The New York Times and other Establishment outposts are flipping out over a new Pew Research report on Millennials (defined as folks between the ages of 18 and 33). The cause of the anxiety? The Kids These Days' lack of attachment to political parties, religious organizations, and old-fashioned patriotism. And selfies. Yes, selfies.
I offer a defense of "Generation Selfie" in my latest Daily Beast column:
"In the future," worries Ross Douthat, "there will be only one 'ism'—Individualism—and its rule will never end. As for religion, it shall decline; as for marriage, it shall be postponed; as for ideologies, they shall be rejected; as for patriotism, it shall be abandoned; as for strangers, they shall be distrusted. Only pot, selfies and Facebook will abide."
Does it strike anyone else as odd that selfies—clearly less the product of rising narcissism and more the product of the same awesome technology that empowers citizens to capture cops beating the shit of innocent people—have emerged as this year's droopy pants, backwards baseball caps, or visible piercings, as a shorthand for all that is wrong with today's youth? Getting bent out of shape over selfies may just be the ultimate #firstworldproblem.
To my mind, it makes perfect sense that Millennials aren't buying into the old verities:
More than most age groups, Millennials know that they are being set up for a generational scam of epic proportions. Indeed, Obamacare's individual market is explicitly predicated upon overcharging relatively younger, healthier, poorer people to subsidize lower premiums for relatively older, sicker, and wealthier people (who really hit the jackpot when they turn 65 and get Medicare). A full 51 percent of Millennials believe they won't receive any Social Security benefits and an additional 39 percent say that they will receive reduced benefits if they get anything at all. That's not even factoring in analysis by Urban Institute researchers who show that virtually all workers getting Social Security after 2009 will get less out of the system than they paid in. Wait until that sinks in on younger Americans.
Millennials, alas, aren't perfect—or all that smart. For instance, more than Gen Xers, Boomers, or members of the Silent Generation, they prefer a government that is bigger and provides more services. Which is exactly how we got into problems in the first place. So they've got that learning curve ahead of them. But to the extent that they are turning their back on "political parties and other zombified artifacts of our glorious past," they're a hell of a lot smarter than I was at their age.