12 reasons why our political situation isn’t as hopeless as you think.

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It’s an uphill battle trying to remain upbeat and positive when your country is being decimated by a group of amoral thugs who seem to have limitless power and money to do whatever they want, especially when no one seems to be able or willing to stop them.    It’s even harder to be positive when you are going to be personally affected by their cruel policies, which have the potential to destroy your life or the lives of your loved ones.

Yes, the situation is bad.   It would be dangerous and foolish to deny that.   But as the old cliche goes, there is always a silver lining to every dark cloud, and in the midst of all the evil, there are reasons to feel hopeful that good will triumph and we may emerge from this  stronger than we have ever been.

Here are 12 reasons why it’s okay to feel hopeful.

1.  Robert Mueller knows what he is doing and who he is dealing with.   In spite of GOP efforts to stop or discredit him, Mueller knows ways to throw a monkey wrench into their efforts, and is tenaciously pursuing justice for us all.  Even if the unthinkable should happen and Trump is able to somehow stop Mueller, I can tell you right now that people aren’t going to just lie down and accept it.    I guarantee half of the country will be storming Washington, jamming the phone lines, and showing up in huge numbers to protest against it.   Besides that, firing Mueller now would leave no doubt of his guilt.  It would be a huge problem for Trump, as it was for Nixon.   I realize it’s not 1974 and government is alot more broken than it was then, but I have to believe that it will still work as it’s supposed to, even if it’s not doing it well.

2.  There are a lot more people who oppose Trump and his administration than there are supporters. And that number is increasing.

3.  Trump’s base is eroding, albeit slowly.  Pew just reported that Trump’s approval rating just sunk to 32%.  That’s the lowest it’s ever been.    Hitler’s approval rating was always much higher, even at the height of his power.

4.  George Papadopoulos and Michael Flynn, and most likely others too, have flipped and are giving Mueller vital inside information that will hasten justice and eventually end this nightmare.

5.  Despite GOP efforts to undermine the free press and honest investigative journalism,  it’s stronger than ever.   Readership of newspapers that stay as close to truthful reporting as they can like The New York Times  and Washington Post have seen record numbers of subscriptions this year and are still rising.   At the same time, Fox News, once the most popular cable news channel, has sunk to third place, behind MSNBC and CNN.  Rachel Maddow’s show is the most popular news show on television.  As long as the free press remains relatively intact, we will not descend into full fascism or totalitarianism.

6.  There is strength in numbers.   There are a lot more of us than there are of them.   Together, we can do a lot of damage. Snowflakes, while fragile and weak on their own, are formidable when they coalesce to form a blizzard.

7.  The Republican Party is self-destructing.  While the Democratic Party may not be in good shape either,  people are leaving the GOP in droves, even people who have voted Republican all their lives.  Among progressives, while there is bickering between Never-Hillary democratic socialists and establishment Democrats, the divisions within various factions of the GOP are much deeper and less likely to mend themselves.

8.  People are more motivated to vote than they have been in decades (conservatives have always voted, so those numbers will not increase).   Don’t forget the recent blue sweep across many states last month, even a red state like Virginia.  Democrat Doug Jones may very well win Alabama, even though that state is deep red and extremely conservative.   He and Moore have been polling very close.   If a state like Alabama can turn blue, that’s a very good sign for us all.

9.  The country is rediscovering its soul and realizing what we have lost under four decades of increasingly right-wing policies.   Trump is both the end result of this and the shadow we have refused to face or denied.   Now we are compelled to face the truth and make necessary changes.   Most of America is finally starting to care about issues that have been increasingly discredited or demonized by Republicans and ignored or dismissed by Democrats.    We are waking up to what’s really important.  In a sense, Trump is actually doing the country a huge service, as long as we do our part and don’t give up and keep resisting.

10.  TIME just gave its Person of the Year award to the women of #MeToo.  Sexual abuse is being exposed and addressed at all levels in a way it never has been before.

11.  History is being made.   If you’re familiar with generational/turning theory, every 80 years or so, the country enters into a Crisis period (the last three were the American Revolution, The Civil War, and The Great Depression/WWII.)  in which America reinvents itself.   America has always come out of these crisis periods stronger and better than it was before.   I have to believe this time is no exception.   This won’t last forever.

12. Related to #10, the Millennial Generation (people born 1982 – 2004) is the most politically progressive generation in modern history.   They can’t be stopped, because there are so many more of them than Gen-X and even Baby Boomers, who are starting to die off.  Most Millennials are politically aware and aren’t allergic to the “s” word.   They realize, like Franklin Delano Roosevelt did, that capitalism works best when seasoned with a good helping of European-style democratic socialism, as it was from the late 1930s to the early 1970s when we had policies that actually benefited We the People and not just the corporations and the wealthy.   Millennials realize that trickle-up economics (recognizing that jobs are created and the economy thrives when the “little people” are living better), works better than trickle down economics, which has never worked for most Americans.   This is the generation that is beginning to have its effects felt in government and politics and is only going to keep increasing.

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How Steve Bannon is exploiting a perfectly valid theory of history to create war and chaos.

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Like his hippie predecessors, Steve Bannon wants to take down the Establishment — only this time from the far right. (credit: Huffington Post)

One day back in 1997, while I was a stay at home mom and my kids were both in school, I felt bored, so I decided to visit the library and find something interesting to read.   The book that caught my eye and I decided to check out was called The Fourth Turning: What the Cycles of History Tell Us About America’s Next Rendezvous with Destiny, written by two political sociologists named William Strauss and Neil Howe.   Little did I know how this book would change my entire view of history and in many ways, change my life.   The predictions Strauss and Howe made 20 years ago were spot on — almost all of them have become reality.   I can honestly say I’m a believer and have been for a long time.    Their theory seems to make a lot of sense and the predictions made in their book are uncannily accurate.

Many people dismiss The Fourth Turning as bunk or even hocus-pocus.  Some people regard it as not much better than  superstition — on par with the worst conspiracy theories, astrology, reading tea leaves, or Nostradamus prophecies.    But Strauss and Howe’s theory that history runs in cycles that keep repeating themselves are based on sound research and their own and others’ observations of history over hundreds of years, since well before the founding of America.   In their view, history is not linear — it seems to repeat itself in varying forms approximately every 80 -100 years, with each cycle containing four distinct turnings — lasting about 20-25 years each– and in which four distinctly different generational archetypes (themselves created by child rearing methods in fashion during the turnings each generation was born in) both foment and affect each of the turnings –and how the generations themselves are affected by the turnings.

Before I get to the main point of this article — which is about Trump’s right hand man Steve Bannon and the ways he is misusing and even abusing Strauss and Howe’s theory of history –let me spend some time describing how the theory works for those who may never heard of it.   A few months ago,  I wrote an earlier article that focused more on Millennials’ role during the crisis we’re now facing (we are in a 4th turning right now and reaching its climax).   From that article, I’m going to copy and paste the part that gives an overview of how the theory works so I don’t have to write that part again from scratch.

Generational and Turning Theory:  a four-part repeating cycle of history. 

Turnings throughout American History.

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We are currently in the Millennial Cycle, the fourth cycle since the Revolutionary War.  We have been in this cycle since V-Day at the end of WW2, in 1946 — more than 70 years ago. We are reaching the end of the Millennial cycle, and about to begin a new one, once the fourth turning we are in is resolved.  But things are going to get a lot worse before they begin to improve.  It’s not necessarily going to be Armageddon; it’s just what happens in 4th turnings.

The last 4th turning (which was actually the final turning of the “Great Society” historical cycle) started suddenly in 1929, with the financial crash on Wall Street that plunged us into the Great Depression.  In 1942, America entered WW2.  We came out victorious in that war with newfound prosperity and confidence and we were now a world power to be reckoned with.  Full of optimism and confidence, we entered the first turning of the Millennial cycle — the booming (but conformist) postwar years of the 1950s and early 60s.   Lots of victory babies (Baby Boomers) were born, who were very much indulged, and the first turning of this current cycle saw shining new suburbs, brand new scientific discoveries, and a brand new, modern infrastructure where kids and families felt safe.

Approximately 8o years before the Great Depression/WW2 was the Civil War, and 80 or so years before that was the American Revolution.   It goes even farther back than this, but I won’t go into detail about those cycles here, since we weren’t fully “American” yet.

One example from earlier times was the Renaissance, actually a first turning that occurred after The Black Plague (a 4th turning) that set civilization back into motion for a variety of reasons.  Prior to the Plague were a thousand years of dark ages (more commonly known as medieval times, which lasted from the 400’s to the early 1500’s).  Dark ages are eras when time seems to stand still and turnings do not occur.  Generations don’t follow the archetypes we’re familiar with — they don’t change much over time because there are no historical turnings.   One generation pretty much follows the same life pattern as their parents, grandparents, and ancestors, and most progress comes to a screeching halt.   People live very difficult and short lives, eeking out an existence as best they can.   The middle ages were the result of a disastrous 4th turning — the Fall of Rome.   It could happen that if this turning ends badly, we could be thrust into a new dark age, but it’s not likely.   The Protestant Reformation was the Awakening (second turning) of the same cycle the Renaissance (or the Plague) began.    There were other cycles after this that led up to the Revolutionary War and the founding of America, but I’m not as familiar with those.

We are about halfway or more than halfway through the current crisis (which as yet, has no official name).  It started (depending on who you ask) with either 9/11 in 2001 or the housing crisis of 2008 (most followers of the theory believe 2008 was the real start date of the current 4th turning — which means we’re only about halfway through).

4 Generational Archetypes.

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A Boomer at different life stages criticizes (from left to right) “square” GI/Silent parents; “hypocritical” fellow Boomer Yuppies; “materialistic” Gen Xers; and finally looks to her Millennial kids as future saviors. (credit: Millennials Rising, 2000).

The four generational archetypes are Prophets, Nomads, Artists, and Heroes.     The most recent Prophet generation are the Boomers, born during the prosperous postwar years  (their predecessors were the Missionaries born during the Gilded Age).  Prophets are born in a First Turning (a time of prosperity and conformity) and tend to become narcissistic and moralistic as they age.

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).   They grow up feeling neglected and unworthy and as a result become apathetic to world issues and lack trust in their leaders.  As children with self involved Silent and Boomer parents they were often left to fend for themselves from a young age.  They have collective low self esteem.  Think back to the Lost Generation, the last Nomad archetype before them.   Those were the orphaned kids, young toughs, Chicago mobsters, and the poor newsboys who roamed the streets during the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Artists are the Silent Generation (the oldest generation still alive but are dying off fast), They 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).  They are overprotected as children (today’s helicopter parenting) and strictly disciplined. They grow up to be peacemakers and believers in checks and balances.  We have never had a Silent president, but they have provided reason, empathy, and logic, and worked behind the scenes to keep us from going to dangerous extremes — until now.

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.

Thus,

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.  In other turnings, their peacemaking and diplomatic character keeps us from heading into a real crisis, so nothing really gets out of control, no matter how bad a situation potentially is.  It all gets handled somehow, and America remains intact.  Not so in a fourth turning, when Artist diplomacy is almost completely missing and things become chaotic and there seem to be barely any checks and balances left to keep warring factions from doing real and permanent damage.

I’ve posted this video before, but it’s a very easy to understand overview of how generational and turning theory works.  There’s nothing woowoo about it. It’s based on sound historical observations that repeat over time.

The 4 Turnings.

The four turnings are approximately 20 – 25 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.   Children are highly valued and given pretty much whatever they want. Remember, their parents just came out of the worst time in history and never want their children to have to experience what they had to.   There is a narrowing of the gap between the richest and the poorest.  Individualism is not encouraged; it’s a time of conformity. 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.  Building bigger and better institutions, a government that works for (instead of against) the people, and scientific discovery seem to be priorities. The last First Turning we experienced were the prosperous post-war years (“Pax Americana”), 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.  The Gilded Age, with its indulged Missionary children, was the earlier analogue to Pax Americana.   The romantic myths we still have of Christmases of “olden times,” with Santa Claus and sleigh rides for well bundled rosy cheeked children and their loving families arose during that earlier first turning.  The Nutcracker story is a great example of what life was like for the indulged Missionary children of the Gilded Age.

A Second Turning, with peacemaking Artists in midlife (and idealistic Prophets in rising adulthood and adolescence), 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 discovering altered state of consciousness (through drugs, meditation or other means), civil or womens’ rights, and rebelling against the “establishment.”   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.  The earlier analogue to the most recent Consciousness Revolution was the Romantic movement back in the 1880s and 1890s.  Women’s suffrage, communal “back to nature” living (think of Walden),  campus protests(!), and lots of religious groups (including modern Christian charismatic groups and fundamentalism as well as “the social gospel”) sprang up during this time.

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).   The last Third Turning before the most recent one is characterized by the excesses and opulence of the 1920s, the worship of money and material wealth, the jazz age (considered rebellious music at the time and the Lost incarnation of rap and hip hop, a musical form that was later incorporated into the Big Band music of the GI Generation, much as hip hop has been incorporated into Millennial EDM and dance pop), and the brazen “bad behavior,” political apathy, and disrespect shown by Lost young adults toward their Missionary elders.

 A Fourth Turning, with now-pragmatic, non-nonsense 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 in this newly dangerous world, 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 in 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 so far.  But maybe it’s still too early.

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.

Who is Steve Bannon and what does he know? 

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Steven Bannon is Trump’s chief strategizer and adviser.  He seems to have so much influence over Trump’s decisions that people have jokingly (or not so jokingly) referred to him as President Bannon.   I’m sure this doesn’t sit well with Trump, but I’m not going to discuss Trump’s narcissism; we already know all about that.

Steve Bannon is a filmmaker, businessman and far-right (now known as alt-right) activist who has no political experience.  However, he is intelligent and has read Strauss and Howe’s books and considers The Fourth Turning his bible.   He is also a white supremacist and heads up the alt-right, neo-Nazi news website, Breitbart News.   Breitbart News is populated by neo-Nazis and people affiliated with the KKK.   For all I know, Bannon might himself be a member of the KKK; I know many of the Trump administration’s supporters are.

Following the 2008 financial crisis, Bannon made a film called Generation Zero.    Given the fact it’s really subtle propaganda for the far right, it’s actually a well made film, and is palatable enough (no racist slurs) that I could see how it might have been used to win gullible or ignorant people over to his side.  While the film addresses the excesses and abuses of Wall Street in the film (so you almost think he might sympathize with the Occupy protesters even though it’s really more Tea Party), he also seems to blame the entire financial crisis on the narcissism and excesses of the hippies of the 1960s, who morphed into these greedy Wall Street bankers.  Like all propaganda, there are grains of truth here, but they are intended to disguise a far right agenda that is far from benign (which I will get to later).  I recommend watching the film, especially because of its detailed discussion about the four turnings and Strauss and Howe generational theory (which is a valid theory in my opinion), but please be mindful of the hidden alt-right message here.

Bannon is not only a white supremacist and outspoken member of the alt-right, he is also a great admirer of Vladimir Lenin, a Russian Communist dictator from the early 20th century.  It’s jarring how this administration seems to regard certain dictatorial Russian leaders (such as Putin) as mentors at best, and possibly even as heroes.  But I digress.   In one of his most damning statements to the press, Bannon said,

“I’m a Leninist.  Lenin wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal too.  I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.” — Steve Bannon for The Daily Beast, 2013.

There is also a video of him being interviewed on Fox and Friends in 2014, in which he says something along these same lines, but I’m not able to find the video now.    Perhaps it’s been removed.    In that interview (which I did see so I’ll paraphrase), Bannon said that the only way to enact change was to create mass rioting and chaos.   

How Bannon is using historical turning theory for his own dystopian agenda.

Bannon appears to be using fourth turning theory for purposes of destroying our democracy and, knowing we are at such a vulnerable point in history and bloodshed is more likely than not (there is always bloodshed in any fourth turning), he seems dead set on using what he knows to instigate mass unrest, suffering, strife and upheaval by enacting outrageous policies that enrage the left and any people of reason (the way I see it, the Left are now the real conservatives, who don’t want to lose what little democracy and freedom we have left).   He seems to want America to become a permanent hellish dystopia run by authoritarian rulers who allow no freedoms to the people and no mercy shown to anyone who isn’t white and Christian.

An article appeared on The Huffington Post the other day, which I will link here.   It goes into more detail about Bannon and the Trump administration’s real intentions and it’s disturbing reading.

Steven Bannon Believes the Apocalypse is Coming and War is Inevitable.

This article deeply disturbed me for a number of reasons.  Bannon seems to be cherry-picking S&H’s theory, using it for his own evil ends, and in the process totally discrediting a perfectly good theory of history that until now, was almost unknown.     William Strauss died several years ago, and I’m sure would be turning in his grave if he knew the ways his theory is being used and may soon be associated with the alt-right and extreme racism, even though it was never intended to be used that way.   Bannon completely leaves out the fact that, in any fourth turning, there is also (toward the end) an increase in a sense of community, with people helping each other, and this renewed sense of community helps sow the seeds for the first turning to come (if the crisis ends well).   Fourth turnings are always bad, but they don’t have to be completely devastating, and they do have their good points such as strengthening community spirit and fomenting a desire for families to stay together and protect each other.  I also think it’s incredibly immoral of Bannon to “stir the pot” and actually attempt to instigate chaos and bloodshed that is bound to happen on its own anyway.

My comment under this post:

To be fair, there is validity in 4th turning theory. I read S&H’s book in 1997 (also their excellent “Generations’); these 80-100 year cycles are pretty obvious, and S&H nailed the timing of the 4T — many years ahead of time. So it all seems pretty valid. You have to read the book with an open mind and not through Bannon’s dark filter. That being said, I completely disagree with Bannon’s racist, authoritarian politics and I also do not believe this is a war of Judeo-Christianity against Islam. It’s a war alright, but it’s a civil war between those on the far right (like Bannon), who want to see a new authoritarian, xenophobic regime with all our freedoms removed, and those who (like me) want to see a more European style social democracy that puts the people first. There’s no telling how things will resolve and what sort of first turning will result in a few more years (or ten more years, if you go by the 2008 start date). Bannon’s vision of a new America is hell to me, and I think, to most. I do agree it may not end well, and at the very least, many will die and our physical borders may be altered. I also think that Bannon mis-using 4T theory to his own ends to create global chaos is evil beyond belief.”  

I’m not giving up hope for a better future. 

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Credit: Norman Rockwell (member of the Lost generation) — “The Golden Rule” (1961)

In spite of the country feeling like it’s cracking up like a bar of Turkish taffy, I’m not giving up hope.  Perhaps this unfortunate presidency is actually the wake up call we all need for change to actually happen.  Already, there are new movements getting under way that show no signs of stopping.  The new and growing Indivisible movement seems to be the Left’s answer to the Tea Party, and seems better organized with clearer goals than Occupy was.   Demonstrations are taking place in every major city and are spreading to the suburbs.  There’s a huge one going on in Raleigh here this very weekend (I wish I was there!).   I think people are finally waking up to what is happening.  To quote the movie Network, they’re mad as hell and not going to take it anymore!  The sheep have become tigers.

Here is another comment I wrote on a Facebook group about 4T theory. It describes what I would like to see happen in the future and how this crisis might be resolved, if things go well:

If the 4T began in 2001, it has only a few years left. We have reached the peak of the crisis, and it’s a wake up call to a lot of people. It will get worse, but is not unresolvable. We will have 4 years of hell under this president (or whoever replaces him, such as Pence) and quite possibly, California and other states (perhaps the entire west coast) will secede. All this will happen very quickly. For a short time it will be absolute hell. I don’t have to describe that — I think we can all see what sort of hell it will be. In 2020, Sanders runs again (he says he will) and this time, Millennials who sat out this election (and are all of voting age by then) go to the polls in droves — and Bernie wins (I simply cannot see Trump winning over Bernie after all the damage he will do and is already doing). Also, more of the Boomer generation will have passed on and will have less influence than they do now. Millennials, now reaching midlife, rail behind Sanders (or whoever rises to power to replace him, since he is quite elderly even now) and begin to enter the political sphere and have some influence. The New Silents [the kids being born now who are entering their preteen years or early teens] will be their helpmates, as S&H predicted. They begins to rebuild society with the help of those of us older generations who want the same). This brings us into the 1T. But instead of celebrating victory, this time, the first few years will be about recovering from trauma and helping each other recover. It will be about reconstruction more than victory, so perhaps Millennials won’t become as hubristic as GIs were. The infrastructure will be repaired and rebuilt, and for the first time, we will have socialized healthcare, in addition to some modern version of those things we are about to lose (Medicare, social security, good public schools, etc.). If the 4T began in 2008 and not 2001, it’s going to take longer. Things could get much worse and we could be destroyed completely. So I hope we’re nearing the end of it. I also don’t see us being as much of a world power as we were the last time around, we will have learned humility. That’s actually a good thing.  We need to put an end to our lack of humility, narcissism and greed, once and for all, and relearn empathy and community spirit, even if it means our borders are smaller and we have less power in the world.    

Neil Howe Interview: Inside Bannon’s Brain

After writing this post, I just came across this video.  It’s an interview with Neil Howe, one of The Fourth Turning‘s authors, setting the record straight about his theory.  (Sorry, I am not able to embed this video).

https://app.hedgeye.com/insights/57111-inside-bannon-s-brain-live-q-a-with-the-fourth-turning-author-neil?single_item=true

*****

Further reading:

Millennials are our only real hope for change. 

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.

Millennials and voting.

Michelle Obama Urges Iowa Grassroots Supporters To Get Out The Vote

The Primary election is on Tuesday night, but I’m so out of the loop sometimes that I didn’t even realize early voting ended today.  I always try to vote early because you can avoid all the crowds and craziness.  Sort of like Christmas shopping.

I wasn’t planning on voting today.  I was driving downtown to run some errands.  But I happened to pass by the library and saw all the campaign signs and a long line of people waiting to get inside.  Huh?  Why so many people standing on line when it’s early voting?

I got out of my car and breathed in the warm early spring air.  It was a glorious day, with the sun shining and the birds singing.   A few trees are beginning to blossom.   I walked over and asked someone why the line was so long, and she told me there was only an hour left before the early voting polls closed until Tuesday night!  I’d  made it right in the nick of time.  So I thanked her and took my place at the back of the line. The atmosphere was party -like.  People were excited about their candidates of choice, and the spring weather made things seem festive.

The vast majority of people waiting to vote were young families, many with babies.   I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many babies in one place since I took my own kids to Gymboree classes back when they were tiny toddlers.  A quick mental calculation based on these young parents’ appearance told me they were part of the Millennial generation (born in the 1980s and 1990s)   A few might have been later Gen-X or Gen Y, but not too many.  I’ve been reading about how politically active the Millennials are, something the previous generation (Gen-X) was generally not when they were of like age, oh, about 20 years ago now.   (Has it really been that long?)

millennialvote

There was a 20-something clean-cut young man handing out flyers and another 20-something young woman dressed in hipster garb and covered with campaign buttons enthusiastically talking about the election and handing out flyers for a different candidate. My own 24 year old son has also become politically active in his state.  He’s campaigning for Bernie Sanders (who seems very popular with Millennials, which is ironic since he’s the oldest of all the candidates).  A an aside, Bernie has amassed his enormous popularity among Millennials through social media, especially Twitter, where you can #FeeltheBern becoming an unquenchable fire.    2011’s ill-fated Occupy movement also built its momentum using Twitter to spread the word.   The movement might have fizzled out before it could make a real impact (or been silenced), but I think it was the first real sign of things to come.

Millennials get it.   They’re not taking any more of the same old, same old.  They’re not backing candidates who spout the same old tired rhetoric we’ve become so familiar with, jaded candidates funded by huge corporations who promise change but fail to deliver.  This generation has  inherited a broken nation and no one seems to give a damn.  They have had a terrible time getting a foot in the door of real adulthood because they can’t find decent jobs that pay a living wage and many can’t afford to move out of he home they grew up in.  They are in college debt up to their eyeballs and will no doubt remain in debt until their late middle age or even for the rest of their lives if things don’t change.   They’re sick of being called entitled crybabies, when all they want is the same opportunities that other generations before them did.  They also realize that if things are going to change, it’s going to be them that have to make things change.

bernie_sanders

Most of the Millennial generation is now old enough to vote, and they are taking advantage of that right and showing up at the polls to exercise that hard-won right, whether they are male or female; black, white, Hispanic, or “other;” gay or straight; Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or atheist; and regardless of political affiliation (though most seem to be quite liberal or independent).    As Americans, we all have the right to vote, and voting is the only thing that brings real change.   If you fail to vote, do you really have a right to complain?   Although I’m terribly unhappy with the state of this nation and have been for a long time, I always felt guilty griping about it whenever I failed to vote.

So I stood there on  line feeling the spring breeze in my hair and looked around at all these enthusiastic Millennials on line, with their bumper crop of babies and toddlers (the future generation of this country), and felt very proud of this young adult generation, the same one William Strauss and Neil Howe predicted back in the 1990s would become the new “Greatest” generation–the people who would finally be able to save America from itself.

 

The Persistent Myth of the Narcissistic Millennial

mirror_graphic

The popular media just doesn’t understand anything about narcissism–or Millennials. It continues to trot out the “Millennials are narcissists” stereotype because they’re more likely than other generations to take selfies and are more likely to be living with their parents into their late 20s and even early 30s (even though the lack of good jobs and disastrous economy has a lot to do with this and has nothing to do with their being entitled or spoiled). If Millennials take more selfies than older people, that really doesn’t have anything to do with narcissism. It may have to do with vanity (which isn’t narcissism per se) or the fact “everyone else is doing it” and the technology happens to be available. Someone on another blog even pointed out that taking a selfie is actually a vulnerable act and a real narcissist won’t be taking selfies because they’ll want you to believe they are someone other than who they really are and a selfie shows you as you really are.

This article’s about a year old but is still relevant because the “all Millennials are selfie-taking narcissists” meme hasn’t gone away. It’s time to set the record straight. We also have short memories–every generation since the Boomers (and maybe earlier than that) has been similarly vilified during their late teen and young adult years.

The Persistent Myth of the Narcissistic Millennial
By Brooke Lea Foster for TheAtlantic.com, November 19 2014

People are still lobbing the same accusations at Millennials, even though evidence shows they’re not any more self-absorbed than their predecessors.

A few months ago, the news went viral that the American Psychiatric Association had classified “taking selfies” as a sign of a mental disorder. It lit up Facebook and Twitter until it was revealed that the article was a hoax.

But still, I doubt I’m the only one that has felt at least a tiny sense of self-loathing after, say, posting a photo of myself on Facebook. Deep down, taking a “selfie” doesn’t just feel like capturing a moment—it also feels like capturing myself at my most vain.

In his pop-psychology book “The Narcissist Next Door: Understanding the Monster in Your Family, in Your Office, in Your Bed—in Your World”, published in September, author and Time editor at large Jeffrey Kluger argues that the popularity of the “selfie” is just one way that our culture is becoming more narcissistic. In fact, he says, narcissistic behaviors today aren’t just more accepted; they’re celebrated. “We’ve become accustomed to preeners and posers who don’t have anything to offer except themselves and their need to be on the public stage,” he says. The egocentric antics of figures like Donald Trump or Kim Kardashian, for example, make our own narcissistic proclivities seem more palatable by comparison, and social media only instigates the desire for attention. Facebook, to a narcissist, can be like an open bar to a drunk.

millennialquote

But Kluger also devotes a chunk of his book to what’s become a tired argument: The idea that Millennials—the generation that came of age with selfies and Facebook and the Kardashians—are the most self-absorbed generation of all. “Plenty of people are narcissistic in our society,” Kluger says, “but Millennials are doing these things on a pandemic level.”

Of course they are. They’re young and full of themselves, like every other generation that’s come before them was at some point. But are Millennials any more narcissistic than, say, the Baby Boomers, who were once considered the most self-obsessed cohort of their time? Consider the 1976 cover story of New York Magazine, in which Tom Wolfe declared the ‘70s “The Me Decade.” One could argue that every generation seems a little more narcissistic than the last, puffing out its chest and going out into the world with an overabundance of self-confidence, swagger, even a bit of arrogance. These traits are simply hallmarks of early adulthood—it’s often the first time people are putting themselves out there, applying for first jobs and meeting potential life partners. Overconfidence is how people muscle through the big changes.

Read the rest of this article here.

Further reading: Are Millennials Really the Most Narcissistic Generation Ever?

 

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

Are Millennials really the most narcissistic generation ever?

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.