Updated on December 3, 2016
Updated on December 3, 2016
Millennials, we all hate them, right? I know I’ve complained about my own generation at times. Many people think we are everything that is wrong with “today”. We are entitled, whiny, weak, lazy, socially inept, addicted to our phones, not involved in our communities, and uninterested in the world around us. Not to mention, we also need safe spaces, can’t appreciate how far we have come, demand vacation days without putting in the work, think everything is either sexist or racist, think everything revolves around us, and on and on!
People say these things in front of me as if I’m not a part of this generation, as if they aren’t actually calling me entitled and lazy to my face. Those moments are incessantly hard to navigate.
I got sick of it two years ago and started to defend my generation in those conversations. We have our issues. Yet, I refuse to believe we are “all that is wrong with this world”. We cannot be only making it worse. Those few moments of sharing a different perspective on Millennials have grown into a constant battle. The reasons I use to defend Millennials may surprise you. So, hang with me for a bit.
I have been interested in generational studies since college. It is a fascinating field that took off in the 80s/90s. The most interesting and accepted generational theory is the Strauss-Howe theory. These two men actually coined the term “Millennial” for Generation Y. The Strauss-Howe theory uses evidence going back to the 1500s which is why it is widely accepted. I’ll give you the abbreviated version. This next part is a bit technical but important regarding our modern society.
Strauss and Howe discovered a pattern of social eras that revolve around generations. They called these Turnings. They last about 20-25 years or the length of a generation. These Turnings cycle through four stages. This manner of history is brought about by each generation. In addition to the four social eras, there are four archetypes of generations. These types rotate in order. It would look like A, B, C, D, A, B, C, D, etc. Basically, you have four different types of generations that bring about a new stage of society. Then it repeats over and over.
Individuals in each generation will look incredibly different. However, there is still an identity for each generation regardless of these differences. This generational identity is the archetype. The archetypes are Prophet, Nomad, Hero, and Artist. Most would accept this as we are constantly talking about Baby Boomers versus Millennials. We wouldn’t talk about this so much if there wasn’t a common identity for each.
How does generational identity turn the tables on the opinion of the most hated generation alive? Most people and generations revere the G.I. Generation. In fact, we call them the Greatest Generation. They were the Hero archetype. The types cycled through until once again we have a Hero generation, the Millennials. This means Millennials have more in common with the Greatest Generation than any other generation. While the world of the Millennials looks vastly different from the world of the G.I. Generation, at our core we have the same values and characteristics. Shocking, I know!
Some common characteristics are a civic mindedness, optimism, and a collectivist outlook. An alternative term for the Hero type is “Civic”. We focus on how to clean up the mess around us and want to rebuild institutions. We were raised by protective parents and value team work. Past Hero generations have brought the nation together. They also became powerful leaders in healing the Crisis. The Crisis is the Fourth Turning out of the four social eras. The other eras or Turnings are the High, the Awakening, and the Unraveling. The last Unraveling ended in the mid-2000s.
The Crisis is never short (it lasts decades). It sees the collapse of our strongest institutions to such a degree that there is serious doubt about whether the nation can survive. The Hero Generation then rebuilds these institutions leading to a time of prosperity, or the High.
The Great Depression and WWII was the Crisis for the last Hero archetype. Before that? The Civil War. And before that Crisis? The American Revolution. Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, writers of the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights respectively, were a part of a Hero archetype generation. Abraham Lincoln was part of a Hero generation. Their crises almost saw the total breakdown of our nation. They also involved war.
There is no guarantee the current Crisis will involve war, but the odds are high. Already we have seen 9/11, the 2008 financial crisis, and now the current political scene. The Crisis has only begun and is far from ending. We know this because the Millennial Generation hasn’t resolved the crisis. We are no where near rebuilding the broken institutions. And as for war, some historians are already leaning toward a clash between Islam and the West reminiscent of the Crusades. This is only an guess though. Time will tell.
What we do know is Millennials, who are constantly criticized, are a Hero archetype generation. A crisis will come. In the end, we will be the generation to rise to the occasion to save the nation and rebuild after near annihilation.
Check back next week for the final post in my Millennial series. It will continue with this generational theory by focusing in on Millennials as the Hero archetype. Part one is mostly my perspective as an insider.