Sunday July 9, 2017
How to Get Away With Murder
by Emily Blevins
Millennials. That generation following generation X, sometimes called generation Y. We were born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s, typically the children of the Baby Boomers. Wikipedia says we are “generally marked by an increased use and familiarity with communications, media, and digital technologies…and an increase in a liberal approach to politics and economics.” We have also been described as “Generation Me,” with a book of the same title by psychologist Jean Twenge purporting to explain why “today’s young Americans are more confident, assertive, entitled, and more miserable than before.” A quick scan of the available literature describes my generation as selfish, entitled, narcissistic, lazy, sheltered, and special.
And, if recent news reports are to be believed, we are also a violently homicidal generation without precedent. At risk of sounding like a Millennial, a Google search on this topic reveals dozens of shocking headlines about Millennial murder, such as: “Millennials are killing restaurant chains, millennials are killing the golf industry, Millennials are killing style retailers, the movie business, and Home depot specifically…We are killing wine and we are killing McDonalds. We are killing paper napkins, the use of credit, the car industry, the housing market, and running.” One headline declares “Millennials lack of manners is killing class,” and another alarming title shouts that “Millennials are killing relationships and we should be concerned!” One article from Business Insider goes so far as to label our generation as “an industry-murdering machine.”
Economists and CEOs alike are bemoaning the fact that as rule, we don’t buy houses. We don’t buy cars. We won’t even buy our clothing new, preferring to frequent thrift stores, much to the dismay of Macey’s shareholders. We can’t seem to figure out how to get married and have children at a respectable age and a white picket fence seems to be nowhere in our dreams. We’re reportedly even responsible for killing lunch as a concept, along with fast casual dining, preferring to bring our own homemade snacks.
You may decry this unabashed string of Millennial homicides all you like, but perhaps Millennials have excellent justification for these murders. We are burdened with more student loan debt than any generation in history, with people under the age of 30 collectively owing more than 17 million dollars in student loans. The average Millennial is carrying a debt of at least $23,000. The college class of 2016 was the most indebted in history: their average balance is about $37,000. That alone might have us out for blood.
Couple that with the unemployment rate for people age 18-29, which is 15.2%,. That’s more than double the national average, currently hovering around 5%. We’re also underemployed, with most of the jobs offered to or taken by Millennials in the last year being part-time or contracted work with little to nothing in terms of benefits. How did we get here?
According to financial publication, The Simple Dollar, in 1970, it was possible to work a minimum wage job 14 hours a week and earn enough to pay tuition at any public university. Today, it would require 35 hours a week at a minimum wage job to earn tuition for a year. This doesn’t account for any other living expenses. With numbers like that, why do so many young people rush headlong into that kind of debt? Perhaps it is because in 1970, 72% of jobs in America were available without a college degree, while as of 2010, only 41% of jobs in America were available without a college degree.
As children, we were “strongly encouraged” to attend college. Many of us believed it was our only viable option. What a risk that turned out to be.
So perhaps this Millennial murder spree has been justified. We had our own good reasons. Or, maybe like the uninspired, lazy grifters we are, we simply copied the work of previous generations. As children, we watched them murder the “American Dream” in cold blood. Time of death? It was probably somewhere between Reaganomics and Big Bank Bailouts. The Great Recession hit as most of us were preparing to enter college, which we were assured was our only path to a secure financial future. The American Dream was dead and buried by the time we came of age. All the rules changed.
So, we have come to accept crushing debt, lack of access to healthcare, and closed doors to home and car ownership as the new ground rules of the game. The term “upward mobility” is beginning to sound more like a punchline than anything.
What does all this mean for this generation? What does it mean for our core spiritual values? What does this new reality say for our risk-taking? What about taking spiritual risk?
The Millennial spiritual ethos is one that of necessity includes economic and social issues. Indeed, we consider these issues central to our spiritual values. Our big ideas of spirituality are, perhaps, concerning to our parent’s and grandparent’s generations, as yet another Google search for “Millennials” plus “church” reveals that we are “leaving the church in droves.” This fact is accompanied by pages and pages of hand-wringing and pearl clutching. How could we possibly seek a relationship with the sacred and transcendent if we can’t Instagram a selfie with it?
But I contest that Millennials are leaving America’s churches, not because we don’t crave deep spirituality, but because we do. We cannot and will not sit by while yet another ornate, pricey megachurch is built with money that could instead feed our neighbors. And speaking of those neighbors, we’d like to hear a little more about loving them, without any taglines of “unless, but, or except.” Meanwhile, mainstream religious pastoral care seeks to quiet Millennial concerns and keep us in church by offering us clergy in blue jeans, who serve us Starbucks ,while conceding to allow some “hip music” in the sanctuary from time to time.
This plays as tonedeaf at best. Blogger Rachel Held Evans said it best in her post, “How Evangelicals Won a Culture War and Lost a Generation,” when she said “I’m ready to stop waging war and start washing feet.”
We want to feed the sheep, literally feed, in every sense of the word. So we are using all that tech to which we are purportedly so addicted to subvert and break all the rules. We’re pretty comfortable with risk after our disastrous student debt experiences, I guess. We used our smart phones and our tech to create the new Sharing Economy. We have found ways to share everything from rides to our homes, to our skills with applications such as Uber, Lyft, Airbnb, and more, with many young tech activists creating platforms geared toward fair and ethical use. Millennials even went and created Symbi, an online, moneyless, trade-for-trade economy.
We have made PayPal the new national bank of our generation, using crowdfunding to support one another and repay each other with interest. It’s not uncommon to see us cover everything from our tuition to our medical bills with online donations, and we are happy to turn around and do the same for others in those months when we are doing a little better. To top it off, there’s even a service called ResistBot, which allows you to send a text and Resistbot converts that text into a formal protest fax and faxes it to your representatives for you. We really must be lazy.
We’re also minimalists, much more so than any generation that preceded us. I guess you could say we have it out for consumerist capitalism. We don’t want to succeed so we can join in – we’d like to kill it. We prefer to focus on being present, sharing our experiences, and living out our values, and consumerism just isn’t one of them. It simply cannot be. Instead, we are embracing terms and trends like “upcycling” and “tiny house living.” It’s hard to say if we would have developed these spiritual values if it weren’t for the economic conditions that made them a necessity, but on the whole, Millennials do seem a bit more Zen than you would expect from a group of relentless serial killers.
Of course, we are entitled and selfish, too. We want employment with living wages, not just for us, but for everyone. We want decent healthcare for everyone. We want safe neighborhoods, with clean water, and real food, not just for us, but for everyone (even if we may never get to buy our own homes).
And we are so entitled and narcissistic that we want all the credit. We want the credit for leaving white supremacy dead in the street on our generation’s watch. We want to see more headlines, this time proclaiming that “Millennials have killed gender inequality” and “Millennials ruthlessly murdered hate crimes.”
We’d like to knife economic injustice while it’s not looking, slip a noose around bigotry, and quietly poison the school to prison pipeline before setting fire to the structures of corporate greed that are systematically destroying our environment.
And perhaps most selfishly of all, we want to leave nothing of these things behind for future generations to contend with, and get away with it, too. Yes, the “Me Generation” really wants to perfect the art of getting away with murder. We may have to temporarily move home and ask our parents to help us hide the bodies, but only if we don’t invent an app to do that first.