Two days ago, a seemingly very pleasant writer named Lauren Martin wrote a piece called "Could It Be? Millennials Are The New Generation of Hippies, But With Better Weed" for Elite Daily, a website which claims to be “The Voice of Generation-Y” and whose mere existence refutes her argument.
Sure, life might be a lot easier if Millennials like myself were hippies, but we’re not for a thousand million reasons.
Millennials are a unique complex generation that is just standing on the awkward shoulders of all the youth cultures that came before. A New York Times piece on Millennial hipsters broke down some of the various bygone culture groups by looking at the emotion/affect they valorized, claiming that hippies had love, the beatniks had ecstasy (little “e”), the punks had rage, and the GenX slackers had apathy and angst.
Isn’t the typical Millennial an embodiment of all of those things?
But still Ms. Martin insists on a few points as to why she believes we are “very much the generation of flower power,” namely our choice in entertainment, our drug use, our freedom of expression, and our politics (not to mention our “parkas made from alpaca wool, kale chips, and lots of cocaine”), while simultaneously not actually strengthening her arguments in any tangible fashion. But just for fun, let's still take them individually. However, first, one issue needs to be addressed:
Lauren Martin most likely does not know what a hippie is.
She knows what Hollywood has told her what a hippie is. She recognizes things like The Beatles, Volkwagen vans, and Vietnam as all being tangentially tied to the hippie movement, but does she know about the DNC protests, or Weather Underground, or the Yippies? Hippies wanted to remove capitalism and an american political system they saw as authoritarian and unrepresentative. They weren’t just weed-smoking, bongo drummers that solved mysteries with their pet Great Dane.
But let’s tear off the petals from Martin’s flower one by one.
Martin has the audacity to write, "Carol King goes by Lana Del Ray, Janis Joplin is known as Amy Winehouse, and John Mayer likes to think he’s Bob Dylan. Woodstock is Coachella, Burning Man and Bonnaroo,” without ever pointing out that all of these modern examples are all manifestations of those giant corporations she’s railing against.
Lana Del Ray is an easy example of image manipulation, but all those “festivals by the sea” that she romanticizes? Those things are huge profit generators sponsored by the likes of Red Bull, Heineken, and H&M. That’s why going to a festival like Coachella or Burning Man where you’re “roughing it”, can still end up costing almost $1,000. Doing drugs in the desert gets expensive.
Speaking of drugs, a good portion of Ms. Martin’s article relies on the argument that, like hippies, Generation Y’ers are strong proponents of recreational marijuana use — though she does mention cocaine as a wildly 60’s thing to do too (“like the 80’s never happened”). And while there’s a chance this whole piece is actually high-minded satire making fun of Millennials obsession with weed -- which my optimistic self wants to believe -- even if it is, I don’t think the 123k people that Liked this on Facebook or the 2,400 that posted in on Twitter — with commentary like “It’s the truth about our generation!” — are in on the joke.
In actuality, our drug culture is much different than that of the 60’s. In a 1969 Gallup poll, only 4% of American adults said they had tried marijuana (though that did rise to 12% by 1973). And ask anyone over 50 (you can trust them), our weed is crazy good compared to theirs back then; it's a completely different ballgame. And yes, some “hippies” idolized LSD and yes acid is still prevalent today, but Millennials will ultimately be known for one drug only: MDMA
In only a few short years it, bolstered by a growing EDM craze, put a stranglehold on the 16-24 year old demographic. The number of emergency department visits involving ecstasy or its related forms doubled from 2005 to 2011, and if you look at pop culture, that is the drug we are celebrating.
OUR FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION
We are one of the least “free” generations in history.
Millennials are too trapped by the prison of awareness to ever really think we’re free. Really, we’re the most aware generation of all time, both of ourselves and the world around us. We’re even aware that others are aware of the majority of what we do! It's why so little of what we do is authentic.
And each generation has tried to be what it sees as authentic. Hippies, beatniks, punks and slackers all rebelled against norms that they thought were supporting inauthentic lifestyles and cultures, granted this was done through a variety of techniques. But we, in 2014, try and promote our authenticity by cataloguing and displaying our experiences after the fact for everyone to see, Like, and comment upon. Sadly, our “authentic” life is tied to validation by an outside source, which usually comes from online.
And it’s not like the internet is a commune for positivity and good vibes. It’s a cesspool of anonymous hate and negativity. Millennials may be connected, but we’re not collected; we’re terrible to each other online, thus why despite the “freedom” of the internet, we Millennials are increasingly individualized.
Millennials might be the most educated, therefore liberal, generation yet, but let’s not go tooting our horn about the great social changes that are going to come on down the line. We may all tweet about how much we love Obama, but less than 50% of eligible young voters turned out to the last presidential election (and those were record high numbers). Plus, according to a study done at San Diego State University:
"Compared to Baby Boomers, GenX’ers and Millennials considered goals related to extrinsic values (money, image, fame) more important and those related to intrinsic values (self-acceptance, affiliation, community) less important. Concern for others (e.g., empathy for out groups, charity donations, the importance of having a job worthwhile to society) declined slightly. Civic orientation (e.g. interest in social problems, political participation, trust in government, taking action to help the environment and save energy) declined, with about half the decline occurring between GenX and the Millennials...Saving the environment, an area purported to be of particular concern to young Millennials, instead showed one of the largest declines."
On top of that, Millennials won’t be in charge of Congress until at least 2035, so let’s not start waving the “soon we’re going to have no wars or bigotry or intolerance” flag just quite yet. Just because over 100,000 people signed a petition to have Justin Bieber deported doesn’t mean that his videos aren’t getting 44,000,000 views on YouTube.
Put that in your peace pipe and smoke it.