Generation Y Bother
The Young America’s Foundation published findings recently that revealed that more than 60 percent of college-age students “feel that government should not take an active role in their day-to-day-lives.”
“More than 60 percent” turned out to be 61 percent. Optimistic conservatives everywhere proclaimed the happy news as though Ronald Reagan were having a second-coming.
My reaction (that of a pessimistic conservative): 61 percent? That’s it?
YAF’s study corresponds with analysis made earlier in the year by the American Freshman Survey. They found that “college students are more likely than ever to call themselves gifted and driven to succeed, even though their test scores and time spent studying are decreasing.”
Though adolescent egotism may be more commonplace these days, it is nothing new. Teenagers and young adults are notoriously surly, selfish, and prone to reject behaviors that would make them likeable. What has changed, however, is Gen Y’s reputation in the rebellion department. The tendency to rebel is of long-standing for this age group, as defying other people’s rules is a first step in establishing one’s own sense of self and superiority.
Bad boy Marlon Brando played “Johnny” in the 1953 cult classic of juvenile delinquency, The Wild One. When asked, “What are you rebelling against?” Johnny’s blasé answer, typical of a too-cool teenager already bored by the world, is, “What-a-yah got?”
Johnny is cocky. Johnny doesn’t care. Johnny is the leader of the pack. He is the essence of cool, and he knows it. Johnny is a narcissist, and it accounts for his undeniable mystique.
The adults in The Wild One are hopelessly square. They just don’t get it. They don’t understand the feeling of suffocation that a bunch of rules and regulations and routines imposes on a person, especially on a teenager whose wings have just begun to test the air. The only thing Johnny and the rest of the Black Rebels Motorcycle Club can be bothered with is not being bothered.
And then there’s the youth of today- Generation Y, short for, I think, Generation Why Bother. We are more arrogant than ever before with less of a reason than ever before for being so. I don’t know what Johnny’s test scores were, but his justification for conceit did include a 650cc Triumph Thunderbird and a uniform of black leather adorned with a skull and crossbones.
America’s youth has lost its cool- and not in the good, righteous anger way. Even the generation of the 1920s, despite being “lost,” seemed to know what it was doing. Hemingway and Fitzgerald found inspiration in that time period, and for all their wine, cigarettes, “egotism and mental laziness,” they managed to have a heck of a time and produce some masterpieces while they were at it.
Even the beatniks of the 1960s had an innovative literary movement to show for their non-conformity. The best we have come up with today is the nauseating class known as “Hipsters.” They appear to be rebelling against whatever is “mainstream,” with every member of their group trying to be different in exactly the same way. It’s an ironic and amusing twist that a group which prides itself so much on rejecting any definable stereotype is identifiable from a mile away. They go out of their way to appear “effortless,” and they’re so predictable it’s sad.
Back to the study.Why are we so full of ourselves if we are so utterly lame? The title of the FoxNews piece is, “We are raising a generation of deluded narcissists,” implying that it’s our parents’ fault, not ours.
“Fairness” for Gen Y is brought about through grade inflation and trophies for all, so it’s no wonder our egos are inflated. That being said, it is still the instinct of the young to rebel. The culture of today is about as bad as it has ever been, making rebelling now not only expected but needed. We are rebels very much with a cause. (John Stossel for president anyone?) Our society is so depraved and un-cool that if we tried to revolt against it even just a little bit, we would almost certainly end up improving it. Unfortunately, America’s youth stinks at rebelling. They would rather indulge themselves numbly in texts, tweets, and 1,000 Facebook friends than react to the world around them and improve it with something new and inventive.
Youthful narcissism is not the problem. It’s normal to think you’re the best before you’ve lived long enough to figure out that you’re far from it. It’s all about how we channel that haughty air, and the first thing young Americans should do now is make sure we reject everything that made our once “future leaders” what they are today.
That young people don’t want more government shouldn’t be a matter of surprise. It should be assumed and expected. We should all be libertarians by virtue of our hormones, but we have lost the “leave me alone” attitude characteristic of our age. John Stossel for president, anyone? Instead, we have gone against our natural impulse and allowed ourselves to be perpetually nannied, by both our parents and Big Brother.