Since about 1975, the most dangerous people in America were those Baby Boomers who never had the opportunity to be hippies.
No, really — picture, insofar as you can, the dream world of the left-liberal Democrat in the Reagan years. If you don’t remember the Reagan years, go to YouTube and cue up a few After School Specials. The people who made those thought it would’ve been really groovy to have been a hippie, but alas, they were too young, too busy getting their Master’s Degree, or both, to head to Haight. Their utopia was a San Francisco walkup, circa 1967, with the Dead on the radio and some righteous bud in the hookah and a lava lamp into which you could, like, staaaaare, man, and contemplate the little universes that might exist in each atom under your fingernail.
Since they never experienced the real thing, they never experienced the downside — the poverty, the STDs*, the “free love” that’s worth exactly what you paid for it. It was a shitty life, metaphorically and sometimes literally. Their one brief shining moment was getting George McGovern on the ballot in 1972, where he got his ass handed to him by Tricky Dick Nixon in the (then) second-biggest landslide in American history. That’s why all the former Sixties radicals got themselves nice capitalist gigs soon after. Only the ones who were never there kept the flame alive, mostly by hiding out in academia and the media….
….where they spawned Gen X, i.e. the Slackers, i.e. the parents of the Specialist Snowflake generation.The Clinton Years (effectively, 1988-2001) were a weird time to go to college. There we were, all ready to Question Authority and Overthrow the System like they told us to. Problem was,when we got there, we found out that it was the System we were to Overthrow, fully staffed by Authorities we weren’t supposed to Question. How are you supposed to rebel against your parents’ values when your parents’ only value, expressed in just about every pop culture artifact produced since 1973, was Rebellion? I was as young, dumb, and horny as every other kid in my dorm, but addled as we were, lots of us couldn’t help noticing that the professor who kept talking about Woodstock like he was there was making a pretty good living as The Man. We wanted to live the sex drugs and rock’n’roll lifestyle, too, but since nothing is lamer than your parents — this is the crucial part — we had to be all, like, you know, whatever about it. A slacker was just a hippie who knew that the Road to Shambala ended at a house in the ‘burbs with a Volvo in the garage.
Which brings us to now. If we got all weirded out because we knew how flower power withers, what are our kids to make of us and our values?
We do have them. Just as professors who know they would’ve ended the Vietnam War if they hadn’t been in junior high at the time taught us that the key to life is believing in Sixties causes, so we, it seems, have taught our kids to embrace the worst of Nineties-style slacktivism. Wannabe-hippies were convinced they could follow Marcuse and fuck their way to peace, love, and understanding; we thought the key to life was the fact that there’s no such thing as a fact. Thus, the passionate nihilism of the Snowflake generation — nobody’s different from anybody and everybody’s the best at everything; I have no idea what my opinions will be tomorrow but I’ll ruin your life today if you disagree with them.
They just want to be Slackers, in the same way our parents wanted to be Hippies. And since there’s no lower bar than that….
I’m not saying that’s the whole answer (what Slacker would?). But it explains a lot about Millennials, doesn’t it?
*No, really — the Weathermen, the most radical of Sixties radicals, had mandatory group sex sessions, after which many of them ended up with nonspecific genital lesions they called the “Weather Crud.” Be sure to bring penicillin while brining down capitalism.