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The children of neoliberalism live in front of the screen

Millennials and the Moments That Made Us: A Cultural History of the US from 1982-Present
Forfatter: Shaun Scott:
Forlag: Zero Books (USA)
Author Shaun Scott uses fragments of his own life, neoliberal economic politics, pop culture, sports and video games to describe and understand the millennium generation.


Shaun Scotts Millennials and the Moments That Made Us: A Cultural History of the US from 1982-Present portrays the Millennium Generation, or Generation Y: They were born at one time or another between 1982 and 2000, and are characterized by a good bearing on modern technology, are late to mature, and easier to accept racial, ethnic, and sexual diversity . The author describes the "conditions of the millennium generation" by presenting a puzzle of fragments from his personal life, neoliberal economic politics, pop culture, sports and video games. Although the book is about the United States, it is easily understood by Europeans, since most of us live in the same cultural and economic zone, except for the fact that the social system in Europe is not yet completely destroyed.

New growing conditions

The undersigned belongs to the Millennium generation, but I was not born in the United States, but in the Soviet Union, which broke down when I was seven years old. In the beginning we wished alt, we kidsa from the other side of the wall: MTV, sneakers, Barbie dolls and colorful ice cream. Time passed, and we began to become critical of the superficial bubble of American culture that mesmerized us. Fifteen years ago, I visited the United States for the first time, and I still remember a conversation with a middle-class mom who was constantly talking about how much she had to work to pay for kids' private schools. The sad thing was that she rarely saw the children she was so worried about. Her children, as Shaun Scott writes about in her book, were raised by surrogate parents: television and video games. The time when one working parent could provide for the family was over, and commercial pop culture did everything to fill the void.

But it wasn't just music, movies and video games that entertained us; the politicians also participated in the play. In the 1990s, when millions of millennials reached puberty, President Bill Clinton's sexual affair with Monica Lewinsky became an entertaining reality show. Knowing about blowjobs became part of the youth's daily activities.

Potential partners are seen as a replaceable commodity.

With 9/11 in 2001, the game became more serious. Television played a major role in making us sure that America's collective psyche was traumatized and coded with vengeance fantasies. During this time, many millennials entered the military, where they could apply skills they had acquired when playing video games as children.

And then came 2016 with Trump, the next pop icon: "I'm going to suck all the oxygen out of the room, I know how to treat the media in a way that makes them never want to take the projectors away from me." Although he mostly appeared in a negative light, Trump really got the most out of the spotlight. And he started a political farce that in a bizarre way was predicted by The Simpsonsthe episode "Bart to the Future" in 2000.

Was it the fault of the millennial generation that Trump triumphed? Well, in part. Most millennials wanted Bernie Sanders as president, a self-proclaimed Democratic socialist who promised to fight Wall Street, provide free college education and health care for all. But Sanders lost to Hillary Clinton in the nomination election, and many millennials stayed home on election day. Bloomberg states that 48 percent of whites between 18 and 29 voted for Trump. Hillary Clinton received 43 percent of the vote. This can be explained by the low turnout among progressive millennials, and high turnout among conservatives.

News and sex

The millennials started life in front of the television screen. As adults, they sit with their smartphones in their hands. Facebook is definitely one of the most addictive platforms for social media, but Generation Y spends a lot of time on YouTube, Twitter, WhatsApp and Tinder. These platforms act as alternative media and offer more radical news – showing police brutality, demonstrations and gender harassment – which is often overlooked by the traditional media. But Scott does not go into an analysis of the consequences of the readily available false information, nor does he mention that Facebook uses filter bubbles to ensure that we get the information we already like. This filtering leads to people mostly consuming political content that matches their own view and thus losing the overall picture.

Social media also has a big impact on how Generation Y makes friends and finds love. Scott refers to Aziz Ansari's book Modern Romance, where she describes how Tinder and other digital apps have changed the way we relate to relationships: Potential partners are seen as an interchangeable commodity. When a potential boyfriend or sex partner stops responding to messages, a millennial can just check his app and find a new one.

The millennials are poorer than the parent generation. The neoliberal system has created a large number of unpaid trainees, freelancers and part-time employees. Many young people are caught up in large student loans that they have to pay down from their poorly paid jobs. This leads to the formation of a Peter Pan generation – a large number of young people still live with their parents, others move home when they have problems. Living in a collective is the new normal, not only for students, but also for people in their mid-30s. On the social platforms, however, everyone tries to shine. This creates a hyper-false reality that makes many depressed.

The millennials are poorer than the parent generation.

Scott blames economic instability when young millennials postpone starting a family and other "adult" activities. I would rather say that is one of the reasons. At least in Eastern Europe, many of us were skeptical of this work-at-home-work-at-home model that characterized our parents' lives. We knew that one day we would settle down, but before that we wanted to party, travel and discover life. It is also not so easy for people to find a stable partner when you have so many choices and offers that entice on the smartphone.

What now? At the end of Millennials and the Moments That Made Us Scott suddenly turns from being a cultural historian to becoming a politician, and presents concrete measures to improve conditions in the United States. Instead of his program, I wish he offered a deeper psychological portrait of Generation Y: What about alt-right millennials and their motivations? What about the culture? There are many snapshots from pop culture, but rapper Drake's views are not enough to bring up a generation to think critically. Analytical information circulating on social media helps, but at the same time the magic factories make sure that it floods with fake news Online. Trump is not only a product of poor economic policy, but also of poor cultural education.

Astra Zoldnere
Soldiers is a Latvian film director, curator and publicist.

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