Stephen F. Dennstedt
Photographer, Writer, World Traveller
Throughout history the emerging younger generation gets a bad rap. Today it’s the Millennials (loosely defined as those born between the years 1980 and 2000), late teens to mid-30s. Millennials, as a group, tend to be tech-savvy and demanding. Some would say entitled. I am a Baby-boomer (and an early Baby-boomer to boot). 1946 to 1964 defines the Baby-boom generation (post WWII), and I was born in 1947 (I’m almost 70-years old . . . wow, how did that happen?).
I grew up in the Cold War 1950s but came of age in the 1960s. The Beatles, Hippies, Civil Rights, and Vietnam dominated our generation. Flower Power, Acid (LSD), Pot, Haight-Ashbury, Free Love, and Civil Disobedience ruled. Our parents were not pleased. Anti-establishment was our credo, anything our parents stood for was bad. We defined liberalism, our heroes were: JFK, RFK, MLK, Bob Dylan, and Joan Baez.
I look at my generation now and cringe. When did we become GOP conservatives and Trump supporters? When did we become racists, bigots, and intolerant? When did we turn from ecologists to global warming deniers? When did idealism turn to cynicism? Action into inaction? When did religion and ignorance trump (pun intended) science. When did social media become the surrogate for human interaction? When did community succumb to me-ism? I don’t think we can blame the Millennials.
We might be disappointed in the Millennials we spawned, but they have every right to be disappointed in us too. We failed in our efforts to end war, bring about equality for all mankind, protect the planet from the ravages of overpopulation and resource plundering, and our gross materialism. The military-industrial complex marched on despite Dwight Eisenhower’s warnings and our best efforts. We failed as a generation. Now it’s up to the Millennials to carry on. It’s our cynicism and failure they’ve inherited.
Is it any wonder they’re pissed off and disillusioned? They’ve inherited a world still at war, where racism and bigotry still exists, where all community protections are suspect (where social, political, legal, and religious institutions are corrupt and ineffectual), and on top of it all a dying planet (global warming deniers excepted). The nuclear family has given way to equality of the sexes (because we confused equality with sameness), and the human condition is becoming increasing disconnected and sterile.
The Millennials, our offspring, will have a tough row to hoe. Are they up to the task? Frankly, I’m doubtful. We couldn’t do it with all of our advantages, so I’m dubious they can do what we couldn’t. If they fail we are co-conspirators in their failure. We won’t share the responsibility (or the consequences), but that doesn’t completely absolve us of responsibility. Our Millennials are looking for answers and they’re looking for our help. Do we help or simply bask in our retirement . . . and criticize?
Travelling the world I’ve met many Millennials that give me a modicum of hope. Concerned, they become involved and they are action oriented. Many have become Facebook friends and we continue to dialogue often about things that should matter. The (young) friends I’ve made come from India, Nepal, Latin America, the Philippines, and to a lesser extent the United States. They are activists, just like we were in the 1960s (though not so vocal). We are not so different . . . young and old.
I dedicate this post to my young friends around the world who constantly challenge my worldview and perceptions. I am admittedly a dinosaur and can be stodgy at times in my thinking. I don’t always agree with you, my life experience differs from yours, but hopefully I can keep an open mind. Sometimes you really piss me off with your youthful arrogance, but only because it reminds me of what I once was. I apologize for my generation, but we did the best we could given the context of the times we lived in.