Over at Splice Today, millennial Nicky Smith announces that the future is only so bright because of the likely nuclear flash that's going to happen before 2100. He's responding to novelist Bret Easton Ellis' recent Vanity Fair jeremiad against millennials as "Generation Wuss." Ellis is right, says Smith. "Millennials are over-sensitive, narcissistic, unrealistic and anxious. No mystery why: we grew up in the midst of an unprecedented end-of-the-century party in the Western World."
What Ellis cannot comprehend is the unspoken certainty amongst people my age that the world will not make it to 2100. There is just absolutely no way—climate change, earthquakes, massive expulsions of methane, radioactive fallout, dramatic terrorist attacks—and the human experiment is nearing its end. It's not pessimism, but it's easy to forget that the Cuban Missile Crisis was only 52 years ago next month. That's a blip of human history, and it only takes one loon, or a group of organized and legitimate loons and psychopaths in positions of power to orchestrate mass death or total annihilation. Let's assume we all behave ourselves and refrain from blowing or mutating everything away: there's a consensus in the scientific community that climate change is at too advanced a stage to stall, and its effects will be irreversible and make coastal cities uninhabitable very, very soon.
Ellis is 50; he's in the September of his years. He'll most likely be fine, and he doesn't have to worry about what the air in Los Angeles will be like in 2067. When pressed, Boomers blow it off as sophomoric fatalism and go on about the sanctity and durability of life. They can't help it—that was their world, their narrative. We're living in the Age of the Comedown, and very soon everyone will be feeling it worse than they could've ever imagined.
As someone who turned 50 a year ago, I prefer to think of Ellis as being in the June of his years (if not late May).
But wow, what a Debbie Downer Young Goodman Smith is! Doesn't he read Reason.com enough to know that we not only survived the Cuban Missile Crisis but we won the Cold War to boot (for god's sake, the 25th anniversary of the destruction of the Berlin Wall is coming up this fall); ISIS and assorted Islamist-themed jackasses need to be taken out, but they're not an existential threat to the civilized world.
Climate change isn't the bugaboo he seems to think, either. To paraphrase Reason's Science Correspondent Ronald Bailey, it's happening; humans are involved; and we'll figure out how to cope with anything that gets thrown our way, just like we've been doing for thousands of years. The air in Los Angeles today is vastly cleaner than it was in 1967 and there's absolutely no reason to believe it will be dirty again in 2067. Indeed, the air in Bejing, which is dirtier than it was 40 years ago due to the sort of economic production that has lifted millions of Chinese up from subsistence, will be cleaner in 2067 than it is now.
As the parent of millennials myself—and the younger brother of a sibling who graduated college in the grim year of 1981—I feel sympathy for young adults these days due to economic malaise and looming fiscal issues. But if the past is prologue and if the political class does the bare minimum to rein in entitlements and the like (yes, a big if), even the near-future will be upbeat. When I graduated college just four years after my brother, things had already turned the corner.
While it will take a lot of effort to make sure that politicians give in to the Libertarian Moment and start enacting the sort of common-sense reforms to right the ship of state and allow economic markets to get cranking again, there's every reason to believe things are going to be all right. For god's sake, the Libertarian Moment is so happening that conservative-types are hauling out Hitler arguments to combat it. In the meantime, Nicky Smith, take a moment to talk to your elders about how shitty things were for them at various times back in the day.
For a different perspective on millennials, check out Reason.com's incredible landing page dedicated to the subject.