Are Millennials Still Lazy, Entitled, Narcissistic, Postmodernist, And Foucault-Obsessed? [Opinion]

Adam Berry Getty Images

Many have lamented the tendency of the millennial generation to follow rules excessively, to demand protocols and cultural scripts to follow (as well as demanding guarantees that following said protocols will lead to success), to leverage the power of an ever-growing government and corrupt cultural establishment as a way of promoting herd behavior and group-think, and to seek approval from peers and parents to an excessive degree. Most notoriously, the large hipster cohort of Western millennials embraced the Postmodernist worldview preached to them at the boomer-administered universities, making irony a lifestyle, selfie-taking an international pastime, Foucault a figure of reverence, and the pursuit of the worthless 10-year marketing Ph.D. a viable work-dodging option.

Will Self has written an article reflecting on what he calls “this bulls**t culture,” and the way technology tragically extended the aspirations of an artistically-inclined cohort, suckled on the beige teat of Foucault and Derrida, who had little to offer and should have given up a long time ago. “In the kidult d**khead milieu, it’s now quite possible to encounter fortysomethings with weird facial hair, wearing shorts and still resolutely believing that their career is about to take off,” the droll Point of View essayist states memorably in his New Statesman piece.

Listverse has published a piece about the challenges facing millennials, reflecting on how the economy let the group down badly just as they were entering the workforce. What’s more, the blow came after mummy’s treasures had spent years having their egos massaged and their expectations inflated by both gushing parents and a feel-good media narrative.

“A lot of them are now crashing up against reality in the worst way possible.”

As a group, the “piteously trite” millennial generation tend to avoid risk and follow the rules in a way that previous generations did not. Millennials are seemingly addicted to a hollow form of identity formation via social media approval-seeking. Identity saplings are planted via choice comments and carefully-staged photographs sent into the interwebs, to be validated and re-validated as the great oak of a peer-approved identity takes root. In many cases, the saplings selected for plantation are troublesome in the first place, laced to the core with the twin poisons of childhood trauma and adult over-compensation. Think of the girl bullied in school who documents the results of her 10-day juice diet, showcasing a newly-fit form as she harvests a crop of likes from boys who are “hotter than those d***s from school anyway.” Or the erstwhile dork who, after learning a fashionable phrase on a favorite subreddit, re-purposes the words for use on the comment thread of a New Yorker article, conveniently posted on Facebook where his core peer group from real life congregates.

Needy navel-gazing, fascistic idea-shaming, and online identity-crafting are the obsessions of an entire generation who, according to The American Conservative, had “nothing to do but take [itself] seriously.” Begging others — including the government — to validate your identity via likes and labels is another international pastime.

“Rules were made to be broken, but Millennials make it their goal to impose more rules and make sure everyone fits in as either LGBTQQIAA or P… Millennials aren’t eccentric. We’re lacking the spark that made other generations rebel, shake things up, be provocative, and reinvent things in a way that helped make the world a better, or at least more interesting, place. We’re a homogenous group of youngsters all desperately claiming to ‘be yourself’ in the exact same way.”

The millennials have given us the flourishing hipster cultureFeatured image credit: Adam BerryGetty Images

Many have blamed the boomer helicopter-parenting style, which cultivated in western millennials a craving for approval that they are not going to shake any time soon.

“With such little fun to be had and nothing to do but take ourselves seriously, we failed to develop an interesting identity—or any identity, really—and now we can’t do much but think of our own images and stage freak-outs over the banal.”

There are now the first inklings that new millennials leaders are challenging the status quo, creating provocative social movements and new thought forms that could unleash the explosive energies everybody has been waiting for.

Spiritual leader Teal Swan is known for her videos about topics like The Akashic Records and her signature teaching of “shadow work,” which encourages followers to become conscious of their darker or less-acceptable impulses and to try to come to terms with them, viewing them as potent energies that can be worked with. Teal’s teachings are a direct challenge to the positive thinking movement which many millennials grew up with. Other thinkers like Barbara Ehrenreich have challenged the positive thinking movement in books like Smile Or Die, and new research suggests that pessimism in the workplace produces positive results. Alain de Botton is another pro-pessimism thinker whose ideas are gaining circulation, including among millennials. Influential silicon valley leader Peter Thiel has blasted the “over-optimistic stories” of the boomer generation and the boomers’ tendency to invest in bubbles, citing them as key causes of our current cultural and economic malaise, reports C-Span.

In a video talk with fellow guru Ralph Smart (known to followers as Infinite Waters), Teal Swan reflects on the difference between herself and Smart, saying that while Ralph “spends a lot of time in the light,” her tendency is to encourage a client gripped by hatred or negative emotion to focus on that feeling as intensely as possible.

“You focus on it so much and it’s almost as if the bottom drops out.”

In the political space, an eyebrow-raising new group of ex-liberals/alt-righters are challenging “The Cathedral,” giving a name to the left-liberal establishment that has dominated since World War II, reports Irish Times. PJ Media reports that free speech has been curtailed in America to such a degree that young entrepreneurs like Sam Altman now say they feel more comfortable talking about provocative ideas in China.

“To get the really good ideas, we need to tolerate really bad and wacky ideas too.”

Also on the right, Aaron Clarey has gathered a large millennial following railing against third-wave feminist excesses and Big Education. Recently, Clarey wrote a blog about the latest ethically-questionable attempts by Big Ed to sell worthless degrees to black women (poor black women will not be protected by the inter-generational wealth transfer that will eventually cushion the blow for white middle class millennials after their parents pass away).

Libertarian-Marxist Brendan O’Neill has gathered around him at spiked a cohort of millennial writers who are challenging — among other things — the victim mentality promoted by the modern left and the feminist focus on self-disclosure, best exemplified in the tone of many contemporary women’s essays. Revelation of personal trauma is de rigeur. It is done in navel-gazing essays — often stylistically-beautiful and moving, or snappily-written and shareable — that encourage a culture of TMI (too much information) feminism, compromising the tone of feminist discourse.

Spiked is not hollowly contrarian; the writers draw on a rich libertarian and scholarly tradition dating back to Berlin’s Two Concepts of Liberty and even further. Perusing the articles on spiked gives an immediate sense of how much the ideas of Berlin, Marx, Mill, and other key thinkers have been distorted by contemporary interpreters, especially due to the pernicious influence of the Frankfurt school (Foucault et al.), a group worshiped by many university lecturers and tutors. Students are not encouraged to dig deeper, to look beyond the presentist perspectives peddled by both their lecturers and the media. Even Russell Brand admitted, “There’s some really interesting stuff in there,” talking about spiked in one of his Trews episodes.

O’Neill is himself an excellent writer with fresh ideas on everything from boy bands to sports hooliganism to the prevalence of pity in leftist discourse to the word “gay”.

“Gay now means rubbish — get over it.”

An amazing movement led by (admittedly not millennial) figures Camille Paglia and Jordan Peterson is challenging fashionable postmodernist, anti-Western doctrines, encouraging new approaches that move beyond what Paglia calls “the red pen way of reading” (constantly looking for instances of sexism, racism, etc. as you analyze great works) and into a mode of celebration and appreciation for what the West has achieved. Paglia is especially good on the pernicious influence of Foucault, describing how badly humanities criticism and education have deteriorated as people try to imitate the writing style of French cultural critics who were often just spouting meaningless drivel.

“The amount of time that people are wasting at the undergraduate and graduate level reading this crap… this post-structuralist crap…and THEN having to read critics in English trying to imitate the contorted sound of a translated-into-English version of a French original. That’s what’s out there right now!”

In the cultural arena, a great new crop of essays shows that millennial writers are finally questioning stylistic and cultural tropes handed down by the Xers and boomers, and the effects could be massive, providing a new lens with which to critique the claims of the powerful. Tom Scocca’s jaw-dropping “On Smarm,” for Gawker, identifies “smarm” as a predominant tone employed to questionable effect by establishment figures. Scocca spends time analyzing the Twitter output of Obama and Mitt Romney and deals a sharp left hook to the smarmy visage of Dave Eggers — that revered figure of the Gen X literary establishment — who single-handedly launched a million doomed publishing careers culminating in the sad “kidult” states described by Will Self in his own essay. At the Washington Post, Elizabeth Bruenig has provided a thoughtful analysis of millennial humor, casting it as a new form of dark surrealism. Even the boomer-oriented BBC is giving younger people a platform and allowing them to do something meaningful with it — witness Kelly Grovier’s gorgeously-written, meandering take on “Eight Words That Changed The Way We Think.”

On the left, the Bernie Sanders movement continues to produce offshoot collectives like Brand New Congress, which aims to elect a new congress full of Bernie-like figures.

The oft-derided astrology community is still bursting with vital energies, and has undergone a revolution with the rise of the internet, as practitioners find each other on online forums and exchange rapt stories about what happened in their lives when (for example) transiting Neptune opposed or squared their personal sun placement. Modern devotees are on personal journeys comparable to Native American vision quests, waiting (sometimes with dread) for the moment when massive trans-personal energies, represented by planets Saturn, Pluto, Neptune, and Uranus, enter their lives, sometimes to challenge them and sometimes to assist them. The word-association brainstorms created by millennial writer Michelle at Astrofix are popular both with people undergoing transits — say, Uranus-Sun — and those said to be fated to live with the electrifying (but destabilizing) Uranus-Sun energies all throughout life as a result of a sharp angle between the sun and the planet Uranus that was present at the moment they were born.

Analyses of world fashion with reference to the movement of Neptune (thought to represent glamour) are still being created. Dis provided one to mark the entry of Neptune into Pisces in 2012, dubbing it a “planetary return to the poetic” following the less potent, more detached atmosphere that prevailed during Neptune’s long transit of Aquarius (1998-2012).

“On February 3rd, Neptune went HD.”

Star Sign Style has created a decade-spanning pictorial showing the shifts in cultural and fashion trends as Neptune transited the different signs, activating different archetypal energies one by one and bringing them to the fore of mass consciousness.