A lot has been said about the UCSB shooter’s age—his generation. He released several videos over the weeks prior to his rampage, all of which were about his feeling discouraged compared to the image he had for what his life should look like.
As a millennial, I took offense to those claiming that he did this simply because he was in my generation.
Mad men and women will do mad things, regardless of the media around them, access to weapons, trigger warnings, free speech, sexuality, or affluence.
But, I do believe there are some features of his case, which prompted the madness to come out in this fashion, some features that he did indeed have in common with many millenials.
Partying always occurred in college. Look to films like Animal House to realize this is not a new phenomenon. These films also negate Ann Hornaday’s assertion that this is somehow Judd Apatow’s fault for making movies like The Neighbors. Drunken shenanigans and hyper-sexualized partying are not new to campuses.
However, I do think college has become less serious.
For the millennial generation’s parents, the Baby Boomers and Generation X, the amount of people, nationally, that had earned Bachelor’s degrees was between 8-15 percent. Now, even as of 2009, it is approaching 30 percent. This means earning a college diploma is increasingly the new normal. What used to set you apart from most other potential employees, and designated you as a white collar professional, now is just a rite of passage. When you finish high school, you go to college. Its almost as if you don’t really have a choice.
And, President Obama has called for every American to pursue post high school education. This will only mean even more people, all with the same degrees.
And, the amount of people on financial aid in college has also gone up, to the point where more than 80 percent of students receive some scholarships or aid.
So, people don’t view college graduation as a lofty goal, or something to put effort into. Instead, it is now something they are simply expected to complete. And they are not even investing as much into it—because most are given some sort of aid to help pay for it.
Not to mention, more people are graduating with degrees that are less directly purposeful in the job market. College has, at best, become a place to find yourself, and to realize what you want to do.
At worst, college has sunk into the partying. While partying used to go on as a side effect of university life, it is now a feature.
And there’s another problem — there is no good way to be counter culture anymore.
Whatever your views on the anti-war movement was, or the Civil Rights marches, or even the punk rockers, you must admit that these were real movements, particularly of student-aged kids, coming together to rebel. And this is necessary. Teenage and early-20s angst is real. Stemming from leaving home for the first time and getting to choose your own lifestyle, college students in particular, feel a need to rebel, at least a little bit, from the ways of their parents.
But instead of any good protest movements, smoking, leather jackets, or wacky hairstyles, we have made all this un-PC. So now, we have fake counter culture movements.
I see this in the people who refuse to eat at McDonald’s, but eat at Chipotle. Or the people who won’t step foot in a Walmart, but will buy a Starbucks latte daily. This anti-consumerist, yet really a total consumerist, is an archetypal person I see all over the place.
And those are just the yuppie-types. Hipsters are worse. They are the people who won’t ever accept anything in the mainstream, except that they buy most of their stuff from the same 2 stores, discover most of their music on Spotify lists, and drink their beers straight from the can of one of one of the oldest and most successful beer manufacturers, Pabst Blue Ribbon (PBR). As long as I grow a handlebar mustache, sport a cat tee-shirt, ride a Schwinn bicycle, and drink from my beloved PBR can, I’m a hipster.
But this is not a true outlet for the need to be rebellious. In fact, it is the opposite.
So kids are left with a non-serious environment, and an unsettled need to display their angst.
As I said, mad people will always do horrible things. I’m not blaming the shooting on college statistics or hipsters.
But, I do think its time for the millennial generation to have a dose of realism.