Previous: Billionaires and Radical Hope: Thoughts from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland
Next: Is the Gender Pay Gap Real?



View count:1,033,288
Last sync:2023-01-12 17:00
In which Hank responds to and adds to an article John wrote about Millennials ( and discusses how uninteresting it has become to discuss generations as homogenous, and also why we seem to talk about what's wrong with one group without discussing the problems they face.

I think we're really good at picking out negative attributes...those are the things we notice, and they're the things we write about. Sure, I'm concerned that young people won't vote, but I also understand that it is difficult to be civically engaged in a world that is divorced from your reality. I also feel like people raised in the world of deep partisanship and access to infinite information (all of it sensationalized) find not just politics but life itself overwhelming, as if every decision they make is an opportunity to either save or destroy the world.

I myself was born in 1980, the cutoff between Generation X and Millennial, and while I'm fairly old I also spend a lot of time interacting with and thinking about young people, so I guess it's unsurprising that I'm sympathetic. But talking about the behavior of young people without talking about the challenges they face is dumb. And talking about one or two tendencies to behave slightly differently than other generations and then blaming that on one or two new-fangled parenting techniques (helicopter parenting) is just /awful/ sociology.

Subscribe to our newsletter!
And join the community at
Help transcribe videos -
John's twitter -
John's tumblr -
Hank's twitter -
Hank's tumblr -
Good Morning John. A few weeks ago I was on an airplane, sitting next to a young woman maybe 23 years old. Over the course of the flight, talking to her I discovered that she does this flight a lot. In the last 2 years she's taken this same flight 150 times. She didn't like the flying, she did it for her job and her job, she didn't seem to like that much either, but she'd gotten a degree so that she could get a good job and it had worked and now she's working at a company where there are opportunities for advancement but not unless you have more than 5 years of experience.

And as miserable as spending this much time in the middle seat in coach sounds to me, she was fine, she was happy. She was working her butt off doing a job that she didn't find that interesting but she wanted a good life and she was willing to wait for it.  John I present to you an American Millennial, universally ridiculed as entitled and self-centered but in fact understanding the world in deeply different ways than previous generations, with new and unique pressures on their identities and tasked with dealing with problems unlike anything our economy and our country and our world has ever seen.

During this weeks recording of Dear Hank and John, you told me about an article you wrote for the World Economic Form entitled Why the word Millennial makes me cringe and I immediately ran to go read that article as soon as we were done recording because yeah, the word Millennial totally makes me cringe. Among a ton of good points you make in this article you mention that the word Millennial was not assigned to themselves by themselves it was assigned by baby boomers. It was then later popularized in articles and op-eds by other people who weren't Millennials that generally did one of three things: 1) made sweeping generalizations about the most diverse group of young people in American history, 2) complained that a young person was acting in a way that they did not expect them to or, 3) gave other generations anxiety about what these unknowable snake people are doing to America.

So basically one group of people created a term for another group of people and then used that term to talk about how scary they were and belittle them and make fun of them.  Yeah, that's going to make some people cringe. Of course the original definition of Millennial, the creation of the word, was separate from all this other like "let's use that term now to talk about how weird young people are", but it does not change that that has happened and continues to happen and it's a... t'oh God. There may have a time when America was homogeneous enough to intelligently talk about generational trends, but I think that time has kind of passed.  Like the idea that Millennials are the first generation to have grown up with the internet blindly ignores the fact that there are still young people in America who don't have access to the internet.

And in general these conversations tend to replace the reality of the "young American" with, like, "The kind of young American that people who have opinions professionally tend to interact with".  All of this kind of makes me want to cringe a little bit, but additionally we so rarely talk about the actual challenges that young people in America face right now both piratically and existentially.  Many young people these days have been told that in order to be valuable these days, they need to be everything, and they need not to just find a good job but to find a good job that is also extraordinarily impactful and meaningful.  And while they are doing that they might as well also find themselves in a perfect relationship, and eat ethically, and become a home-owner, and pay off their student loans.

Now I don't want to be mad at anybody for any of these things, I'm happy to cringe, but for the most part these people are just trying to get clicks.  'Cause when it comes down to it previous generations worked really hard to make life better for me than it was for them, and I really do believe that's the case.  Whether that's the fact that gay people can get married, or that I can get all of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the rest of Netflix for just $7.99 per month, or that cars are much less likely to kill people now, but while solving problems they also created problems, and also just put a tremendous amount of pressure on the upcoming generation to expect more of themselves and of their lives. 

That's not the easiest thing to deal with, not least when things aren't turning out as planned.  And it's very strange to me that one of the chief complaints of the older generation, this generation that worked so hard to make life easier for their kids, is that young people these days have it too easy, especially when it's increasingly clear that they don't. 

John, I'll see you on Tuesday.