Over the centuries, differences in generational attitudes have caused the nation’s consensus on how to balance the tension between security and privacy to shift. Group and civic-oriented generations, such as the GI generation that fought in World War II, emphasized safety and security. Individualistic generations, such as today’s Baby Boomers and Generation X, tilted the balance back toward protecting privacy from the intrusions of big government or big business.
Today another civic generation, Millennials, born between 1982 and 2003, is emerging into young adulthood and, like other cohorts of their type, are likely to once again push America toward a greater focus on security. In an era of ubiquitous smart phones, soon to be available as hands-free wearable glasses and smart watches, most Millennials accept the inevitable loss of privacy that comes with the increasing presence of social media. As a result, technologist Pete Markiewicz points out that tracking an individual’s physical and virtual movements can now be accomplished with sufficient mining of cell phone and web data to produce a “lifelog” that Google or Facebook might use to provide Millennials with a measure of their “personal connectedness” – or police might use to find a terrorist in our midst.
Having posted their entire life on Facebook, Millennials are less concerned than older generations with this kind of documentation of an individual’s behavior and more interested in how to use technology to increase their personal safety.
Like other generations, a solid majority of Millennials (58 percent) support national ID cards for all Americans. Two-thirds of them believe that surveillance cameras to combat terrorism are a good idea. And, half of Millennials, compared with 40 percent from other generations, favor government monitoring of credit card sales to help combat terrorists.
Even so, most Millennials are confident that this increased surveillance can be accomplished in accord with America’s constitutional traditions. According to Pew, only 25 percent of the Millennial generation (as compared with nearly half of older generations) believe that it will be necessary for Americans to give up civil liberties to curb terrorism. This does not mean that Millennials are naïve or soft on terror. They are quite willing to utilize the full force of government and to take complete advantage of current technology to deal with the threat, but they want it to be done fairly and in a non-discriminatory manner; less than half of Millennials favor extra airport screening of people of Middle Eastern descent, in contrast to nearly 60 percent of older Americans.
Fifteen years ago, in his book, “The Transparent Society,” futurist David Brin predicted constant surveillance would become part of daily life. As Mr. Brin wrote, the central question that must be answered to resolve the privacy/security paradox is “who controls the cameras or the networks and who can access the data.”
His solution to preserving civil liberties in such a world – increasing transparency at the same rate as the growth of personal data – offers a solution that Millennials, with their strong desire to share everything, would embrace. If the beliefs and behaviors of the Millennial generation become the country’s guideposts for how to live in this new world, America should do a better job in the near future than it has done in the past of adhering to its democratic principles as it searches for a greater sense of security.
Millennials: Willing To Trade
Privacy for Security
Millennials are more willing to give up privacy for security. Will the generation's
desire for safety lead to new levels of government and corporate surveillance?
Video from Mike and Morley
The current Congressional debate over Obama’s request to attack Syria for its use of chemical weapons embodies the same generational consequences and disagreements as the debate over the United States joining the League of Nations did almost one hundred years ago. The outcome of that vote settled the direction of American foreign policy for two decades, the span of a generation. The outcome of today’s debate may well have the same consequences for shaping the role of the United States in the world for another generation.
In 1919, President Woodrow Wilson personally led an ultimately unsuccessful campaign to convince the US Senate to ratify the Versailles Treaty ending World War I, which included the establishment of a League of Nations. Wilson, who firmly believed in compromise and conciliation as the best solution to future disputes between nations, was a member of the Progressive generation, an adaptive archetype similar to today’s seniors, members of the Silent Generation. Wilson told the Senate in July 1919 that "a new role and a new responsibility have come to this great nation that we honor and which we would all wish to lift to yet higher levels of service and achievement". Opposition came from Republican Senators such as William Borah of Idaho, a member of the younger Missionary generation, whose idealist attitudes most resemble today’s Baby Boomers. Wilson’s opponents focused on his idea of a continuing role for the United States in world affairs around Covenant X of the League of Nations, which required all member states to come to the aid of any other member who was a victim of external aggression. The treaty’s defeat caused the U.S. to assume a relatively passive role in international affairs that didn’t end until the Nazi conquest of much of Europe led President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to propose the Lend Lease Act, which Congress passed in 1941.
Now, another Democratic President has asked another Congress divided along generational lines as well as by partisanship to authorize the continuation of the United States’ role as the world’s policeman that has been the national consensus since World War II. The very first vote on the issue in the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee revealed the generational split that is likely to continue when the full Senate and House take up the issue. The average age of the seven U.S. Senators voting against the resolution was almost eight years younger than the ten U.S. Senators who voted to authorize the President to use military force. Both members of Generation X on the committee, Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Christopher Murphy (D-CT) cast bipartisan “ no” votes. The most strident opposition came from GOP Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, born on the cusp of generational change in 1963. He happily embraced attacks from his older Republican colleagues, who argued that his streak of libertarianism would return the country to the isolationist path it abandoned after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Unfortunately, none of the members of Congress who will cast final votes on the resolution are members of the nation’s largest and most diverse generation, Millennials. The debate comes too soon for them to be eligible to serve in the Senate, but their attitudes and beliefs are certain to have an impact on the nation’s foreign policy in the longer term. Millennials are more likely to support intervention by the United States on behalf of causes than on disputes between nation-states. For instance, only 12 percent of Millennials express support for the United States intervening to promote democracy, whereas 42 percent support using the U.S. military to halt genocide. They are also more inclined to support efforts when they represent the concerted action of allies, rather than a go-it-alone decision by the United States. By a three-to-one margin, Millennials believe that the United States should take the opinion of other countries into account when making foreign policy decisions, and about one quarter of them don’t believe the country does that frequently enough.
President Obama’s initial reaction to the use of chemical weapons reflected his sensitivity to these generational attitudes. He was spurred into action against Syria because it violated the prohibition on the use of such weapons by the Geneva Accords of 1925--cause enough in his opinion to warrant retaliation by the United States. When efforts to gain support for such action failed in the United Nations and in the British House of Commons the president decided to turn to Congress and seek its approval as a way to build consensus for the strikes. However in doing so, the administration inevitably had to accommodate arguments that such action was necessary to project our power against rivals such as Iran and in support of allies such as Israel in order to win over support from older members of Congress who tend to see the world through a more traditional, balance-of-power lens.
The push and pull of generational and partisan differences will continue to shape today’s watershed debate over Syria in the Congress. Whether its outcome lasts for decades or is simply another step in an ongoing debate about America’s role in the world in the 21st century will depend on the degree to which its final resolution resonates with the attitudes and beliefs of the Millennial generation that will ultimately determine the nation’s future.
Millennials & Foreign Policy
Why elder statesmen have a hard time embracing leading from behind. Millennials' belief in teamwork and consensus is changing America's approach to foreign policy.
The fundamental disconnect between network TV and its potential millennial viewers is not the usual suspect, technology. Yes, millennials are devoted to social media and have none of the love of broadcast television that Boomers acquired in their youth, or even the type of affinity Xers have for cable TV that started when they were teenagers demanding, “I want my MTV.” According to leading communications research and consulting firm Frank N. Magid Associates, Xers and Boomers will engage in 8.4 and 7.2 non-TV activities during prime-time hours, while millennials will engage in 10.4 activities. Millennials are much more likely to go online, visit a social network, listen to or play music, play games or just socialize out of the house and away from the TV box when networks most want them to pay attention to their programming. But those behaviors are an indication of how poor the programming is, not the root cause of the problem.
There are too many cynical members of Generation X who don’t begin to understand millennials, if they even try, making programming decisions for the networks that are being greenlighted by even more clueless Boomers. The result are network bombs like the American version of “Kath & Kim,” the ill-fated “My Generation,” and the most recent ratings victim, “How to Live with Your Parents (For the Rest of Your Life).” These programs suffered from casting popular Gen X actors, who didn’t know how to behave as millennials, in plots that substituted stereotypes from Generation X’s youth for character development and were as out of touch with the current experiences of millennials as smart phones are from clamshell cell phones.
Millennials are an optimistic, collaborative generation that believe in social rules and try and live by them. Teenage smoking rates are now the lowest ever recorded. From 1993 to 2010, the gun homicide rate in America declined 65% for those ages 12 to 17, the largest percentage decrease among all age groups. Yet older generations in charge of creating programs designed to appeal to this age group continue to broadcast stories about kids flaunting the rules, getting in trouble with the law, and engaging in the types of behavior that X-ers and Boomers did when they were young. But that is not the way millennials live.
There are of course some bright spots in this dark landscape, such as much of the Disney Family Channel’s programming, or shows like “Modern Family” and “Parenthood” that are very good at capturing intergenerational differences, even if their portrayal of millennials still has a whiff of Generation X in it. But these exceptions merely prove the general rule that without a greater understanding of the unique characteristics of the millennial generation, network television can expect its ratings to go the way of Gen X-oriented networks like Fox, leading to a future where, to quote NBC Entertainment’s Chairman, “flat is the new up.” Or worse.
Slugging Milwaukee Brewer outfielder Ryan Braun’s accomplishments earned him the National League’s Most Valuable Player award in 2011. But his suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs — one that will force him to sit out the rest of the 2013 season — forever called into question all of his achievements. Of course, Braun wasn’t the first player to be caught using steroids, and he won’t be the last. Their number includes Barry Bonds, baseball’s all-time home run leader, and Roger Clemens, a pitcher with 354 wins in his career. Within the next couple of weeks more players, most notably Alex Rodriguez, are likely to be punished for the same offense, some probably more severely than Braun.
One thing is different this time, however. Unlike previous attempts by players' union representatives to create a civil-rights issue over steroid testing, most present-day players have vigorously condemned Braun’s PED usage. The adverse reaction to Braun by other players was noticed and applauded by Travis Tygart, CEO of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, the organization that banned Lance Armstrong for life from competitive cycling for his use of steroids. According to Tygart, “It’s a new generation of athletes that are standing up. The culture’s been flipped on its head.”
That new generation is the Millennial generation. Millennials are a type of cohort that generational analysts call “civic.” Although some erroneously label Millennials as narcissistic and selfish, their record-breaking participation in community service efforts and the current deep decline in youth crime are just two of many behavioral facts that demonstrate that they are a well-behaved and team-oriented generation. Like other civic generations before them, Millennials are already bringing those positive traits to a Major League Baseball stadium near you. Before they are through flipping baseball’s culture, the national pastime is likely to experience its second golden age, similar to the one the previous civic generation, the GI Generation, brought to the game 80 years ago.
Most of baseball’s PED users have been members of the individualistic, iconoclastic Generation X. Even those X’ers who did not use steroids, rarely criticized those players who did. Compare that generational reaction to that of Millennial Max Scherzer, the Detroit Tigers' players' union representative.
“The whole thing has been despicable on his part. For me, as a player, you want to believe that the system works, but obviously he found a way around it. And when he did get caught, he never came clean … That’s why there’s so much player outrage toward him.” In fact, Scherzer doesn’t think Braun’s punishment was tough enough — he wants even more severe penalties for PED usage. He said, "We want to see either longer suspensions or whatever it takes to take away the incentive — the financial gain — taken away from players. Whether that’s voiding contracts, longer suspensions, you’re seeing every player jump on board that the penalty doesn’t fit the crime yet.”
But the Millennial generation’s contribution to baseball in the years ahead is going to be more positive than just condemning those who don’t compete fairly. Unlike most of the Gen X’ers before them, who focused on their individual achievements and large paychecks from whatever team was willing to pay them the most money, many Millennial players seem committed to the team that that originally signed them, trained them in the minors, and brought them to the big leagues.
In the same week that Ryan Braun was suspended, Red Sox second baseman and Millennial Dustin Pedroia signed an eight-year, $110 million contract two seasons before he would have become a free agent. Pedroia will clearly not suffer financially, but he likely could have received more money had he elected to go on the open market. However, there was more to his decision than the size of his paycheck. “This [Boston] is my home. I love being here. I love my teammates, love this city … A lot of teams passed on me because of my size [he’s 5’9” and weighs about 160 pounds] … That’s why I want to make sure I work as hard as I can to make sure they made the right choice in drafting me … I just want to make sure I’m playing my last game here.”
Pedroia is not the only Millennial generation ballplayer to make every effort to remain with his original team for the duration of his career. Dodgers pitching ace Clayton Kershaw has made plain his desire to remain in Los Angeles, and the Dodgers have reciprocated that interest. However, perhaps the most surprising case of a Millennial sticking with his first team is Cy Young award winner Felix Hernandez, who signed a seven-year contract extension with the small-market Seattle Mariners, a perennially non-contending team, last February. Most baseball observers believe that Hernandez could have made far more money and fame elsewhere.
In the first two decades of the 20th century baseball faced a crisis every bit as damaging to the game as steroid usage is now. That threat culminated when eight members of a generation of ballplayers described by baseball historian Bill James as “shysters, con men, drunks, and outright thieves” conspired with gamblers to throw the World Series. Like today, it took a new generation of players to rescue the game. Those GI generation players not only saved baseball, but also produced a golden era of high achievement on the field and record attendance in the stands. Baseball history is about to repeat itself in the Millennial era.
In an age of terrorism, the Millennial generation may well find that elusive balance between security and privacy. They reflect the safety concerns of their GI grandparents, the respect for civil liberties of their baby boomer parents, and mix in their own ethic of fairness and tolerance.
The first four amendments to America’s Constitution were the nation’s initial attempt to find a consensus on where to draw the line between personal freedom and privacy on the one hand and societal safety and security on the other. This debate has been with us ever since and now events, such as the Boston Marathon bombings, or new technologies, such as drones and ever present surveillance cameras, create new concerns over how to find the right balance between these two competing values.
Over the centuries, differences in generational attitudes have caused the nation’s consensus on how to balance this tension to shift. Group and civic-oriented generations, such as the GI generation or "greatest generation," emphasized safety and security. Individualistic generations, such as today’s baby boomers and Generation X, tilted the balance back toward protecting privacy.
Today another civic generation, Millennials, born between 1982 and 2003, is emerging into young adulthood and, like other cohorts of their type, are likely to once again push America toward a greater focus on security. What may be different this time is that Millennials’ beliefs and behaviors are also likely to create a search for safety as their GI grandparents did, but this push will be accompanied by a strong boomer-esque respect for civil liberties with a unique Millennial ethic of fairness and tolerance.
Millennials have been reared in a highly sheltered and protected manner, earning the sobriquet “Generation Lock Down” from one such parent, writer Howard Blum. In a poignant piece expressing his sadness after the most recent terrorist attack, Mr. Blum wrote that Millennials “are living in the land where Wild Things truly roam.” (He was referring to children’s author Maurice Sendak’s iconic characters.)
The GI generation learned from the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that the United States could no longer remain isolated in a dangerous world. In the same vein, shootings at Columbine High School, Virginia Tech University, and Sandy Hook Elementary School and terrorist attacks in New York, Washington, and Boston have taught Millennials that they might not be safe doing even routine things in everyday places.
But notably, none of those events seems to have shaken Millennials’ optimism or resiliency. In a November 2011 Pew survey, a clear plurality of Millennials believed that life in America was better rather than worse compared with the 1960s. By contrast, the greatest numbers of boomers and seniors felt that things have declined in America over the past four decades.
Millennials are also more likely to believe than boomers and seniors that America’s best days are still ahead. Since generational attitudes are most impacted by events that occur when each cohort is young and do not often change as people mature, this optimism is likely to persist among Millennials throughout their lifetime, just as it did for the GI Generation.
This Millennial optimism extends to an unwillingness to be cowed by terrorism. A CBS News-New York Times survey conducted in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing indicated that only 1 in 5 Millennials, compared with 1 in 4 among older generations, would be less likely to attend large public events to avoid being injured in a terrorist attack.
In an era of ubiquitous smart phones, soon to be available as hands-free wearable glasses from Google, most Millennials accept the inevitable loss of privacy that comes with the increasing presence of social media. Instead, their concern is how best to manage this curtailment for the sake of increased safety.
History provides a cautionary note on how difficult it can be to find the right answer to this dilemma. The need to protect the country in wartime has been used as an excuse to deprive citizens of their civil liberties more than once. During the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln suspended the right to a writ of habeas corpus – the guarantee that an arrested person will be brought before a court or judge.
In World War II, people of Japanese heritage were interned regardless of whether or not they had personally demonstrated a threat to the United States. During the cold war, thousands of Americans had their lives and careers disrupted with unsubstantiated accusations of disloyalty. More recently, despite his expressed personal misgivings, President Obama has ordered the killing of American terrorist by a drone strike without due process, let alone a trial.
Has America learned the lessons of these past infringements on rights in dealing with today’s challenges? The “warrantless wiretaps” during the Bush administration and the Obama Justice Department’s recent close scrutiny of reporters’ phone calls to uncover those who may have leaked national security information make it easy to question if it has.
However, the beliefs and behaviors of the Millennial generation provide some hope that America will do a better job in the near future than in the past of adhering to its principles as it searches for a greater sense of security.
According to Pew, only 25 percent of the Millennial generation (as compared with nearly half of older generations) believe that it will be necessary for Americans to give up civil liberties to curb terrorism. This does not mean that Millennials are naïve or soft on terror. They are quite willing to utilize the full force of government and to take complete advantage of current technology to deal with the threat, but they want it to be done fairly and in a non-discriminatory manner.
Like other generations, a solid majority of Millennials (58 percent) support national ID cards for all Americans. Two-thirds of them believe that surveillance cameras to combat terrorism are a good idea. And, half of Millennials, compared with 40 percent from other generations, favor government monitoring of credit card sales to help combat terrorists.
As Millennial Tara Marie Rose Hayman commented on Facebook, “at the airport, I would rather have my stuff looked through and everyone else go through that rather than protect privacy and have someone bomb you. It is good to know the intentions of others.”
At the same time, however, less than half of the Millennial generation favor extra airport screening of people of Middle Eastern descent, in contrast to nearly 60 percent of older Americans.
Technologist Pete Markiewicz points out that tracking an individual’s physical and virtual movements can now be accomplished with sufficient mining of cell phone and web data to produce a “lifelog” that Google might use to provide Millennials with a measure of their “personal connectedness” – or police might use to find a terrorist in our midst.
Fifteen years ago, in his book, “The Transparent Society,” futurist David Brin predicted this type of constant surveillance would become part of daily life. His solution to preserving civil liberties in such a world – increasing transparency at the same rate as the growth of personal data – offers a solution that Millennials, with their strong desire to share everything, would embrace.
As Mr. Brin wrote, the central question that must be answered to resolve the privacy/security paradox is “who controls the cameras or the networks and who can access the data.”
In the coming years, to enhance public safety, most Americans will almost certainly accept increased limitations on their privacy. The bigger challenge will be whether the nation can remain true to its democratic values of fairness, openness, and equality as it seeks greater security.
Millennials, America’s largest and most tolerant generation, will be the leading force in determining how well the nation addresses that challenge. Based on their sense of fairness and willingness to work with one another to achieve goals that meet the needs of the entire group, the prospects are good that Millennials will succeed in striking a balance that both provides enhanced security and protects our rights in the future.
at The Christian Science Monitor
Baz Luhrmann’s 3D interpretation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s iconic novel about the Jazz Age has critics raving about its visual effects and its capture of the cultural zeitgeist of the Roaring 20s. Many critics however have suggested that he jumped the shark by adding rap music from Jay-Z, Will.I.Am, and others to the movie’s musical score. But for those who know their generational history, the linkage is not only appropriate, but right on key.
F. Scott Fitzgerald was the poet laureate for what Gertrude Stein named the "Lost Generation," born in the twenty years before the turn of the 20th century. Entering young adulthood, members of the generation were awestruck by the changes the industrial revolution had wrought in America and eager to find a new path to success in the affluence of the Roaring 20s. The Lost Generation’s music was jazz — considered a dangerous new genre by many older Americans. Born in the bordellos of New Orleans, Jazz and its emblematic dance, the Charleston, encouraged its fans, dressed in daring new colors and styles, to lose their inhibitions in the energy of its syncopated rhythms. The orgiastic parties in Luhrmann’s new film captures this sense of a country gone wild with new riches, searching for a new morality to match more modern times.
The parallels to today’s Generation X are obvious, and not entirely coincidental. Born between 1965 and 1982, this small, frequently criticized generation rejected contemporary mores and unleashed a torrent of economic and personal risk-taking. Whether it was the celebration of Wall Street greed in the 1980s or the dot.com boom of the 1990s, Gen-X’ers saw new opportunities to make money without sacrificing their lives to the drudgery of corporate life. Their music was rap — another supposedly dangerous new genre, born in the urban ghetto, filled with misogynist and sadistic lyrics sung to a pounding rhythm that created a new global culture built around its hip hop beat and its unique style of dress.
It is hardly surprising then, that when Jay-Z was asked to score the soundtrack for The Great Gatsby, he immediately saw the connection between his own life and that of the novel’s central character. Jay-Z agreed to be the executive producer of the soundtrack, telling Luhrmann, “The thing about this story is that it’s not a question of how Gatsby made his money, it’s is he a good person or not? … And all these characters, do they have a moral compass?”
Reaching back into history, the creators of the new movie saw the similarity between the Lost Generation and Generation X, both of which rejected society’s strictures and boldly pursued a hedonistic, personalized path to the future. F. Scott Fitzgerald ends his novel with the immortal line, “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” But the past also contains another lesson for the cohorts born in the wake of such nihilistic generations.
Most of America’s GI Generation, called its greatest generation by Tom Brokaw, only felt the riches of the Roaring 20s during their childhood. They came of age in the poverty of the Great Depression and the terror of World War II. Yet they conquered both, went on to live happy, middle class, conformist lives and built most of the corporate and governmental institutions that we live with today.
Like their GI generation counterparts, millennials, born 1982-2003, have found themselves trying to find jobs after entering the workforce in the middle of another economic downturn, the Great Recession. The young lives of millennials were shaped by the terror of 9/11, shootings at schools and movie multiplexes, and bombings at marathons. Yet millennials remain the most optimistic, upbeat generation in America today, confident of their ability to work together to change the world for the better.
When the green light from Gatsby’s dock fades from view as Luhrmann’s film ends, audiences need to remember that thanks to generations like 20th Century GIs and 21st Century millennials, the country’s future is bound to be bright once again.
The producers of this year’s Oscar show, Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, deserve credit for attempting to overcome the challenges of putting on a show that has to appeal to multiple generations, even if the results were decidedly mixed. By choosing Seth MacFarlane to host the show, the Academy took some risk that his type of snarky humor wouldn’t offend viewers from older generations too much. In the end, MacFarlane managed to skewer every politically correct Boomer shibboleth, potentially costing the Oscars viewers next year should he return. But, in exchange, his reputation and the presence of major millennial stars brought the production major gains among viewers in the key 18-49 year old demographic.
Seth MacFarlane’s sense of humor is grounded in his Generation X sensibilities. Left to fend for themselves while growing up in a time of failing institutions and economic stagnation, X’ers pride themselves on their ability to poke fun at the establishment’s pretenses in order to shock it into paying some attention to their own generation, the most criticized of all of America’s current generations. Whether it was singing about the women in the audience who have exposed their breasts in movies; or having his creation, Ted, insist that Jews control Hollywood; or ending the show with a tribute to Boomer’s worst nightmare, losers; MacFarlane showed off the wit that has made him rich and the attitude that ensures none of his own movies are likely to win an Oscar.
The Academy also had an opportunity to celebrate millennial stars Sunday night, from the precocious Quvenzhané Wallis, born at the end of the generational cohort in 2003, to Anne Hathaway, born at the beginning of the Millennial generation in 1983. The rising star in the millennial firmament today is Jennifer Lawrence who earned her Best Actress Oscar for her leading role in Silver Linings Playbook, a quintessential millennial movie about overcoming family and personal dysfunction with a (spoiler alert) happy ending for doing just OK in a dance contest. Lawrence’s now infamous face plant on the steps up to the stage to accept her award also captured the “not yet ready for full adulthood” nature of her generation. Dressed in a very grownup gown that even attracted the hands of a grandfatherly Dustin Hoffman on the red carpet to properly “flounce” its train, Lawrence couldn’t quite pull off the “look at me, I’m all grown up” act in her moment of triumph. But her unpretentious and self-effacing come back line upon reaching the podium spoke volumes about the refreshingly different attitudes and behavior this generation brings to the Oscar party.
If the Academy embraces millennials’ optimistic, team-oriented spirit, it may find a way to satisfy all the generations in its audience without offending anyone. The Oscars should be a celebration of the movie industry’s ability to entertain America in a way no other medium can. With more films like this year’s crop and a hip host, the Academy might rescue its reputation for unrelenting hostility to the future and win over the hearts and minds of the key demographic it yearns to attract.
President Obama’s comprehensive proposal for preventing gun violence in America is to be commended. The focus for policy makers shouldn’t be to try and sort out which of his ideas are politically feasible but rather which ones will work to accomplish the goal of preventing gun violence of all types, while preserving the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms.
Linking the ideal outcome to a focus on the pragmatic steps we can take now to make progress toward the ultimate goal is how the Millennial Generation (born 1982-2003) approaches this type of challenge and, in this case, it holds great promise for actually fixing one of the most intractable problems facing the United States.
As with many other social issues, Millennials have a much more liberal perspective on solutions to gun violence than their older siblings--members of Generation X, who grew up when Ronald Reagan was president. By a 55% to 36% margin, Millennials favor taking steps to control gun ownership over protecting the right to own guns. Only seniors, normally more conservative on these types of issues, approach this level of support for government action to make our cities and neighborhoods safer. By contrast, Generation X, born 1965 to 1981, is the one generation which , even after Newtown, believes it is more important to protect gun ownership rights than to control the use of firearms (by a 48% to 42% margin).
A recent report from the Gun Violence Prevention Task Force sponsored by the Roosevelt Institute’s Campus Network (RICN), underlines both Millennials’ support for taking on the issue and their focus on pragmatic steps to do so. Starting with its title, “Young People’s Concrete Policy Recommendations to Address Gun Violence Prevention in America,” the report analyzes each side of the debate solely in terms of what solutions are likely to work. The recommendations correctly focus on steps to decrease access to semiautomatic weapons and any ammunition clip with more than ten rounds. It strongly endorses the creation of comprehensive databases that would have to be accessed for any gun transaction to take place, with a special emphasis on ensuring the names of those with serious mental illness are included in the database. With special insight, the report, by a group of progressive Millennials, properly dismisses the distracting idea of making the current debate about culture or media coverage, as opposed to taking action.
There is plenty of evidence in the nation’s successful efforts to reduce crime to suggest that this Millennial approach to the problem will work. As Simon Rosenberg, has pointed out, violent crime, with the sole exception of gun violence, particularly in country’s largest cities, has dropped dramatically since 1993. The principle reason for that decline was the introduction of the CompStats process by Bill Bratton as police chief of New York City, which led to a 77% decline in crime in that city alone since then. Vice President Al Gore’s reinventing government initiative, recognized the efficacy of this program and spread knowledge of Bratton’s approach to police chiefs across the country. This is one of the key reasons why there has been a continued decline since then in the nation’s crime rates. Despite economic hard times, major increases in our juvenile population as Millennials became teen agers, and a series of other societal developments that traditional sociologists and criminologists had predicted would cause an increase in crime, the progress continues.
CompStats uses current, accurate information to analyze where crimes are being committed and by whom. The goal is to get bad guys off the streets and to flood high crime areas with police resources. The gun violence analogy to this simple and effective approach would be to keep people who lack the intention or ability to use guns responsibly from buying firearms and to heavily penalize those who use them irresponsibly. A comprehensive assault weapon and ammunition clip ban of the type the RICN advocates has proven to be effective in other countries in limiting access to guns, and a fully developed and federally mandated background check for all gun transactions should be instituted to keep the wrong people from being able to buy guns.
This still leaves the problem of existing weaponry, but buy-back programs both in the US, and elsewhere, have been effective in further reducing gun violence. The attempts of NRA supporters to short circuit such efforts by trying to buy the guns being offered instead of letting the police destroy them testifies to the ultimate effectiveness of this approach to reducing the nation’s stockpile of unnecessary weapons. And the success of the state of Virginia, a gun lover’s and seller’s paradise, in reducing gun violence by making it clear that criminals who use guns will be prosecuted to the maximum extent of the law has proven its value as the right public policy approach to go after those who should never be allowed to use a gun.
CompStats and the RICN report provide one further valuable lesson to keep in mind as the debate over President Obama’s proposals heats up. When Bratton first introduced the concept to his leadership team, its members told him he could never accomplish his initial goal of reducing crime in NYC by 40% within three years. Their argument was that since the police had no control over the causes of crime—poverty, ethnic and racial tensions, or educational levels--it was not possible or even fair to hold the police accountable for its reduction. But Bratton made it clear that it was not necessary to address the underlying causes of bad behavior to reduce it substantially by simply focusing on the individuals committing crimes and eliminating places where they might be tempted to do so.
Similarly, it can and probably will be argued ad infinitum whether or not violent entertainment creates a fascination with guns that leads to gun violence. And an equally unproductive debate can be held over the media’s role in glorifying those who commit such acts. But no matter who is right, there is no reason to have that debate delay the country from doing something to keep guns out of the hands of those who would use them improperly. With technologies much less sophisticated than what is available today to sift and sort big databases, Bratton’s CompStats process was still able to pinpoint where to direct efforts to take bad guys off the street and dramatically change the safety of our cities.
The nation’s consciousness has been stirred by the slaughter of innocent children in Newtown, Connecticut. But as Newark Mayor Cory Booker correctly points out, gun violence takes the lives of more than thirty people, about as many who died at Virginia Tech, every single day. Now that Newtown and the President’s proposals have focused the nation’s attention on the problem of how to end such senseless slaughter, attention must be paid to the Millennial Generation’s ideas on how to meet this challenge. More than any other generation, it is their future that is at risk if we fail to do so.
Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964) tended to be workaholics—causing the average time their Gen X children spent with an adult role model during a typical day to fall to about 14.5 minutes.
Despite their parents’ attempt to make these fleeting moments “quality time,” adult Gen Xers (born 1965-1981) are determined not to let their own work life intrude on the time they spend with their family.
However, as Boomer Anne-Marie Slaughter so eloquently points out in her controversial and interesting Atlantic magazine article, Why Women Still Can’t Have It All, implementing the concept of work/life balance can be challenging—especially for women.
As a result, the children of Boomers and Xers, members of the Millennial generation (born 1982-2003), are searching for an alternative approach to incorporating the obligations to family and the demands of work.
The desire of Millennials of both sexes for a “blended life” will remake how work is organized and what is expected from each parent in the years to come.
Ryan Healy, (pictured right) the COO and co-founder of Brazen Careerist, clearly articulated his generation’s desire for something completely different than the work/life balance exhibited by his Gen X elders early in his career.
“I would never dream of saying I want a Family/Life balance. … This whole notion of needing to separate work and life implies that your career, which takes up about 75% of your day, is something you simply try to get through so you can go home and do what you really enjoy for the other 25%. What a terrible way to live. My purpose is to be successful, genuinely happy and to make a difference in this world. … The balance doesn’t work, we already know this. I don’t want to choose. I want a blended life.” Click here to read more.
Millennials like Healy have the most gender-neutral attitudes of any generation in American history.
Unleashed from traditional societal constraints, Millennial women have reached new heights of accomplishment in comparison to men.
For instance, by 2016, women are projected to earn about two-thirds of all undergraduate and master’s degrees and even 56 percent of the doctorates that will be awarded in the United States. Millennial gender-neutrality has also led to a perspective on feminism that isn’t defined in comparison to men.
Jen Kalaidis, (pictured at left) is a writer and marketer in DC who describes her Millennial sisters’ attitudes this way, “Today’s women were raised to believe we were equal to men, but we didn’t have to try to be them to prove it. We play sports, go to college, start businesses, have babies, and travel the world on our own terms. We aren’t constantly trying to out-man the boys, play for play.”
All of this female success has led some male Millennials to rethink what it means to be a man in today’s society.
Two of them, Andrew Romano and Tony Dokoupil, wrote about “Men’s Lib” in Newsweek and took issue with those “who argue that men are ‘designed’ for some gigs and not others … women long ago proved that gender essentialism doesn’t determine what kind of work they can do. … The time has come for a similar expansion of what men can do for a living.”
Romano and Dokoupil expect to see greater participation in housework and child-rearing from the men in their generation as well, with Millennial fathers creating a demand for, and taking advantage of, paternity-leave opportunities as they become more available.
As Millennials marry and start families and pursue their individual careers, employers who wish to attract the best talent of the generation will have no choice but to accommodate their desire for a more blended life.
Such things as telecommuting, flexible hours, child care, and round-the-clock access to technology will become essential elements of the benefits package employers will need to offer their workforce.
With Millennials on track to become more than one out of every three adult Americans by the end of this decade, their desire for a seamless blend between working and raising a family will generate a new national consensus on the importance of enabling the full participation of both sexes in all aspects of American life.
at National Journal
An August national survey of nearly 3,300 Americans between the ages 18 and 85, conducted by research company Frank N. Magid Associates, details the current composition of the two major political party coalitions that are more distinct from one another than at any other time in the past 50 years--perhaps even since the Great Depression.
In many democracies, political parties represent particular interests: labor or business, specific religions, ethnicities, or regions. In the United States, with its continental dimensions, varied population, and a constitutional system designed to disperse governing power, political parties are historically, and still remain, coalitions of various social groups. No party monopolizes the members of any one demographic, and each party contains at least some representation from all segments of the population.
Once formed, the party coalitions have staying power. During the Great Depression, Franklin Roosevelt assembled the New Deal coalition comprised of Southern whites; the "Greatest Generation" children of Eastern and Southern European immigrants; white workers; and urban blacks. This coalition dominated U.S. electoral politics for four decades and restructured public policy domestically, transforming public economic policy from laissez faire to governmental activism; and internationally, moving the nation’s foreign policy from isolationism to interventionism.
But as new generations with new concerns emerged in the midst of the racial and lifestyle changes of the 1960s, the New Deal coalition fell apart. It was supplanted by a Republican coalition that increasingly added two former components of the Democratic coalition—the white South and working-class whites—to the upper-income white residents of suburbs and small towns outside of the South that had been the core of the GOP in the previous era. The new Republican coalition dominated national elections almost as long and shaped public policy almost as profoundly as had the New Deal coalition that it superseded.
But these party coalitions are formed in a nation with a constantly changing economy, political process, and demographic makeup and, consequently, are not permanent. The Magid display very clearly the sharp differences between today’s party coalitions.
The majority of voters who identify with or lean to the Republican Party are males and members of America’s two oldest generations—baby boomers, those in their 50s to mid-60s; and silents or seniors--who together make up 53 percent of Republicans.
The GOP coalition is almost entirely white (81 percent). It is disproportionately southern (38 percent of all Republicans and 41 percent of strong Republican identifiers) and 40 percent reside in small towns and rural areas. Two-thirds of Republicans are married, and three-quarters are Christian; only 7 percent are unaffiliated with any faith. A third of all GOP identifiers and 42 percent of strong Republicans attend religious services at least weekly. And, not surprisingly, 56 percent of all Republicans and 68 percent of strong Republican identifiers are self-professed conservatives.
The Democratic coalition is far different. A majority of Democratic identifiers are women and from the country’s two youngest generations—Millennials, voters in their 20s; and Generation X, people in their 30s and 40s, who in total make up 57 percent of Democrats. Forty-one percent of all Democrats and 45 percent of strong Democrats are nonwhite with about equal numbers of African-Americans and Hispanics.
Nearly half of Democrats live in the Northeast and West, and a disproportionately large number—70 percent—live in big cities or suburbs. Just half are married. Only 57 percent are Christian, and about one in five are either of non-Christian denominations or unaffiliated with any faith. Just 21 percent of Democrats attend a religious service weekly. Slightly more, 24 percent, never do.
The Democratic coalition is, however, more diverse ideologically than the Republican: While a plurality, 42 percent, are either self-identified liberals or progressives, nearly as many, 35 percent, say they are politically moderate.
The United States is undergoing major demographic, economic, and societal changes that have led to this new alignment and will continue to shape the two parties' coalitions. Some of the change—the Great Recession, the deepest and longest economic downturn since the 1930s—was severe and occurred almost overnight.
Other changes, among them the transformation of the nation from a white to nonwhite majority, the emergence of America’s largest and most diverse generation, the Millennials, and a makeover of the U.S. economy, are taking place more slowly, but equally profoundly.
To hold together and expand their coalitions, both parties will need to formulate a new “civic ethos” that addresses the fundamental question of what the size and scope of government should be in this new era.
Both President Obama and Mitt Romney recognize this and have used their respective party’s conventions to articulate distinctly different visions and values that they believe should shape and guide America’s politics and government in the coming years.
The party that enunciates this new civic ethos in a way that enables it to build a majority electoral and governing coalition is likely to dominate U.S. politics for the next four or five decades.