Innovative Edge – Millennial Generation

In this second episode of “News from the innovative edge”, Tom and Jon explore the millennial generation. Be sure to catch Jon’s post below the video.

A Generation of Hope, Hopefully

– Jon Plummer –

A core piece of my internship lately has been researching the characteristics of the millennial generation (22-33 years old). It has been an interesting exploration since I am of this generation. Hearing both the negative and positive view from other generations, as well as my own, has shed a new light on the Millennial generation, and on myself. I find an interesting contradiction many state in reference to Millennials: they are lazy and narcissistic, yet they are very concerned about social change and will make the world a better place. I have wanted to dismiss the lazy, narcissistic part, wanting to disprove it. However, I have to admit I know both sides reside in me. We millennials seem to be a two-sided coin.

Just today, for a theology class, I read an chapter from Richard Bauckham and Trevor Hart’s book Hope against Hope: Christian Eschatology at the Turn of the Millennium, called “The Wager of Transcendence: in Search of an Ecology of Hope.” As the title implies, Bauckham and Hart speak of Christian hope, which they argue is the “very heart and centre of a human being,” writing that hope is “an activity of imaginative faith” that “transfigures the present precisely by enabling us to transcend it imaginatively and, upon our return, to perceive all too clearly its lacks and needs.”

But the authors also speak of the hopelessness that exists in our society. They argue that in our postmodern society the hopeless, and I would argue much of the Millennial generation, has “had its hopes temporarily raised by the myth of progress only to see them dashed again.” And because this hope has been dashed “there is a loss of any serious sense of public accountability or concern.” There is a perception that there is no way out, no way forward. Bauckham and Hart write:

Thus, not wanting to be bothered with a despairing shared world, we postmodern individuals retreat instead into our private televisual and computerized virtual realities which, unlike the ‘real world’, we can programme, control and edit to our own advantage and personal delight. Instead of sharing in community we now prefer to face not other people but the monitor, logging into a cyber-personal internet which grants us hitherto unimaginable access to a vast electronic cosmos, but which, ironically, simultaneously divorces us from flesh and blood reality itself.
This, I believe this is what others see when they say that Millennials are lazy and narcissistic. And I think they are accurate. Virtual reality is about personal pleasure and it promotes inactivity. This “mere fantasizing…is a matter only of projecting our desires on to the blank screen of what may lie ahead.” Being bothered out of the self means complicated relationships that may make little difference or leave us in the same despair. A future is hard to imagine.

However, I’m not convinced hopelessness pervades all. Bauckham and Hart write that hope is rooted in the other and it looks beyond the self. Hope is “a hunch about what is genuinely possible,” it “knows it needs help, and it thinks it knows where to find it.” It is rooted in real possibilities of the here-and-now. This is the other side of Millennials. In the midst of hardship, a tough economy, and technology that is excitingly innovative yet pushes them further from each other (under the guise of hyper-connectivity), there is extreme optimism of the future. The authors write, “We keep going, keep striving to find a way forward precisely because we believe there is such a way even when we cannot yet see it clearly.” This is the drive behind so many Millennials starting new social enterprises and community empowerment projects. They know others need help, including themselves. We know imagining the future in new, innovative ways that concern the whole of the world is the path to genuine change in the world.

Though postmodernity has left many in hopeless situations, it has also exposed the myth of progress so engrained in our culture. This has not only became clear to Millennials, but also to many from other generations who are fed up with the lie. The question is what side of the coin will we choose daily. Will we lose hope and retreat to a fake reality or find ourselves with a new hope of the future, not focused on progress, but rather on the imagination of a new creation where “the future-made-present is manifest”?

Jon and his wife, Kelsey, blog over at Live.Simply Love.Deeply