A little bit ago, I read Nick Gillespie's article on my generation (I heartily agree), as well as an article letting me know I am part of the most stressed generation. I'm not surprised, any more than I was to find out what was in the Obama administration's White Paper on drones.
Most of us are preoccupied with the things that affect our daily lives and growth: careers, money, love, sex, and fun. Stress is created by external causes, usually things we can't control. When situations are pressing and difficult, anyone can get stressed. The cause of the stress might be an internal feeling, but the impetus comes from the outside. People don’t stress over things when they feel they are in control.
Knowing that, I can think of countless reasons why my generation SHOULD be the most stressed generation. Studies have shown that Millenials are apathetic, and so I’ll call us “The Apathy Generation”. I doubt that many of my peers will share my concerns, but they should; then we would really hold the title for most stressed generation since about 1860's. I’m figuring that Civil War x Stress > Great Recession x Stress.
Here are my top 5, in no particular order:
- Perpetual War
Sometimes I wake up and forget that I don't live in Oceania. Last week we were at war with Lybia, this week we're in Mali, next week Iran. (Look out for Yemen, Egypt, and a burgeoning Israel conflict coming our way soon). This is all without mentioning North Korea's nukes, China buying all the gold, and a potential Venezuela collapse , proving once again that central planning and socialism are not always roads to serfdom, but are always roads to economic failure and civil unrest.
Some of these wars are declared. (Scratch that, nothing I listed was declared; that's another discussion for another post.) Each week is different; sometimes it's economic war, sometimes it's terror, and now cyberwar is an increasing threat. Anyone else miss the days when a good old-fashioned thumb war could resolve any issue? There are bad people and good people; maybe if America minded its own business, more of those “bad” people would be good to us. And remember, they haven’t forgotten what we’ve done in the past either.
2. Student Loans
One of the greatest cultural morays that contribute to stress is the need for everyone to have a Bachelor's degree. That may be a benefit for a very large majority of a highly developed society, but it's not the ticket for everyone. Yes, more education is a good idea, but when the government enables people to be saddled with hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loan debt, is it fair to expect them to HAVE to work for the rest of their lives to pay it back?
3. Mass Media
Nothing produces more stress than people who make that their living. The news cycle is different than it was in The Greatest Generation; it's now 24/7. The Apathy Generation is constantly inundated with news about death, disease scares, war, how unhealthy we are and how the world is just generally going to shit.
As much as I believe the US is headed for trouble economically and also with our Middle Eastern “allies”, I don't think all the news we hear is indicative of a larger propensity to have a crisis; we just hear of so many things we never did. 100 years ago, we probably never would have heard or acted upon "imminent threats" like Lybia or Iraq, and we would have completely ignored the Balkan conflict of the 1990's. Why? Because we never would have had enough information about it in such a short span of time to care. With the Internet, this limitation goes out the window at light speed. Unfortunately, this will not get better. The larger and more technologically advanced we get, the more Mass Media will become apocalyptic, intrusive, and perpetuate the constant crisis mentality.
4. Political Discourse
Congress is the one part of the United States which is designed to promote discourse, but has become less popular than chlamydia and cockroaches. Universities are on a roll when it comes to censorship of views that don't fit the norm, and the 2012 election felt like an episode of Wilmer Valderama's Yo' Mamma. One of the main reasons people don’t care about politics is that there is no incentive to. The Electoral College has ingrained in our minds that if you live in California, New York, or Massachusettes and you are center-right or further, your vote doesn’t count. Flip that with Alabama, Texas, or South Carolina and you can make the same argument. Why should we care if all we hear are attacks? And why should we vote if we don’t live in a swing state?
5. Our Economic Curse
Last, but certainly the most important, is the economy the Apathy Generation will be saddled with for the rest of our lives. Our plans for the debt are about as funny as a Rob Schneider movie; the only difference is, while not funny, Rob Schneider’s movies continually make money at the Box Office. American loses $4 Billion at the Treasury office each day. To make matters worse, the Apathy Generation contains the largest group of unemployed workers in the country, and also in the Eurozone. We are accumulating debt that we never asked nor voted for; being handed the steering wheel to a Chevy Nova with a Mercedes medallion on its hood. Just because you say it will all be ok when we are older doesn’t make it true; it just makes you look out of touch, DUH! To the Apathy Generation, individuals who are older don’t understand the zeitgeist of our lives. The irony is most Millenials don’t understand it either. The one majority that both groups share is a lack of concern for the scope of the problem facing our country, our pocket books, and our culture. This isn’t about economics and the debt; it’s about our moral debt to each other. The 20th Century may have built the Greatest Generation and global American Exceptionalism, but The Apathy Generation will be paying for it.
Considering every other generation that could participate in this poll will either be dead or paid for when it comes time for America's penance, I think my peers and I have a pretty good reason to be stressed, even if they are too apathetic to worry about it right now.