Thursday, February 25, 2010

A positive generation?

NPR discusses how the millenial generation is more positive.

Um, ok. I guess that is not hard to believe. After all, youth is typically not yet as jaded about life and experiences as their elders. Not quite sure why this should be such a headline but it seems that some people are rather surprised by it. "OMG! Young people seem to be more positive?! Who knew?!"

But there were a couple of things that got me about the piece. First was the pervasive belief that many of them were overwhelmingly liberal (OH NO, the "L" word!) and have a positive feeling about government. I guess that seems reasonable when it is many in their generation who helped to elect the nation's first black president - an action that few who grew up during the turbulent 60's felt would happen in their lifetime. It also seems reasonable when one considers that it is the young who often change the world. The older one becomes, the more likely they are to be entrenched in their ways as well as to maintain the status quo. The young, on the other hand, tend to not only see many of the wrong and the iniquities of the world (along with their elders) but are far more inclined to want to work hard to make changes to help improve it. If we recognize that liberal, in a political context, is the antonym of conservative (more resistant to change), it seems rather obvious that they would be more liberal. Indeed, it would be much more surprising if they were not liberal.

The idea that they are more trusting of government is interesting. Earlier generations have been less trusting of government. For those who grew up during the Nixon era or the Cold War, a lack of faith in government seems completely reasonable. It is surprising that those who grew up during the Clinton and Bush 43 presidencies would have more positive feelings regarding government. But the generation that voted for hope and change may still be hopeful that things can change for the better, thus the positive feelings regarding government.

There is also a sense among this generation that things will work out for the best in the end. Despite the turmoil that exists in their lives today - high unemployment or underemployment, two wars, rancorous partisanship, less religious beliefs (though they do not apparently lack for spiritual beliefs) - they have faith that things will improve. Perhaps they have faith that the government will be there to support them and make sure that they are taken care of in the future - in spite of the overwhelming evidence of history that may serve as a warning otherwise. People and civilizations have survived, governments have not. But for those who are too young to remember and unwilling to learn the lessons of history, perhaps this is not an unusual attitude.

After all, history does have a tendency to repeat itself.

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