No Pressure
November 29, 2017 10:08 AM   Subscribe

“Ultimately, though, the most frustrating thing about Kids These Days is how Harris keeps coming back to that broken promise framing, encapsulated in those blunt rhetorical questions quoted above: “[T]he market hasn’t held up its side of the bargain. What gives? And why did we make this bargain in the first place?” As a millennial might say, great questions.” -Won’t Get Fooled Again: Malcolm Harris’s “Kids These Days: Human Capital and the Making of Millennials” Jacqui Shine, LA Review Of Books

“The disdain that so many people feel for Harris’s and my generation reflects an unease about the forces of deregulation, globalization, and technological acceleration that are transforming everyone’s lives.” - Where Millennials Come From On “Kids These Days” Jia Tolentino, New Yorker
posted by The Whelk (31 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
 
The n+1 review is good to read also.
posted by demonic winged headgear at 10:12 AM on November 29, 2017 [4 favorites]


And there's a review by Elizabeth King in the Pacific Standard as well.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 10:48 AM on November 29, 2017


I continually love how millennials are blamed for the idea of participation trophies as if there were widespread strikes lead by elementary school students demanding trophies and not the boomer parents bringing them about.

That's if you accept the premise taht they are somehow bad in the first place, which I do not.
posted by Space Coyote at 11:10 AM on November 29, 2017 [43 favorites]


The Costs of Being a Millennial, New Republic

Here’s an excerpt.
posted by Caduceus at 11:18 AM on November 29, 2017 [1 favorite]


I meant to FPP that excerpt when I read it the other day, but this is better.
posted by Caduceus at 11:18 AM on November 29, 2017


I continually love how millennials are blamed for the idea of participation trophies as if there were widespread strikes lead by elementary school students demanding trophies and not the boomer parents bringing them about.

I'm 50 and I got participation awards when I was in public school. Everybody in my school got them. Decades before the millennium.
posted by srboisvert at 11:21 AM on November 29, 2017 [16 favorites]


> In November 2011, just as the Occupy Wall Street protests were winding down, two progressive think tanks jointly published a study called “The Economic State of Young America,” which reported that millennials were likely to be the first generation of Americans who were less economically successful than their parents had been.

Shit, Douglas Coupland was saying that in Generation X (which was published in 1991); IIRC there's an entire chapter named "Our Parents Had More." My fellow Gen X'ers and I are largely coasting on the Boomers' fumes...god help the Millennials if and when it comes time for them to try and live off ours. If I were a teenager or in my 20's these days I'd be looking at all the eight balls our society is lined up behind - and how little work is being done to correct the problems - and would probably never not be drunk.
posted by The Card Cheat at 11:41 AM on November 29, 2017 [21 favorites]



The Costs of Being a Millennial, New Republic

pull quote:

We aren’t dumb, we’re adaptable—but adapting to a messed-up world messes you up, whether you remain functional or not.

at the risk of sounding like an Old, I do find it difficult to think of a generation that hasn't had to adapt to a messed up world. It's always a different sort of mess, I guess. And perhaps what's most annoying about being a millennial is that your "adapting" is happening so much in the midst of a hyper-mediated mess -- Marshall McLuhan's World War Three being well ensconced in its acute phase ...

“World War III is a guerrilla information war with no division between military and civilian participation.” (1970)
posted by philip-random at 11:46 AM on November 29, 2017 [6 favorites]


If I were a teenager or in my 20's these days I'd be looking at all the eight balls our society is lined up behind - and how little work is being done to correct the problems - and would probably never not be drunk.

I've thought for a while now that there's going to be a mass paroxysm of rage when the millennials hit their 40s and are no longer buffered by youth or the possibility of any optimism about their economic prospects.
posted by ryanshepard at 11:48 AM on November 29, 2017 [4 favorites]


Millennials are simply the generation where neoliberalism has reached its apex, where human beings themselves are capital to be developed and any free time is better spent accruing "interest", that is to say, increasing the value of the capital (person.) Who is this better for? Answer that question and you've started a revolution.
posted by Automocar at 11:49 AM on November 29, 2017 [13 favorites]


I've thought for a while now that there's going to be a mass paroxysm of rage when the millennials hit their 40s are no longer buffered by youth or the possibility of any optimism about their economic prospects.

Hi, I'm turning 37 next week and let me tell you, this is going to be a real thing. I'm unmarried, make about $55K a year, have substantial student loan debt and about $13,000 in savings. I think I'm actually "worth" about negative $100K, though. I'm terrified about my future quality of life, and I'm a white cis man.

The degree to which this is going to come home to roost isn't yet fully understood, I think--I'm the oldest of the millennials and by the time the entire generation gets to where I am, well, hopefully we're living in the United Socialist States of America?
posted by Automocar at 11:54 AM on November 29, 2017 [26 favorites]


The only worthwhile article about participation trophies: "Participation Trophies Are Great", by Jon Bois.

Anyways, this book sounds interesting, but only touching lightly on the racial dynamics of the a generation that's more racially diverse than any other in American history sounds like a pretty major oversight. A common one, given how white the public portrayal of millenials is, but a serious problem nonetheless. Also, I'm fascinated by the fact that neither review mentions anything about climate change or global warming. Millenials were the first generation for whom the realities of global warming were basically inescapable. Learning that our world was fucked if we didn't change right away and then watching absolutely nothing change over the last two decades has to have had some effect. The thought of bringing kids into this world is terrifying. It was 70 degrees in Chicago in the middle of November. I can't do anything about it, but I think about it nearly every day.

Also, put me down as another millenial worried about what happens when we get older. I'm around the same age Tolentino and Harris are, and I'm lucky; I landed one of those tech jobs that mostly works as a golden ticket. Out of my friend group, though, I'm an outlier. The average net worth most nights when we sit around someone's living room is probably in the negative five figures. No one owns a home unless they're from a rich family. Everybody is scraping by, but I don't know what the plan is in five or ten years when we're all supposed to have settled down with kids and dogs and mortgages.
posted by protocoach at 12:10 PM on November 29, 2017 [9 favorites]


I think the I don't want to bring children into """this world""" saying has been around for much longer than Millennials have. It was current at the height of the Cold War in the 80's, and the late Florence King - born in 1936, and thus a Silent Generation-er - recalled a classmate of hers being "married but childless, because she refused to bring children into This World." (This led Miss King to ask her where she might find reliable birth control, not easy to find in the 1950s for unmarried women.) I know anecdotes =/= data, but I don't really know of anyone who is childfree just because of This World. It gives people, especially women, a socially acceptable selfless gloss on choosing to not have kids, delay having them, or being one-and-done, to forestall the inevitable "you're sooooo seelllfiiiishhh!" "I waaaaant graaandkids!" etc. People who have access to reliable birth control usually choose to have small families.

That said, I think the economic anxiety, nay terror, is very real, and my main takeaway from TFA's. Many baby boomers are poor, GenX faced stubborn economic problems in the early 90's, but Millennials have been the most widely, most deeply economically affected generation. The latte is a lie - as Elizabeth Warren has built a political career on telling us, people are going broke over health care and housing. Housing in particular - I have my house in $InsanelyExpensiveCity only because I inherited it, and I can't think of many Millennials who will be so lucky.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 1:12 PM on November 29, 2017 [4 favorites]


I live in a city where "nobody" can afford to buy a house, and yet somehow they keep getting bought at higher and higher prices, forever and ever, amen. It's like that old joke about how nobody drives in New York City because the traffic is so bad.
posted by The Card Cheat at 1:27 PM on November 29, 2017 [7 favorites]


I don't really know of anyone who is childfree just because of This World

Yes hello this is me. I'm 33 and have always lived with the specter of climate change and a dying world. Overpopulation has always been sort of an obvious problem to me, and I decided at an early age that I didn't really want to contribute to it. The way of life we've chosen as a species is unsustainable. The political garbage fire, callous way that we treat the ill and the elderly, increasing wealth inequality and my own financial instability are just icing on the turd cake, really. I'm quite happy with my decision not to feed it to a new generation.

If I was born into luxury space communism on a healthy, underpopulated world, would I have chosen differently? I'm not sure. If I squint really hard I can maybe imagine some world in which I'd be comfortable having children, but it bears so little resemblance to the one we currently inhabit it might as well be Xanadu.
posted by Feyala at 1:33 PM on November 29, 2017 [17 favorites]


This World is not by any means the only reason my wife and I decided to not have children, but it's definitely one of them. Virtually all of the environmental issues I remember reading about and getting freaked out over as far back as middle school have gotten worse since then.
posted by The Card Cheat at 1:43 PM on November 29, 2017 [9 favorites]


Count me in on team "not inclined to have kids generally, definitely not in the current scenario"
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 1:58 PM on November 29, 2017 [4 favorites]


Thirded (on preview, fourthed). My husband and I have moments where we've talked about how much we might like to have a child, but all of the things that Feyala and The Card Cheat list come up more or less instantly when that happens. Financial instability, especially - we basically live paycheck to paycheck as it is, with no real changes to our professional lives on the horizon, and imagining the cost of things like child care alone, or needing more space than we have now (as renters) - not to mention the possibility that we could have a child who needs special medical or other kinds of care - without having any real support system nearby makes the idea laughable.
posted by Anita Bath at 2:04 PM on November 29, 2017 [5 favorites]


(We are 35 and 31.)
posted by Anita Bath at 2:05 PM on November 29, 2017


I'm differentiating "this world is a terrible place, overpopulation, etc." from "I personally can't afford a child due to my precarious job/family situation." I do know lots of the latter. People live far from their families, or the grandparents are still working, or - and I think this is a good thing - prospective parents don't want to have their kids cared for by Alcoholic Grandma And Her Creepy Boyfriend. Millennials seem less willing to sacrifice potential kids on the altar of terrible faaaamily.

I can't remember where I read this, but I did read that the Boomers were born into uniquely large families and that family size had started falling post-Civil-War and the Boomers were a rebound. I also know that the crisis of family affordability started in about the 1990s as childcare and education grew more expensive.

I do wonder what is going to happen to Millennials, indeed to everyone from GenX on, when they get really old and unable to work. It's not sustainable to expect family to pick up all the caregiving slack and I can only hope there are caregiving robots by that time.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 2:18 PM on November 29, 2017 [4 favorites]


This all seems to be about psychology. I personally think it has more to do with what Automocar said:
Millennials are simply the generation where neoliberalism has reached its apex...
posted by MtDewd at 2:32 PM on November 29, 2017 [1 favorite]


Nthing citing "the world" for not having children, and also a set of personal circumstances that is probably super-common for us millennials who went to grad school to pursue our dreams, and never got the sweet jobs (/benefits, pensions) we were promised after everyone was supposed to retire.

I actually have a stable job and a good spouse, and I can't have a kid because I can't pay for childcare and the kid's medical stuff and my medical stuff and missing 3 months of work (FMLA is unpaid, because pro-life/pro-family). For this situation, I lay the blame at the feet of Republicans in power, especially Donald Trump. I've heard that it's "ridiculous" to make it "political," but it absolutely is.

If Hillary were president instead, and we were talking about paid family leave and Medicaid for all and CHIP continuing to exist? Then I could consider having a kid or two. But not under these circumstances, where my student loan debt is growing, even years after I'm out of school, because I can't pay down the interest fast enough. The situation is absurdly bad and untenable.

As for retirement and end-of-life care, I'm counting on Crone Island and a fat tontine.
posted by witchen at 2:53 PM on November 29, 2017 [10 favorites]


They should be called Generation Fucked at this point. I'm part of the tail-end of Gen X and barely managed to have some stability. Between 2000 and 2010 the price on housing doubled in my area, Ihat's the time I was studying and working odd jobs, before I had a "career". The relatively low price of the housing market allowed me not to be in debt today. Doing the same things now would have ruined me.
posted by SageLeVoid at 4:36 PM on November 29, 2017


I know everything is dark and we're all doomed but I had forgotten I had the snake people extension running in chrome and the amusement this brought me is my little candle in the darkness.
posted by Wretch729 at 7:46 PM on November 29, 2017 [7 favorites]


The idea that Millennials are resented because they’re doing *exactly* what a late capitalist society tells them to do really hits hard -I remember a Swedish artist giving an American friend sass for like “why are Americans so obsessed with getting famous?” and she shot back “because if we don’t we die in the street.” And that was before YouFundMe medical expense campaigns.

I keep coming back, what is the end point here? What’s the goal? It’s onviously not a consumer society. Is it, as I imagine at night, just turning the entire country into s debtor’s prison patrolled by drones until the super hurricanes take everything out?

The joke circulating around “My retirement plan is the mass revolution” feels less and less like a joke everyday.
posted by The Whelk at 8:21 AM on November 30, 2017 [4 favorites]


I mean, we’re going to have to figure this out before climate change figures it out for us, which is sooner rather than later, and there are about three paths to take and only one of them doesn’t end up with a couple million dead people.
posted by The Whelk at 8:27 AM on November 30, 2017


I live in a city where "nobody" can afford to buy a house, and yet somehow they keep getting bought at higher and higher prices, forever and ever, amen. It's like that old joke about how nobody drives in New York City because the traffic is so bad.

So do I, and it is entirely true that population growth and housing growth are completely divorced. Literally tens of thousands of new housing units have been completed in the past year, yet rents and prices have only continued to rise. Why? About 90% of those units are owned by foreign investors and are sitting empty. So much of it is drug money the IRS now requires all cash sales in the county be reported to them. Needless to say, that has made little difference.

If Georgia didn't make more than the median household income in her own, we'd be completely fucked what with her student loans and all. It's really unfortunate that most of the low cost of living states have recently been enchanted by Grover Norquist and his ilk. Student loans and other bills are a lot more affordable when housing is $400 a month or less. There are a decent number of unfilled jobs in many of those places thanks to persistent outmigration, especially for degreed work.
posted by wierdo at 8:34 AM on November 30, 2017


I do wonder what is going to happen to Millennials, indeed to everyone from GenX on, when they get really old and unable to work.

Well, as they huddle miserably under bridges and in alleyways, the desiccated Baby Boomers will look up from draining the blood of Generation ZZ just long enough to rasp "Worrrrrk harrrrrderrr..."
posted by happyroach at 12:37 PM on November 30, 2017


I happened to rewatch the criminally underrated Scott Pilgrim vs. the Universe on an inflight entertainment system recently, and, while it remains fun, this time it really depressed me. As a Gen-Xer, I remember that zone just out of college where you could afford to live in moderately crappy but not actually unsafe housing working a relatively undemanding and boring, but not nightmarish, service-type job (say, at pre-horrorshow Borders). You could play videogames or board games with your friends, argue about Whether That Band Had Sold Out Yet Or Not, try to write your terrible first novel, spend 1000 hours a week trying to hack a system, that sort of thing. A semi-penny-pinching time period, but in a relatively gentle and forgiving setting, especially if you lived in a college town where the takeout was cheap and there was lots of stuff to do posted on billboards. People weren't in a constant state of panic about Their Futures or feeling like moral failures for not having six side hustles.

Obviously, this experience was not available to every Gen-Xer by a long shot, but it was still fairly common. And I feel like millennials and their successors have been cheated right out of this period in their lives. There are millennial traits that annoy the crap out of me, but I always think they're more sinned against than sinning.
posted by praemunire at 1:40 PM on November 30, 2017 [4 favorites]


Hmmm.. interesting. Now that I've read 3 reviews of the Harris book I am both glad he wrote it and disinterested in reading it. The number of high profile reviews seems to indicate a real need for thoughtful comment on the situation for young adults right now, which is dire.

I have a 15 year old who I guess is Generation Z. She and her middle-class peers are definitely under enormous pressure to perform in school. They are stressed and anxious. They also seem to have a great sense of humor and a lot of kindness and compassion. It's hard to make a meaningful generalization about an entire generation of Americans, especially given increasing racial and economic disparity, but the economics are bad for everyone and impossible for many. The environmental picture is bleak and the threat of nuclear war and political collapse are real. Sometimes I feel bad for having a kid, although I'm so glad to have her. I do hope millennials and Gen Zers organize and revolt - this Gen Xer will be right there with them.
posted by latkes at 2:17 PM on November 30, 2017 [1 favorite]


Oh, and I found the end of the N+1 review really moving.. I hadn't know the full story - so thanks for the first comment link:

In that famous picture from Charlottesville, we see a young black man—Corey Long is his name—shooting fire from a spraycan at a wormy white fascist brandishing a Confederate flag like a club. So far, we’re in Harris’s world here—in fact I believe I first learned the term “antifa” from his Twitter page some years ago. But if you look at the photo, you see over Long’s right shoulder a frail-looking older white man, whom Long, it emerges, stepped forward to defend against the physical menace facing them, including the actual discharge of a gun in their direction.

This is an image, then, not only of the escalating racial and ideological confrontation gripping the country, but also of intergenerational solidarity and protectiveness. In this sense, it is quite far from the fantasy of antifascist defense as irresponsible youthful adventurism. The scene is made all the more tender by the fact that the 23-year-old Long is actually an elder care worker. This, care for the old, is his job. He probably doesn’t usually do it with fire, but it’s good to know that’s part of the skill set that this particular millennial has accumulated. One can be quite sure that his job is a shit job, but he appears committed to the principle, and in that, there’s something more.

posted by latkes at 2:19 PM on November 30, 2017 [11 favorites]


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