Friday, April 07, 2006

Millenials In The New Millenium

Are Echo Boomers Merely Outlandish Caricatures Of Each Other?
By Joanna Palmer

A few weeks ago I traveled to Greenwich Village with two friends for a calm shopping day, which commenced at a small pizzeria. As we devoured our overpriced, greasy yet delicious slices of pizza, two young boys entered, the oldest barely pushing 13, and the youngest, most likely his brother, was on the early side of six or seven. We watched as the two boys ordered their slices and then blew right past the register and sat down to enjoy their complimentary food.

After a moment, the woman behind the counter went over to the boys to inform them that, contrary to their own beliefs, the food they were consuming was not free. The eldest boy proceeded to blurt out obscenities at the woman and inform her that “he don’t have to pay for nothing.” All the while, the boy’s brother giggled through his cheese and pepperoni and agreed, using equally offensive obscenities and derogatory terms at the woman.

Roughly ten minutes and two threats to call the police later, my friends and I decided we had had our fill and went to exit the door. Unsatisfied with the outcome, one of my comrades went over to the young men and informed them that if they would merely apologize, she would gladly pay for their food. The boys declined her offer, ran out of the pizzeria throwing pizza, screaming words that made the grown men blush, and disappeared into the night, laughing at their successful dine and dash.

These young boys were members of what a CBS’s 60 Minutes report calls “Echo Boomers.” These boys that ran laughing into the night for stealing food and insulting women three times their age are a part of the generation that Historian Neil Howe called “much different than their self-absorbed, egocentric baby boomer parents.” This isolated incident in itself should call for a rebuttal against this statement.

The report seemed to give the idea that although today’s generation of youth may be na├»ve, they are motivated individuals with drive and ambition and want nothing more than to be a vital part of society. The children I see every day want nothing more than to get rich, answer to their own rules and achieve all of this with a minimal amount of work or effort.

The 60 Minutes report states that because technology has advanced at such a great rate over the past 40 to 50 years, young people of the echo boomer generation have the ability to produce results faster than previous generations, that they have access to more information, thus, access to more skills and that they are indeed “multitaskers” that are “totally plugged-in citizens of a worldwide community.” What sorts of information are these little over-achieves plugging into exactly? I have read news reports, seen documentaries and read entire feature articles about children and preteens downloading, sending, and even creating pornography over the Internet.

One argument could be that this is no worse than children of the 70s and 80s finding their father’s Playboys under his mattress. The Playboys of the 70s and 80s did not include full color video of a 14-year-old girl masturbating for a boy she had a crush on. However, the library at the middle school that this young girl attended did include this piece of art, which was broadcast throughout the school. In the 70s and 80s, weren’t 14 year old girls still passing notes to the boys they liked?

“This is a generation that has long aimed to please,” said Dr. Mel Levine of the University of North Carolina in the 60 Minutes report. They’ve wanted to please their parents, their friends, their teachers, their college admissions officers.” Of all of the friends I had in high school, I would estimate perhaps ten of them actually informed their parents what their plans would be on the weekend, let alone what their plans were for the future. I knew more students that found it more amusing to spit in teachers’ faces than bring them an apple. The youth generation of today does not wish to impress anyone but themselves and perhaps the few peers they deem worthy enough to impress.

Sixty Minutes could not have been more correct concerning one aspect of the secret life of echo boomers: the think tank mentality that flows over the generation as though one step ‘out side of the box’ will end in terminal illness or fatality. “They have been heavily programmed … whose whole lives have really been based on what some adult tells them to do,” claims Dr. Levine.

Perhaps this is true, but somewhere, some way, somehow, one child stood up and decided that parents were no longer the ones that would program him or his generation. Instead they would listen to the ethics of Paris Hilton, the fashion sense of the characters on a preteen drama, the proper social etiquette as mapped out by MTV. Suddenly, what the adults had to say really didn’t matter anymore. Now, the only way to get a message across to these echo spawn is to sew it into the back of Mary-Kate’s designer dress.

The youth of today no longer has the desire to be an individual, as this report so eloquently states. Then there are the supposed ‘radicals’ with piercings and tattoos and clothes that only make sense if you look at them standing on your head while being treated for pink eye and have just been declared color blind. Even these outlandish caricatures of teenagers seem to mirror each other, in physical and verbal messages. They want to ‘stand out’ ‘express themselves’ ‘show who they really are’. Unfortunately, no one has had the audacity to inform these extremists that ‘who they really are’ is just like everyone else.

I weep for the future. Highly motivated echo boomers are few and far between. Everyone looks like everyone else in this generation. They all have the same things to say, they all have the same things to do in order to make themselves unique. With these programmed, one track minded, swearing, spitting, disrespectful, self centered youths entering the real world soon, it will only make the job force more difficult; how will employers tell them apart?

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