It’s Not “Us Against Them”

Posted by: eric on May 8, 2009 at 7:21 pm

Mother’s Day is right around the corner and as I sit and think about my own mother and watch my wife mother our two small children, I am struck by how much information is passed down to younger generations and how eager they are to learn.

This gives me hope that the revolution led by Generation We will not be about intergenerational conflict. Some have suggested that conflicts over the national debt, troubled entitlement programs for the elderly, and weakened support for programs in education and health must inevitably pit aging Baby Boomers against burdened Millennials (with Gen Xers caught somewhere in the middle). But the solutions to these and other major social, political, and economic problems can’t be achieved by any one group, and that means warfare among groups will only make matters worse.

Thankfully, there is every sign that the real-world members of Generation We have no interest in fomenting resentment, scapegoating, or intergenerational battles. Every survey and attitudinal study— including my own—confirms that today’s young people respect and are eager to learn from well-intentioned people of their parents’ and grandparents’ generations. This is a dramatic change from the experience of many people from past generations, who grew up believing that intense intergenerational conflict is natural and unavoidable.  In their massive study Millennials Rising, generational scholars Neil Howe and William Strauss report, “Most teens say they identify with their parents’ values, and over nine in ten say they ‘trust’ and ‘feel close to’ their parents. The proportion who report conflict with their parents is declining.”

Although Baby Boomers may have invented the motto, “Don’t trust anyone over 30”—and even lived by it, at least until they themselves turned 30—their children Generation We, are ready to trust and work with them.
The Millennial revolution will also not be about moral judgments, a religious revival, or a return to “traditional lifestyles.” I’ve already noted the fact that Generation We is more tolerant, open-minded, and accepting than any previous generation in American history. They see those far-right dogmatists espousing “traditional” rhetoric today as a cog in the machine that created the mess they are in. When it comes to lifestyle choices—whether we’re talking about sexual orientation, abortion, divorce, or gay marriage, or about gambling, drinking, drug use, and church attendance—their all-but-explicit motto is “Live and let live.”

It’s not that Millennials don’t have preferences or beliefs about the right and wrong ways to live. Survey results, statistics about behavior choices, and mounds of anecdotal evidence all show that Millennials
believe in responsible lifestyles, strong relationships, and the values of family and community. But they don’t believe that anyone has the right to force their opinions on anyone else, and they generally look askance on people who judge or condemn others for the lifestyle choices they make. As long as you aren’t harming others (neglecting your children, for example), you have the right to decide for yourself how you want to live. And the members of Generation We respect that right.  Generation We is fed up with leaders who seek to divide Americans against one another, whether on moral, ethnic, religious, geographic, racial, or economic grounds. They are looking for leaders  who will unite the country around common goals for the greater good that will benefit everyone.

Together, we can create the greatest change in human history—one that combines and builds upon the impact of some previous epochs of change as the Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution, the
Democratic Revolution, and the Digital Revolution. We can usher in an era of plenty for all people on a shared planet that is environmentally sustainable, culturally diverse, and permanently at peace. The
Millennials can lead the way—and all of us can help.

3 Responses to “It’s Not “Us Against Them””

  1. Joel Koman Says:

    I think that I learned it best when I saw an interview with Jon Bon Jovi on the TV show The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch. I cannot begin to tell you how impressed I was, Bon Jovi mention on a number of occasions his belief in “Purple People”. The way that we end up with purple people is by combining the red of the Republicans the blue of the Democrats. If we do this while at the same time combining the passionate belief of Gen-We and the wisdom and knowledge of the baby boomers we end up with an unbeatable combination.
    From a somewhat radical standpoint I remain hopeful that Barack Obama will pull a “Theodore Roosevelt” and abandon the Democratic Party for the next election for the benefit of our country. In my opinion this would force the two parties, the Democrats and the Republicans to focus on the issues rather than just how to defeat the other party, I don’t think anything would pull the country together better than that . In conjunction it would provide a representation of the next great generation…Gen-We, a focus on the issues rather than the parties.

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