A deeply distrustful generation

I am of the generation of globalized millennials, that is to say I am in my twenties, although there are many even now into their thirties with the outlook on life I am about to describe. I was led to believe early on that my generation was the most developed, that its life was the most leisurely and privileged, that we were on the cutting edge, though what that meant was never quite explained. We were told we were better because the older generations were wrong, in fact the world in which they lived was wrong, the structures and institutions that people identified with and lived under whether customary, political or religious were all a sham designed to manipulate people and suppress their desires and individual freedoms.

What is most interesting is that the supposedly inter-connected, privileged generation to which I by no feat of my own belong, defines itself against the past, against the worldview and lifestyle of the generations before it. That is to say it defines itself negatively, by what it does not believe and how it does not live. What has been suggested to this digital/digitized generation is that it is invariably better (and better off) than its predecessors without it ever being consciously questioned what it does believe in, what values it does assert, and more importantly what its members actually share.

What is shared is negatively defined: opposition to tradition, to political engagement (unless related to identity), to religious modes of being and thinking, to hierarchies of all kinds even simply to the idea of there being a substantive difference between a teacher and a pupil is challenged. For there is an ingrained sense of default self-worth which is not holy or wholly defined. It is a sense of egalitarianism that while on the one hand is dignifying is on the other hand a creation of false equality, is an apprentice equal to their master? No, we should know that the former is inferior within the given field of study or labour.

Yet there is a refusal on behalf of the millennials to even recognise the possibility of hierarchy which so characterised the past. A time when symbols, when traditionally figurative and metaphysical conceptions of life and society predominated. The idea that a teacher perhaps by their learning and commitment to philosophy or law for example is superior to a fresh student to the field. Or in politics that perhaps those engaged with the political system aren’t self-interested characters who necessarily operate by deception but may actually be a person of moral character acting in the interests and for the welfare of his fellow man.

The outlook is one of automatic suspicion, which indeed may occasionally be merited, yet fundamentally it leaves one blind and incapable of fair and impartial judgement towards others, it is an insight less into how the world itself works as to the loss of a cohesive value system or outlook by which the world is positively approached, by which other people themselves are judged.