There’s plenty of grumbling going on about America’s obsession with youth culture. It all started in the 1950s when marketing executives viewed new technologies and a booming economy as tools to manipulate Depression-raised, war-torn parents into spoiling their Baby Boomer kids rotten. With their rock ‘n’roll and leather jackets the original hipsters inspired the infamous catchphrase, “Kids these days.” The 21st century version, appropriately hashtagged “#GetOffMyLawn,” is no different. But the millennial generation has taken its parents’ brand obsession and pop worship to a level more akin to reality than virtual reality. For the sake of our culture, the real question isn’t will these kids ever grow up, but what happens when they don’t?
A New York Post review of Dan Lyons’ new book, Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble, spills the gory details of a generation in permanent rejuvenile. Millennials are trading in the potential for upward mobility and banked paid time off for “nap rooms” in offices with beachwear dress codes. Forget “bring your child to work” day. This is more of a “bring your teddy bear” affair. In brightly-colored offices with unlimited candy bars, pop culture reigns. One minute you’re in, the next minute you’ve “graduated,” code for burn out. Because, of course, those who play hard, work hard, something the bosses know better than to tell their kiddie employees.
Grossly underpaid jellybean counters who blur work-life balance until it’s all work all the time (but hey, you get to do it in flip-flops!) tend to jump ship before stock options are vested. With no paid time off in the bank, they often leave without a dime. Oddly enough, the Post included a link to a piece on Why Millennials may never give up on socialism in their sidebar:
“As they reach the threshold of earning $40,000 to $60,000 a year, the majority of millennials come to oppose income redistribution, including raising taxes to increase financial assistance to the poor.”
The same goes for millennials’ views on health care: Once they’re paying for their own coverage, a Reason-Rupe poll found, youngsters are no longer game for paying higher premiums to subsidize others’ insurance.
The irony here is that, if the country keeps heading toward ever more job-killing, big-government redistribution, these kids may never earn enough to wake up and oppose the racket.
Corporate capitalists and wannabe socialist dictators make rather excellent bedfellows. In the real world this relationship plays out in two ways. The more noticeable is the Panama Papers variety: Crony capitalists motivated by greed funnel cash to ruthless leaders like Vladimir Putin. The leader, in turn, plies his youth with fancy parks and hip nightclubs while stripping them of their money and freedoms.
The less noticeable variety of corporate capitalist/socialist mashup involves greedy corporatists plying their employees with pretty, albeit useless, perks until their easily replaceable carcasses inevitably burn out.
In both varieties the weapon is the same: The promise of endless youth. If only Dorian Gray had an Instagram account, kids these days might be all the wiser. Alas, whether it’s nap time or playtime, American millennials are attracted to the idea of being taken care of by both business and the government. And on the surface it appears as if the free market can do just that. Contrary to their widely touted belief, the American Dream isn’t dead; it’s just been replaced by a culture-killing nightmare.