Snarky Behavior

Generation Overwhelmed

October 23, 2007 · Leave a Comment

Aside from the fact that this article capitulates and accepts the generational typecasting that Friedman and others have patronizingly assigned to my generation (and I don’t buy that he was trying to be a provocateur so much as a disappointed observer), I generally agree:  1.) our clarity of understanding of power dynamics, including the historical perspective of previous generations’ naivety, combined with 2.) our overwhelming access and consumption of information, as mitigated by the limitations of our recognized self-impotence, results in a pervasive paralysis of quiet frustration.

Is that a cop-out?

It’s a cop-out insofar as it’s justification for the charges Friedman and other’s have made.  But I don’t think the charges are fair.  Let me explain:

Friedman’s argument in his “Generation Q” article is that, given the political tendency to mortgage the future for the present, America’s twentysomethings cannot afford to be as silent as they have been.  They cannot be reliant on insular forms of communication such as social networking, e-mails or blogs to organize and demand accountability from leadership.  They can’t afford to be snarky and cynical and vote for Stephen Colbert to express their discontent.

But does Friedman really have the expectation of the self-disenfranchised to demand change?  Or is he just another writer leveraging a condescending understanding of Generation Y to remind the boomer establishment of its paternal responsibilities to leave the world a better place than they found it?

The youngins, you see, are too unable or too unwilling to inherit the world that is their birthright.  Newsweek would have you believe we are “Peter Pans” refusing to grow up.  That we don’t want the responsibility that accompanies the power to implement change.  That we are “narcissists,” and too self-involved to engage in the pressing issues of the day.

USA Today, and Inc.com , ironically enough, probably paint the most accurate picture. Gen Y’ers are self-entitled, impatient, disloyal loudmouths who overvalue their own opinions.  And that makes for great leaders who challenge the establishment from within, that drive change and innovation, that carry the entrepreneurial spirit of a strong economy and democracy.

To Friedman, I would quote from the Simpsons:  “The politics of failure have failed.”  We have a more refined understanding than the hippies ever did of where power resides, how it acts and operates, and … most importantly…we’ve got a pretty good idea of how to obtain it.  Sure, we may be just as naive and just as tempted to “sell-out” once we get our piece of the pie.  And we may be obstructed in our ambitions by boomers looking to preserve their vertical heirarchies and save themselves from the assisted living future to which they themselves condemned their own parents (which, by the way, were proud members of “The Greatest Generation.”)

But just because Generation Y may not be making noise in the streets, doesn’t mean we’re silent.  Call us corporate carpetbaggers, call us self-entitled narcissists.  But don’t call us quiet.

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