in the outside world, rather than vulnerable little people who happen to have many needs. It wouldn’t surprise me if it were found that disorders caused by emotional neglect and failed early attachment (C-PTSD and personality disorders) are especially high among Generation X and “Joneser” (born 1955-1965)adults. Given the ages of most narc-abuse victims on the web, I suspect this is the case. These were the scapegoated kids of an increasingly dysfunctional society.

Around the middle of the 1970s, a new kind of music (disco) became associated with materialism, hedonism, and over the top sexuality. By now, Boomers had done a 180 from their emergence during the 1960s as hippies, and now embraced the crass materialism they had once rejected. They were ready for a President who would encourage their pursuit of luxury and material success.

At the same time, fundamentalist Christianity, which had been “rediscovered” by some Boomers as an outgrowth of the Jesus movement of the 1960s, was becoming increasingly popular, and the new conservatism was using it as a way to attract newly saved Christian voters.

The new narcissism wasn’t lost on Christopher Lasch, who published his book, “The Culture of Narcissism,” in 1979.

1980s.

yuppies

Ronald Reagan popularized trickle-down (or “supply side” economics), which basically meant allowing people to pay less taxes and keep more of what they earned. This played right into the hands of financially successful, entitled Boomers, who didn’t want to share their newfound wealth. The hippies had become the Yuppies–young urban professionals who had to “dress for success,” live to impress, and have the best of everything. Clothing wasn’t acceptable unless it had a designer’s logo on it. Housewares weren’t acceptable unless they were handmade in Outer Mongolia by native women. Food wasn’t acceptable unless it was “nouvelle cuisine.”

Having the perfect body was a priority, and Boomers started going to the gym or even personal trainers to tone and sculpt their bodies, sometimes to the point of unhealthy obsession. Boomers, mostly in their 30s by now, were finally deciding to have families, but children themselves became a status symbol, and getting your child into the “right” preschool or having the “right” designer clothing, or the “right” dance instructor became all-important. It was common for Boomer parents to watch other people’s children closely, to find out what they needed to do to “one up” each other as parents.

We were all enthralled by TV shows about fabulously wealthy people. Dallas, Dynasty, and its imitators became wildly popular and its stars became icons to imitate and aspire to. With the exception of emsemble shows like Cheers (a show about bartenders) or Taxi (a show about taxi drivers), there were hardly any popular TV shows about the poor or working class or anyone else of humble means. In the 1980s, you would not be able to tune into a new Little House on the Prairie, Sanford and Son, or The Honeymooners, except in reruns.  Teenagers in shows were more likely to be privileged prep-schoolers than inner city toughs like those in Welcome Back, Kotter.   Situation comedies no longer focused on middle or working class people, but on the comfortably upper middle class. Even the cops on police shows were somehow (and unrealistically) fabulously wealthy and always dressed for success.   The rich (or at least aspiring to be rich like the characters in thirtysomething) just seemed more interesting…and worthy of our time.

In 1987, a popular movie called “Wall Street” was released, in which its most famous quip, “greed is good,” became a national meme. While it was intended as a joke at first, “greed is good” quickly became a new philosophy of life, in which greed was not only good but became a virtue. Greed may have been one of the seven deadly sins, but even Christians made an exception for it, and we even had a Christian president who encouraged as much of it as possible. After all, it was the American way and America was a Christian nation, right?

In summary, during the 1980s, narcissism came out of the closet, with the election of a president who encouraged greed, materialism, and entitlements for the wealthy. At the same time, empathy, neighborliness, and general goodwill toward others seemed to become almost quaint, a naive relic of the past. The juggernaut was the new “greed is good” philosophy, normalized by a popular film. Narcissism was no longer something to be hidden; now it was almost something to aspire to.

1990s.

cast_friends

The greed worshipping culture begun in the 1980s continued during the 1990s, as Boomers rose to power and we elected our first Boomer president, Bill Clinton, in 1992. Under Clinton, the economy boomed, and a new breed of Yuppies, the Dot Com entrepreneurs (who were mostly Generation X), rode on the coattails of the newly born Internet, and they made money hand over fist until they went bust several years later. But people still went shopping and the culture at large was becoming increasingly exhibitionistic, obnoxious, and in-your-face (reality shows were born during this time), while corporations grew bigger and more unwieldy (unlimited growth, like a cancer, was encouraged, and smaller companies merged into megacorporations the size of small governments). Meanwhile, government institutions built in the more sedate and community-oriented 1950s and 1960s began to splinter and crumble. The government, especially the part of the government that tried to help its less fortunate citizens and attempted to even the playing field through fair taxation, became The Enemy.

But a backlash was beginning to silently bubble under all the glitz and bling of the ’90s. Back in 1983, a psychiatrist turned born-again Christian named M. Scott Peck published his groundbreaking book, “People of the Lie.” Here, for the first time, was a self help psychology book that focused on “evil”–specifically, people who were evil. The traits described in the book are exactly those of malignant narcissism. The book resonated with many, particularly with Gen-Xers and later born Boomers (Generation Jones), who had been raised by narcissistic parents. In some cases, especially for younger Boomers and early Gen-Xers, these kids had been betrayed by initially doting Silent generation parents who suddenly, during the 1960s or 1970s, seemed to suddenly care only about their own self-development at the expense of their confused and hurt adolescent and preteen children who they no longer seemed to even like much (this is exactly what my experience had been growing up in the 60s and 70s: my parents changed and no longer seemed to care).

But in the early 1980s, Peck’s “evil people” were not automatically equated with narcissists or people with other Cluster B disorders. Until the mid-90s, narcissism–or more specifically, NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder)–was simply a psychiatric label given to certain patients with a certain set of traits, who may or may not have been evil. NPD wasn’t demonized yet.

Then along came Sam Vaknin in 1995. Vaknin, a former white collar criminal and self-confessed narcissist, had written a tome about narcissism called “Malignant Self-Love: Narcissism Revisited.” Written initially to obtain supply and a guru-like status for himself, Vaknin’s book actually helped many of the narcissistic abuse victims who read it and recognized their abusers in its 600+ pages. Vaknin’s idea of NPD didn’t fit that described in the DSM: he mixed in with NPD several traits of psychopathy, antisocial personality disorder (ASPD), and Borderline personality disorder (BPD), to describe a particularly dangerous type of malignant narcissist that made the toxic people described in M. Scott Peck’s book seem almost tame in comparison.

The book was successful, and soon Vaknin started his own website, and discussion groups, and abuse victims all over the world jumped on the bandwagon. Vaknin, exactly the sort of person they sought to avoid, had become their savior and guiding light out of darkness.

Until the 2000s, Vaknin’s was pretty much the only voice on the Internet about narcissistic abuse. But in the very late 90s, a few books were beginning to be published about this “new” type of abuse that didn’t necessary include physical violence (but could). Parents, particularly mothers, were the focus, and a subset of the narcissistic abuse community–one that focused on narcissistic mothers and the damage they had done to their now-adult children–formed the template for the explosive ACON (Adult Children of Narcissists) movement.

2000s.

bling

For a brief time, after the tragedy of September 11, 2001, it looked like Americans just might start to care about each other again. There was an outpouring of support for the victims of the 9/11 disasters, and solidarity shown among all Americans. For the first time, regional differences and even racial differences didn’t seem to matter, and Americans were united by their flying of the flag. No one seemed all that concerned by the curtailment of certain freedoms and and increase in xenophobia–after all, it was for the protection of the country, right?

But as a result, the economy was suffering, so George W. Bush Jr. (“Dubya”) gave us all permission to “go shopping.” And so we did. It was back to the bread and circuses and the shallow, materialistic culture of the 1980s through pre-2001.

Reality shows rose in popularity and the badder the behavior, the more popular they got. New celebrities were famous only for “being famous,” having a famous parent, or just for acting badly. People aspired to be just like Snooki and The Situation from The Jersey Shore, or Tiffany “New York” Pollard from Flavor of Love. All of these characters were narcissists, or at least acted that way for the benefit of the camera. And people loved them for it.

During the 2000s, Millennials, the rising young adult generation, born in the 1980s and 1990s, started being being accused of being narcissistic, but if they are, you can blame their parents for having taught them these values. In addition, a lot of gaslighting is going on by older generations, who blame the Millennials for their inability to find jobs that pay a living wage and provide benefits, forcing them to live at home and be dependent for longer than earlier generations–and accuse them of being “lazy,” “spoiled,” and “entitled.” But what about their mostly Boomer and Gen-X parents, who modeled this sort of behavior?

old_boomers

Politicians became more blatantly narcissistic and their lack of empathy sank to new lows. One politician said if you weren’t rich, you should blame yourself. Blaming the victim became increasingly popular, and was even seen by some conservative politicians as a “Christian” way to behave–for if you were favored by God, He would bless you with wealth and material comforts. Religion itself became a way for narcissists to rise to positions of great power, and use their “favored status” in God’s eyes as a way to abuse their flock of followers.

Meanwhile, the narcissistic abuse commmunity continued to grow, and blogs written by abuse survivors were beginning to pop up all over the Internet. The abuse community developed their own lingo, some of it borrowed from earlier movements such as 12-step programs (codependent, enabling, people-pleaser are examples), some from pioneers such as Sam Vaknin (narcissistic supply, confabulation), and some from mental health experts going all the way back to Freud. Some terms were taken from popular movies, such as “flying monkeys” (The Wizard of Oz), and “gaslighting” (Gaslight).

2010s.

tea-party
Tea Party protesters.

Now we’re nearly 7 years into the 2010s. While it’s hard to see any patterns yet, it does seem that the problem of narcissism is finally being noticed by the general public. Pundits and media critics write about the narcissism of politicians and celebrities and “cluster B type” reality TV stars.  Now there’s a call by many for more empathy and community spirit over selfishness, self-aggrandizement, and greed.  2011’s Occupy Wall Street movement enjoyed a flurry of popularity, especially among Millennials (though older generations had their fair share of supporters) before it was ultimately silenced.  But at least it was a start.


Occupy protesters. 

On the other hand, the problem is even worse now, with the possible impending presidency of Donald Trump, who has even been remotely diagnosed with NPD by psychiatrists (breaking their own rule never to diagnose anyone who hasn’t been formally evaluated). Sam Vaknin has called him a Malignant Narcissist (and I do believe he is one) and even publications like Psychology Today and news media have picked up on that and written about it. The news is peppered with so many articles about Trump’s malignant narcissism that it’s a wonder he is still a contender. But Trump has a powerful bloc of supporters (mostly “angry white men”), who seem to be in denial about how dangerous this man could be should he become President. I don’t think he will win. But no other presidential candidate in living memory showed the same level of arrogant, entitled, and grandiose behavior that Trump has shown in his campaign–and politicians are by nature a narcissistic bunch! Can you imagine someone like Trump making it this far 30 or 40 years ago? I can’t. Even ten years ago, someone who acted that way would have been booted from the race during the primaries. We as a nation have normalized the type of pathological behavior someone like Trump displays.

Narcissism is a fashionable topic now. Maybe it’s just a fad, but it’s making people pay attention. I’ve noticed a number of Christians–at least online–who are abandoning the fiscally conservative values held by groups such as the Tea Party, who are about as collectively entitled as you can get (they better get their social security, but to hell with that child who needs special medical treatment but can’t get it because his parents are too poor). It’s probably too soon to tell whether the “social gospel” is making a return, but there does seem to be a greater desire for an increase in empathy, kindness, and community spirit instead of just building up the Almighty Self. The enormous popularity of Bernie Sanders, especially among the Millennials, proves this. Of course a Sanders-type figure wouldn’t have solved all our problems (it took decades for us to get to this point and it won’t be changed overnight), but the fact one made it so far and people actually paid attention gives me a little hope that the tides may be turning. It will be interesting to see what the rest of this decade holds.

*****

For further reading:
1. Are Millennials Really the Most Narcissistic Generation Ever?
2. Why is Narcissism so Hot These Days?
3. Generations Explained

How did narcissism get so “popular”? (part two of two)

narcissist_nation

Here is the second installment, as I promised–I apologize for the delay. In part one, I covered the way narcissism has increasingly infiltrated our society and become a near-virtue to be emulated, starting in the late 1940s and 1950s in a postwar America now regarded to be a world superpower. The babies born in this mood of can-do optimism, the Baby Boomers, were indulged by their parents, who believed anything was possible and showered their children with all the new toys, space-age technology, and new permissive child-rearing techniques that were suddenly popular.

In Part One of this article, I discussed how the indulged Boomer generation influenced western society at every stage of life, and (as a generation) grew into grandiose, entitled adults who demanded (and got) special treatment every step of the way. I covered the decades from the 1950s through the 1980s, and described how narcissism became increasingly regarded as a desireable quality. By the 1980s, narcissism came out of the closet, with the election of a president (Reagan) who encouraged greed, materialism, and entitlements for the wealthy with his “trickle down economics.” At the same time, empathy, neighborliness, and general goodwill toward others seemed to become almost quaint, a naive relic of the past. The juggernaut was the new “greed is good” philosophy, made popular by a 1987 hit movie, “Wall Street,” (which was of course the place to be). Narcissism was no longer something to be hidden; now it was something to aspire to.

In this next installment, I’ll be focusing less on the Boomers and more on the continued growth of narcissism in society, as well as the backlash against it–the narcissistic abuse and ACON community–which began as an Internet phenomenon during the mid 1990s due to one self-professed narcissist named Sam Vaknin. But actually, the seeds of the backlash had been planted as far back as 1983, with M. Scott Peck’s bestselling book, “People of the Lie.”

1990s.

cast_friends

The greed worshipping culture begun in the 1980s continued during the 1990s, as Boomers rose to power and we elected our first Boomer president, Bill Clinton, in 1992. Under Clinton, the economy boomed, and a new breed of Yuppies, the Dot Com entrepreneurs (who were mostly Generation X), rode on the coattails of the newly born Internet, and they made money hand over fist until they went bust several years later. But people still went shopping and the culture at large was becoming increasingly exhibitionistic, obnoxious, and in-your-face (reality shows were born during this time), while corporations grew bigger and more unwieldy (unlimited growth, like a cancer, was encouraged, and smaller companies merged into megacorporations the size of small governments). Meanwhile, government institutions built in the more sedate and community-oriented 1950s and 1960s began to splinter and crumble. The government, especially the part of the government that tried to help its less fortunate citizens and attempted to even the playing field through fair taxation, became The Enemy.

But a backlash was beginning to silently bubble under all the glitz and bling of the ’90s. Back in 1983, a psychiatrist turned born-again Christian named M. Scott Peck published his groundbreaking book, “People of the Lie.” Here, for the first time, was a self help psychology book that focused on “evil”–specifically, people who were evil. The traits described in the book are exactly those of malignant narcissism. The book resonated with many, particularly with Gen-Xers and later born Boomers (Generation Jones), who had been raised by narcissistic parents. In some cases, especially for younger Boomers and early Gen-Xers, these kids had been betrayed by initially doting Silent generation parents who suddenly, during the 1960s or 1970s, seemed to suddenly care only about their own self-development at the expense of their confused and hurt adolescent and preteen children who they no longer seemed to even like much (this is exactly what my experience had been growing up in the 60s and 70s: my parents changed and no longer seemed to care).

But in the early 1980s, Peck’s “evil people” were not automatically equated with narcissists or people with other Cluster B disorders. Until the mid-90s, narcissism–or NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder)–was simply a psychiatric label given to certain patients with a certain set of traits, who may or may not have been evil. NPD wasn’t demonized yet.

Then along came Sam Vaknin in 1995. Vaknin, a former white collar criminal and self-confessed narcissist, had written a tome about narcissism called “Malignant Self-Love: Narcissism Revisited.” Written initially to obtain supply and a guru-like status for himself, Vaknin’s book actually helped many of the narcissistic abuse victims who read it and recognized their abusers in its 600+ pages. Vaknin’s idea of NPD didn’t fit that described in the DSM: he mixed in with NPD several traits of psychopathy, antisocial personality disorder (ASPD), and Borderline personality disorder (BPD), to describe a particularly dangerous type of malignant narcissist that made the toxic people described in M. Scott Peck’s book seem almost tame in comparison.

The book was successful, and soon Vaknin started his own website, and discussion groups, and abuse victims all over the world jumped on the bandwagon. Vaknin, exactly the sort of person they sought to avoid, had become their savior and guiding light out of darkness.

Until the 2000s, Vaknin’s was pretty much the only voice on the Internet about narcissistic abuse. But in the very late 90s, a few books were beginning to be published about this “new” type of abuse that didn’t necessary include physical violence (but could). Parents, particularly mothers, were the focus, and a subset of the narcissistic abuse community–one that focused on narcissistic mothers and the damage they had done to their now-adult children–formed the template for the explosive ACON (Adult Children of Narcissists) movement.

2000s.

bling

For a brief time, after the tragedy of September 11, 2001, it looked like Americans just might start to care about each other again. There was an outpouring of support for the victims of the 9/11 disasters, and solidarity shown among all Americans. For the first time, regional differences and even racial differences didn’t seem to matter, and Americans were united by their flying of the flag. No one seemed all that concerned by the curtailment of certain freedoms and and increase in xenophobia–after all, it was for the protection of the country, right?

But as a result, the economy was suffering, so George W. Bush Jr. (“Dubya”) gave us all permission to “go shopping.” And so we did. It was back to the bread and circuses and the shallow, materialistic culture of the 1980s through pre-2001.

Reality shows rose in popularity and the badder the behavior, the more popular they got. New celebrities were famous only for “being famous,” having a famous parent, or just for acting badly. People aspired to be just like Snooki and The Situation from The Jersey Shore, or Tiffany “New York” Pollard from Flavor of Love. All of these characters were narcissists, or at least acted that way for the benefit of the camera. And people loved them for it.

During the 2000s, Millennials, the rising young adult generation, born in the 1980s and 1990s, started being being accused of being narcissistic, but if they are, you can blame their parents for having taught them these values. In addition, a lot of gaslighting is going on by older generations, who blame the Millennials for their inability to find jobs that pay a living wage and provide benefits, forcing them to live at home and be dependent for longer than earlier generations–and accuse them of being “lazy,” “spoiled,” and “entitled.” But what about their mostly Boomer and Gen-X parents, who modeled this sort of behavior?

Politicians became more blatantly narcissistic and their lack of empathy sank to new lows. One politician said if you weren’t rich, you should blame yourself. Blaming the victim became increasingly popular, and was even seen by some conservative politicians as a “Christian” way to behave–for if you were favored by God, He would bless you with wealth and material comforts. Religion itself became a way for narcissists to rise to positions of great power, and use their “favored status” in God’s eyes as a way to abuse their flock of followers.

Meanwhile, the narcissistic abuse commmunity continued to grow, and blogs written by abuse survivors were beginning to pop up all over the Internet. The abuse community developed their own lingo, some of it borrowed from earlier movements such as 12-step programs (codependent, enabling, people-pleaser are examples), some from pioneers such as Sam Vaknin (narcissistic supply, confabulation), and some from mental health experts going all the way back to Freud. Some terms were taken from popular movies, such as “flying monkeys” (The Wizard of Oz), and “gaslighting” (Gaslight).

2010s.

tea-party

Being only 5 years into the 2010s, it’s hard to see any patterns yet, but it does seem that the problem of narcissism is finally being noticed by the general public. One of the Republican presidential candidates, Donald Trump, is well known for his “NPD” and called out for his grandiose antics constantly, even by people outside the narcissistic abuse community. Narcissism is a fashionable topic now–the fascination by it may only be a fad, but it’s making people pay attention. Lately I’ve noticed a number of Christians who are abandoning the fiscally conservative values held by groups such as the Tea Party, who are about as collectively entitled as you can get (they had better get their social security, but to hell with that child who needs special medical treatment but can’t get it because his parents are too poor). It’s probably too soon to tell whether the “social gospel” is making a return, but there does seem to be a greater call for an increase in empathy and caring for each other and building communities instead of just building up the Almighty Self.

It will be interesting to see what the rest of this decade holds.

How did narcissism get so “popular”? (part one of two)

old_boomers

When I was compiling my lists of songs about narcissism, it didn’t pass my notice how few songs there were prior to the 1980s that focused on it. Oh sure, there have always been a few here and there (Carly Simon’s 1972 hit “You’re So Vain” immediately comes to mind) and there were always those “you/he/she done me wrong” love songs, but songs specifically about narcissism were pretty rare.

I think the reason for this is because it wasn’t until the 1980s that narcissism became so dominant in western (especially American) culture that it became a new virtue–something to aspire to if you wanted to be financially and professionally successful. And it wasn’t until the 1990s that narcissism became recognized as a real problem and websites, blogs and forums about narcissistic abuse began to spring up all over the Internet.

But I think the problem really started long before that, back in the post-WWII days when the Baby Boomers started being born. Of course there are exceptions, but as a generation, the Boomer generation was raised to be grandiose, entitled and lack a collective sense of empathy for others. As the Boomers aged, their collective sense of entitlement bled over into everything they touched–politics, business, and the culture at large. Today this narcissism affects all living generations, but generations older than the Boomers generally frowned on it.

1950s.

boomer_girl

After our WWII victory, America became very hubristic. We had become a superpower to be reckoned with the world over, and American life never seemed better. Life was very different than it had been even a decade earlier, and most newlyweds now had TVs, new kitchens with modern appliances that made a wife’s job much easier and left her more time to spend with her children, and often two cars. Employment was high and jobs paid well compared to the cost of living at the time. Young husbands were able to afford to buy tract homes and new cars on the GI bill, and could afford to support a wife and children. Of course, these were very conformist times too, and “keeping up with the Joneses” was a thing.

Enter the victory babies born in this national mood of optimism following the war: the Baby Boomers. Raised according to Dr. Benjamin Spock’s indulgent philosophy of “feeding on demand” and “Johnny will clean up his room when he feels like cleaning up his room,” Boomer infants and toddlers were pampered, indulged, and trained to be entitled. They were given anything they wanted and discipline tended to be light and consist of trying to “reason” with children. There was an endless array of new toys and snacks marketed to children, and mothers were made to feel like bad parents if they refused to comply with what advertisers told them to buy. The kids caught onto this attitude of entitlement, and if Sally got the new Barbie doll or Eric got the new battery operated toy truck, then Debbie and Paul had to have them too. The culture at the time was child-centered. It was a given that a child’s needs and wants always came before the parents’ and children were constantly told how “special” they were.

As they entered school, young Boomers’ attitude of entitlement and specialness carried over into the classroom. As a generation, they expected to be treated as little gods and goddesses, just as their parents had treated them.

1960s.

hippies

As the Boomers entered their teens, they began to rebel against the parents who had showered attention and material comforts on them. I believe this rebellion was due to a collective fear of engulfment by overindulgent parents. They were attempting to break away by reacting against the very lifestyle that had given them so much. Of course not every child had overindulgent parents, but teenagers always try to emulate what’s popular or cool. Rebelling against “the Establishment” or the Vietnam War (which also represented the values of their parents) became hip and cool. Adolescent Boomers, having been raised to believe they were unique and special (and most of those middle class and above were able to attend college and were often the first in their family to be able to do so) embraced causes that were anathema to the values of “the old fogies” and at first, really believed their causes were superior to those of their parents. They tuned in, turned on, and dropped out. They experimented with marijuana and LSD. They dressed in hippie clothing and wore their hair long, which horrified “The Establishment.” They listened to rock music, the louder and harder and more offensive to the older generation, the better. They protested the war, attended “love ins” and participated in campus sit-ins, and eventually riots. Young Boomers believed their values were exactly what the world needed, but their attitude was based on entitlement rather than realism. They were idealists who believed the world could be changed by smoking pot and listening to the right sort of music.

Due to the sheer size of the Boomer generation, anything they did got a lot of national attention. Besides the many disapproving and negative news stories about the Vietnam protests, communal living, and recreational drug use, others were also beginning to emulate them. The next-older generation (The Silents), who had been largely ignored as they came of age, tried to seem younger by emulating the Boomers in their dress, tastes, and general lifestyle. The Boomers were never short on collective narcissistic supply (both negative and positive), and this continued to feed their attention-getting behavior.

Parents wondered where they had gone wrong, and why the children they had raised so lovingly had turned so rebellious and so insistent on “doing their own thing.” They wondered why this new generation seemed to hate them so much.

By the end of the 1960s, the “hippie lifestyle,” like everything else the Boomers would ever start, had become a lucrative market. But by the time The Establishment caught on, the Boomers were beginning to move on to other things, including embracing what they had rejected.

The power was still in the hands of the older generation of course, so narcissism had not yet become a noticeable part of the culture (although hubris and conformity definitely still was). By the 1970s, the first signs of a growing narcissistic culture would begin to make themselves felt.

1970s.

disco_ball

Boomers, now entering their 20s, had by now largely abandoned their earlier hippie incarnation for a more subdued “back to the land” movement, in which they opted for whole foods, fresh air, and healthy living. Others began to infiltrate the job market, often with degrees in esoteric subjects. Having children was something to be avoided, as Boomers wanted to prolong their adolescence or make a mark on the world. The Pill and newly legal abortion made all this possible. Around the same time, women began to demand equal rights in society and the workplace. The 70s wave of feminism was very anti-child and pro-career. If you preferred to marry and raise children, you were looked upon as a throwback to the 1950s.

Around the same time, various forms of non-traditional, humanist psychotherapies (EST, Esalen, etc.), grassroots religions, and cults became popular. Collectively known as “the human potential movement,” self-improvement and self-development became a priority for Boomers. Putting your own needs before those of others was not only normal, it was considered healthy. New York Magazine dubbed the 1970s “The Me Decade” for this reason. Couples opted to cohabitate rather than marry(because it was easier to break a commitment), and divorce was becoming very common. Children raised during this time (Generation X) found themselves ignored, treated as second class citizens, or sometimes even abandoned by their self-involved Boomer parents who seemed to put their own needs ahead of theirs.

Around the middle of the 1970s, a new kind of music (disco) became associated with materialism, hedonism, and over the top sexuality. By now, Boomers had done a 180 from their emergence during the 1960s as hippies, and now embraced the crass materialism they had once rejected. They were ready for a President who would encourage their pursuit of luxury and material success.

At the same time, fundamentalist Christianity, which had been “rediscovered” by some Boomers as an outgrowth of the Jesus movement of the 1960s, was becoming increasingly popular, and the new conservatism was using it as a way to attract newly saved Christian voters.

The new narcissism wasn’t lost on Christopher Lasch, who published his book, “The Culture of Narcissism,” in 1979.

1980s.

yuppies

Ronald Reagan popularized trickle-down (or “supply side” economics), which basically meant allowing people to pay less taxes and keep more of what they earned. This played right into the hands of financially successful, entitled Boomers, who didn’t want to share their newfound wealth. The hippies had become the Yuppies–young urban professionals who had to “dress for success,” live to impress, and have the best of everything. Clothing wasn’t acceptable unless it had a designer’s logo on it. Housewares weren’t acceptable unless they were handmade in Outer Mongolia by native women. Food wasn’t acceptable unless it was “nouvelle cuisine.”

Having the perfect body was a priority, and Boomers started going to the gym or even personal trainers to tone and sculpt their bodies, sometimes to the point of unhealthy obsession. Boomers, mostly in their 30s by now, were finally deciding to have families, but children themselves became a status symbol, and getting your child into the “right” preschool or having the “right” designer clothing, or the “right” dance instructor became all-important. It was common for Boomer parents to watch other people’s children closely, to find out what they needed to do to “one up” each other as parents.

In 1987, a popular movie called “Wall Street” was released, in which its most famous quip, “greed is good,” became a national meme. While it was intended as a joke at first, “greed is good” quickly became a new philosophy of life, in which greed was not only good but became a virtue. Greed may have been one of the seven deadly sins, but even Christians made an exception for it, and we even had a Christian president who encouraged as much of it as possible. After all, it was the American way and America was a Christian nation, right?

Please continue reading Part Two of this article. 

*****

For further reading, see my articles:
1. Are Millennials Really the Most Narcissistic Generation Ever?
2. Why is Narcissism so Hot These Days?

Generations explained.

boomer_millennials
credit: Blog of the Ginger

One of my long-standing interests is demographics, and the interplay between the different living generations. Here is a video that explains the interactions between the four living generations born before 2005 (or possibly, 2001 — the jury’s still out on the last birthyear of the Millennials).

The birth years are based on Strauss and Howe’s “Generations” and “The Fourth Turning,” both books I have read and highly recommend for anyone interested in how generations impact history (and are, in turn, impacted by history). I agree with these birth years over the more popular ones used by most marketers and the popular media. I also believe there are “cusps” that straddle the generations and bleed over several years in both directions, so someone born in a cusp year would have characteristics of both adjacent generations. Of course, these are just guidelines (some have compared generational types to astrological signs) and some people may not fit their generation at all, but maybe a different one.

The generations discussed here:

1. GI Generation (Hero generation, born 1900 – 1924) — few still alive.
2. Silent (Artist generation, born 1925 – 1942)
(Silent/Boom cusp subgeneration: War Babies born about 1936-1946)
3. Boomer (Prophet generation, born 1943 – 1960)
(Boom/X cusp subgeneration: Generation Jones born 1955-1965)
4. Generation X (Nomad generation, born 1961 – 1981
(X/Millennial cusp subgeneration: Generation Y born 1976-1986)
5. Millennial (Hero generation, born 1982 – 2005 (?)

If you’re interested in this stuff, I recommend these two books by William Strauss and Neil Howe:

Generations: The History of America’s Future, 1584 to 2069

The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecy — What the Cycles of History tell us about America’s Next Rendezvous with Destiny

Why is narcissism so “hot” these days?

narcissist_nation

I haven’t seen any official studies or statistics, but it seems like narcissism is possibly the most popular psychological topic on the Internet in recent years. Blogs about narcissism are spreading like wildfire (though it’s possible they may be on the decline now). The subject of narcissism seems to be brought up regularly even in articles and sites about other topics, especially entertainment, big business, and politics, where narcissism is rampant. Narcissism is a buzz word, and it’s because we children of the Baby Boomers and Silent Generation–parents who bought into narcissistic values way back in the 1960s and 1970s–are finally having our say.

In a society-wide twist of values, Narcissism has become a virtue. Old fashioned virtues like altruism and empathy are seen as liabilities that hold people back from achieving success, rather than prosocial traits that keep us civilized and human. Ayn Rand, who idealized narcissism in her philsophy of “objectivism” (and was most likely a narcissist herself) has become a cult hero; her mediocre torch romances “Atlas Shrugged” and “The Fountainhead,” both featuring selfish, narcissistic “heroes” as their protagonists, have been enjoying enormous popularity.

ayn_rand
Ayn Rand.

I believe all this started in the 1960s and 1970s, during the Consciousness Revolution. Certainly the 1950s were mind numbingly conformist and rife with racism and sexism, but things went way too far in the other direction, as Baby Boomers and younger members of the Silent generation began to rebel against all the conformity. They popularized the idea of “doing your own thing,” whatever that thing was. Having and raising children became something to be avoided and any woman with a brain avoided pregnancy as if it were a disease. Abortion and The Pill became legal–and cool. Of course there’s nothing wrong with women having control over when and whether to have children, but I think the general attitude toward children in the 1960s and 1970s was negative. Young Gen X children were not wanted or valued. They were demonized in movies like “The Omen,” “Rosemary’s Baby” and “The Exorcist.” I remember an Esquire article from March 1974, “Do Americans Suddenly Hate Kids?” Well, it did seem that way.

Their parents, the Boomers and Silents, were encouraged to put their own self-growth and advancement of their careers ahead of child-rearing. At the time, this was even thought of as “good” for children, providing them with a positive example of a parent with a high self image and lists of achievements a mile long. Unfortunately, for many children growing up during this time, the attitude that adults were more valuable than children backfired and we felt like we just weren’t that important in our parents’ universe. We grew up with collective low self esteem.

hippie_parents
Hippie parents.

The 1970s were dubbed “The Me Decade” and adults were encouraged to do and be whatever they wanted, even if this meant neglecting their own children and turning them into latchkey kids with far too much freedom for their own good. Promiscuous sexual behavior and drug abuse among adults was rampant. Women everywhere (including my own) joined consciousness-raising groups that encouraged them to put themselves over their families. The fallout rained down on the lives of their Generation X and Gen-Jones (late Boomers born at the end of the 1950s and early 1960s) children, and we suddenly found we had to fend for ourselves, without much parental support, even when our parents were not narcissists.

While attitudes toward children improved during the 1980s as Millennial children began to be born, the Boomers and younger Silents who had spearheaded the Consciousness Revolution and Me Generation, were suddenly in positions of authority in politics, business and entertainment. We had Ronald Reagan, with his “trickle down economics” and support of the “supply side” and big business over the people. Tax cuts for social programs commenced with his election and increased over the next 30 years (and show no sign of letting up). Reagan was popular and charismatic, and so were his draconian economic policies that hurt the poor and later, the middle class. New college graduates during the 1980s and 1990s realized they could make unlimited amounts of money in the stock market and suddenly the “helping professions” were unpopular and considered far less lucrative than making a killing on the stock market or in investment banking. These became the infamous “having it ALL” Yuppies.

Yuppies were better parents than their hippie predecessors, but they micromanaged everything their children did, to the point the kids became stressed because they weren’t free to just be kids. These overcontrolled children were sent to the best private schools, given lessons in everything from piano to karate, and had no free time to just play and learn on their own. Millennials grew up stressed out and expecting to achieve in life, only to find when they first entered the job market during the 2000’s, they could not find decent jobs.

yuppie_mom
Yuppie mom.

Narcissism continues to be a “virtue” and our policies increasingly glorify the self and unlimited financial achievement over humble, old fashioned values of community and compassion. Children who were born or who were children or teens during the 1960s and 1970s are now adults, the oldest of us now in our 50s. I’ve noticed most blogs by ACONs seem to be written by women in their 40s and 50s: these are the Generation X and late Boom/Generation Jones children who suffered the most at the hands of parents who bought into the selfish ’70s and greedy ’80s. Even back in those days, the shift of narcissism from a vice to a virtue was not unnoticed. In 1979, cultural historian Christopher Lasch wrote his treatise “The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in an Age of Diminishing Expectations,” about the danger of narcissistic values for American society. His book remains popular today.

We may be a bunch of middle aged fuddy duddies, but we’re no longer scared and we are not shutting up. We call out everything we see wrong with the culture we were raised in, a culture that has become just as unhealthy for our own Millennial children. We were the scapegoats of a society that didn’t value us, and now we are the truth-tellers who are boldly talking about everything that was done to us, everything that went wrong and why. It was us who spearheaded the ACON movement (and yes, it is a movement) and are bringing narcissism out into the light where it can be seen for the disgusting and ugly scourge on humanity it really is. We are doing our best to nurture our own children according to more humble, old fashioned values, although that’s hard in a society that still only values personal gain and material wealth, and still tries to keep us down.

“Children of God”: demonic cult disguised as Christianity

david_berg
David Berg, founder of the Children of God.

Talk about wolves in sheep’s clothing! David Berg, a malignant narcissist extraordinaire, who believed himself to be the Last Great Prophet of God and called himself “Moses David,” founded the hippie-like Jesus cult, the “Children of God” (a/k/a “The Family”) in 1968, as part of the well-known “Jesus movement” of the late 1960s. The Children of God (from here on, abbreviated CoG) believed in millennarianism, the “last days” and Biblical prophecy. Like almost all Christians, they worshipped Jesus Christ as their lord and personal savior. What’s so bad about that, you say? It’s just garden variety fundamentalist, evangelical Christianity, right?

Well, yes and no. Berg gradually began to incorporate very un-Christian, unbiblical principles into his cult and even re-wrote the Bible as he interpreted it. He believed sex was a God-given tool meant to be used by humans to get closer to Him.

Many religions accept sex as a good and beautiful expression of love within the confines of a marriage or a close and committed relationship, but in this cult, promiscuity and “free love” was okay, because it was a way to commune with the Divine. It was okay for a woman to masturbate and “come” for Jesus. They were encouraged to be “God’s Love Slaves.” Baby Boomers and younger members of the Silent Generation who had already become used to the idea of free love and sex with multiple partners were at first attracted to this “understanding” guru who loved Jesus but encouraged them to indulge in their carnal desires.

But it was their Generation X children who were about to really be exploited.

Illustrations in CoG literature and its Bible were cartoon-like (in the Jack Chick style of cartooning) and sexually explicit. Some involved children and S&M scenarios. Some of the illustrations are shown in this documentary series, so if you’re offended by sexually explicit drawings or pornography, you may want to be aware of this before you watch the videos.

Families were regimented, children were raised separately from their parents and raised by nannies (similar to the way the Hebrew kibbutz is run). Children were raised communally by nannies, while their parents spent their time focusing on their spiritual (sexual) relationships with one another and most of all, with Jesus.

But things got even worse. Eventually children themselves were drawn into the depraved sexual activities of this cult, and were encouraged by Berg to be used sexually by adults, even as young toddlers, to “connect” with one another and in the process become closer to God Himself.

Survivors and especially the adult Gen-X children who grew up in this destructive cult were badly damaged and suffer from PTSD and other serious mental conditions, and in some cases committed or attempted suicide.

Here is the video series–it’s in seven parts, but I have only posted the first installment. From there, you can click on the rest. This is very scary stuff.
The cult still exists today under their new name, “The Family International.”

Here’s another video that focuses more on Berg and the cult itself, rather than survivors who are trying to cope with the aftermath.

Are Millennials really the most narcissistic generation ever?

millennialwithitall
Hipster Millennial with all his high tech stuff.

“The National Institutes of Health found that for people in their 20s, Narcissistic Personality Disorder is three times as high than the generation that’s 65 or older…”

–TIME Magazine

Millennials have been loaded with negative stereotypes: lazy, entitled, or what seems to be the media favorite, narcissistic. A recent Time magazine article managed to fit all three adjectives into one title in the cover-story, “The Me Me Me Generation: Millennials are lazy, entitled narcissists who still live with their parents.” Ouch.

— Rachel Gall, So-Called Millennial.com

The burning question of whether the much-debated Millennial Generation (people born between about 1981 and 2004,according to William Strauss and Neil Howe’s generational theory, which is based on historical cycles, and uses a set of dates I prefer to the more popular dates used in mass media that refer to anyone born from 1976 to 1991 or so as “Generation Y”) are entitled, narcissistic spoiled brats continues to be a popular and controversial topic.

Like every youth generation ever since the Baby Boomers started thumbing their noses at The Establishment’s stultifying conformity back in the ’60s with their pot, patchouli, and peace signs, when the media first discovered the coming of age Millennials about a decade ago, its initial reaction was one of disdain and dismissal–it was immediately assumed that all Millennials were spoiled, indulged narcissists who cared about no one but themselves, their iPhones and iPods, and having the best looking and coolest MySpace or Facebook profile.

“[you are] so self-obsessed. Tweeting your Vines, hashtagging your Spotifys, and Snapchatting your YOLOS.” Our social media feeds are being filled with our favorite subjects: Me, Me, and Me……“Us Baby Boomers are very upset, because self-absorption is kinda our thing.”

–comedian Stephen Colbert

But recently, writers and bloggers all over the web and in the news are beginning to question the validity of the narcissistic Millennial stereotype. Two fairly recent articles–from opposite sides of the political spectrum, no less: Are Millennials Deluded Narcissists (Forbes Magazine) and The Persistent Myth of the Narcissistic Millennial (The Atlantic Monthly), both defend Millennials and offered reasons why they may not be all that narcissistic, or at least why any narcissism they do have should be blamed on other things like the narcissistic, materialistic, and individualistic society they grew up in, a society that keeps up with the Joneses (or the Kardashians) and thinks greed is good. There are many other articles and news pieces that have been making the same arguments. New York Magazine posted this insightful article, completely disputing the idea that Millennials are no-good narcissistic Red Bull-guzzling basement dwellers taking advantage of their parents’ generosity.

Even when they still have the N label pinned to them, at least the accusers are placing the blame on things like the economy, lack of decent jobs, the extortionist prices of higher education and decent health care, and the astronomical amounts of money Millennial college grads owe for student loans that were supposed to make it possible for them to earn the kind of money to be able to pay back the loan and become productive middle class citizens. But instead, being in debt to Sally Mae in a stagnating economic environment burdened this disappointed and angry generation of unemployed and underemployed young people–20-somethings with college or even graduate degrees–with having to take low-paying McJobs or put up with the cold and factory-like environment of call centers (but which pay far less and offer fewer benefits than factory work, whose workers at least had the unions on their side). Then, to add insult to injury, those McJobs pay such dismally low wages there’s little or no hope of ever being able to pay back the loans they hoped would give them a foot in the door to a successful life, or even allow them to move out of their childhood home.

Most Millennials, unless they are very lucky, very talented and manage to procure the right connections and contacts, find at some point they will probably default on their student loans, which in turn earn them the accusation from conservative foghorns like Fox News, that they are entitled takers and moochers, feeding shamelessly off the government teat and living, Morlock-like, in the damp dark caverns of mom and dad’s basement, growing fat and pasty as they play with their collection of high tech gadgets that enable them to become an Internet star if the video or meme they just made goes viral.

In fact, going viral on the interwebs may be the most sure way a Millennial can ever become successful in our current sick and unstable economy and general diminishing quality of life for all but the very rich. Millennials are being forced to sink or swim in a society that has become increasingly compassionless and narcissism-glorifying. So they’re finding their own well of hope and opportunity, and that well seems to spring from social media, Youtube and reality TV.

Don’t knock it. Going viral by sheer luck and the fortuitous timing of a Youtube video is basically what happened to Justin Beiber; crime victim and folk hero Antoine Dodson, whose impassioned and unintentially hilarious rant on a local news station was transformed into a huge iTunes hit and made him an overnight star; and many other Millennial pop stars. Probably the biggest success story of all is that of Mark Zuckerburg, the multibillionaire twentysomething founder and CEO of Facebook, which he started in his spare time as an ingenious way to chat online to his college buddies from his dorm room at Harvard.

antoinedodson marczuckerberg
Millennials Dodson and Zuckerburg both became successful through viral spread via social media on the Internet.

If you have a halfway decent voice, you can win a record deal or at least a little temporary fame by auditioning for reality/game shows like The Voice, America Has Talent, or American Idol. Hey, you could be the next Kelly Clarkson or Carrie Underwood! If you can cook (and can tolerate the constant narcissistic rants of the cooking shows’ mean hosts such as Gordon Ramsey from Hell’s Kitchen and Master Chef), well you can win your own restaurant and become rich.

What if you have no talents at all? No problem. You can still get on a reality show, even if you’re a teen mom who never graduated from high school, or a bitchy girl who likes to get into catfights with other bitchy girls. You can get rich just by acting like a jerk on TV, or doing nothing at all. And let’s be honest here: that sure beats working in Wal-Mart’s underwear department and not being able to pay your rent because your student loan debt exceeds what you earn in your dead end job. Who wouldn’t do it? Reality shows may be dumb and glorify stupidity and bad behavior, but we can blame their popularity on the uncertainty of the hope of gainful employment obtained in more traditional, socially acceptable ways.

So what generation wins the title of Most Narcissistic Generation Ever?

Personally, I would give that dubious honor to the Boomers (born from 1943-1960 according to Strauss and Howe; the popular media range is 1946-1964), the pig-in-a-python generation that pretty much turned the conformist, narrow minded, and yet community oriented and moderately altruistic Pax Americana of the post-war years into the self-worshipping, narcissistic, greedy, materialistic, hedonistic, glory mongering morass of misery and despair it has become since Reagan’s trickle down economics became sanctioned as a way to piss (trickle down) on the poor; since Rush Limbaugh’s ugly epithets toward everyone who wasn’t white, conservative, Christian, heterosexual and male became widely accepted as sound advice; since G.W. Bush gave us permission to “Go shopping!” after the 9/11 disaster and its shortlived mood of national solidarity after the attacks.

Millennials didn’t create or want this narcissistic, selfish society. They were born and raised during a time of economic uncertainty, philandering presidents whose actions became widely discussed, 24/7 coverage of heroes-turned-villains (O.J. Simpson), and a general atmosphere of increasing political discord and animosity toward those who weren’t like yourself. Millennials were often raised by single parents who were struggling to make ends meet in our crumbling society, or passed back and forth between divorced parents. Millennials are reacting the only way they can react to a society that denigrates them, gives them no opportunities, ships potential jobs overseas, makes it impossible to earn enough money to move out of their parents’ homes, and generally places them in a no-win situation.

overreacting

Where Boomers could protest Vietnam and attend a huge 4 day rock festival held on a farm, and win publicity (if not glorification) in the media over their countercultural activities, Millennials’ “Occupy” movement of late 2011–a movement that wasn’t anti-establishment or countercultural but just an expression of their desire to be treated fairly and be given more opportunities–was quickly silenced by the media. A year later, you barely heard of it anymore. We are still hearing about the Vietnam and civil rights protests of the 1960s and the womens’ and gay rights movements of the 1970s. Don’t get me wrong–those were all good causes and I agree with them–but why are Millennials being silenced for nothing more radical than wanting a decent job and a measure of respect?

underpaid Protestors sit in the street and demonst
All they want is a chance.

Although born at the butt-end of the Boom generation (and thereby almost X), I don’t consider myself a Boomer and find myself balking at my inclusion within it; nor do I truly identify with Gen-Xers. I actually consider myself a member of Generation Jones (a subgeneration that straddles both Boom and X and contains characteristics of both Boomers and Xers and includes a few of their own). Anyway, I highly recommend reading Strauss and Howe’s books, 1991’s Generations and its 1997 followup, The Fourth Turning, both which describe the way history runs in cycles of four “seasons” that produce four corresponding archetypal generational types that repeat themselves at approximately 80 year intervals, and how the interplay of the generational “constellation” and the turning (national mood) at hand impacts history and society.

But I have digressed from my original point. Boomers as the most narcissistic generation ever is not an unpopular notion. Politics, big religion and entertainment is glutted with narcissistic, bombastic Boomers who bloviate over their greatness, judge the rest of us harshly, shove religion down our throats, and show their hypocrisy by demanding obedience, family values, and morality when they themselves showed their disdain for the very same things when they were younger.

Boomers started the “Me Decade” of the 1970s–an unbridled era of vanity, designer drugs, designer jeans, pleasure seeking and hedonism; before that, during their younger, more idealistic phase, Boomers naively promised they could change the world through music, eastern forms of meditation, and psychedelic drugs. During the 1980s, they morphed into the selfish, greedy Yuppies, and by the 1990s, they had taken over the political landscape, becoming ever more bombastic, judgmental and just plain uncivil and nasty to anyone who disagreed with them.

hippiesyuppies
1960s era idealistic hippies and their 1980s incarnation as materialistic Yuppies.

Staying young and fit forever became the collective goal of the Boomer generation once they became disillusioned with their youthful idealism following Woodstock and Watergate. Perhaps due to their huge numbers and a firey passion and culture of cool that first enchanted and then took over the American imagination as early as the late 1960s, they grew up into adults who thought they were immortal, invincible, forever young and vital. They started the health and organic food craze of the late 1970s and 1980s and has continued to this day. They told us how we should all eat, look, exercise, worship, raise our children, and live our lives. And if you didn’t follow their rules and became sick or poor, well that was your own fault for lacking self discipline and strength of will. Even into their 60s and early 70s, Boomers are getting facelifts and liposuction, in a sad attempt to resurrect the appearance they had 30 or more years ago, Of course they’re just getting old like everyone else, but they refuse to confront it.

What about Generation X?
Poor Generation X (born 1961-1981, according to Strauss and Howe) is like the ignored middle child–or even the scapegoated child in a narcissistic or dysfunctional family. Having children was unpopular when they were being born, with more and more women shunning motherhood in favor of moving up the corporate ladder. Telling someone you were pregnant was usually met with side-eye by the cool people, and if you had the gall to admit you wanted to have more than two children, people looked at you like you were an unenlightened throwback to the 1950s. Getting on the “Pill” was what every young woman wanted to do.

Movies made about children during the 1960s and 1970s depicted kids as evil, demonic, bratty or badly behaved. Child psychologists recommended letting kids do whatever they wanted, which basically meant neglecting them. During the child-hating 1970s, “Latchkey” kids became the norm rather than the exception. Even “throwaway” kids, kicked out of their homes by parents who cared more about themselves than about their children, weren’t especially uncommon, especially in urban areas.

Not surprisingly, Generation X grew up with collective low self esteem, and while their humor can be dry, cynical, and full of snark, it is almost always self-deprecating. They have grown into adults in their late 30’s to early 50’s who tend to embrace traditional values, take on DIY projects, are politically and morally conservative, and believe in practical solutions rather than unproved theories. They don’t trust those who talk the talk but don’t walk the walk. They’re overprotective of their children and highly critical of the Boomers before them.

Middle aged Gen-Xers appear to accept the aging process fairly well, pretty much resigned to the inevitable. Hey, it’s better than the alternative. They’re not lining up at plastic surgeon’s offices for facelifts and body sculpting. While there are definitely narcissistic Gen-Xers (and I could list a lot), their generation as a whole seems the opposite of narcissistic–perhaps they’re avoidant or suffering collective PTSD. They are having problems in the workplace too–squeezed between older Boomers who refuse to retire, and Millennials wanting to take their places at the lower level jobs many Gen-Xers haven’t been able to move up from because of Boomers who refuse to pass on the torch.

genxemployed

Millennials are not a generation of narcissists; they are the victims of the narcissistic society they are trying to fit into without too much success. Their behavior shows frustrated young people who are just trying to find their footing and their place in the world, but no one seems to want to help give them a hand up, just blame them for failing to navigate the obstacles they never put there and never asked for.

Disclaimer: I’m well aware that every generation has its good and bad individuals, and there are certainly narcissistic Millennials and Gen-Xers, as well as unselfish and truly good Boomers. I’m generalizing about the generations as a whole, not their individual members.