My husband lovingly calls me a “dirty millennial”
I’m not actually a millennial. I fall a few years outside the category’s birthday boundary, as does–by a narrower margin–my just-younger sister.
Many articles I’ve read describe early access to computers as a defining characteristic of millennials. As I wrote in my blog post,“The kingdom saved her,” we had a home computer very early. We went to a computer-centric middle school and accessed the internet from home in the early to mid-90s.
You might call us “honorary millennials,” were you not averse to putting those two words together.
During my winter of accelerated learning, I began seeing narratives
I went from seeing A Unified Story in each and end every event or sequence of events to seeing that there were multiple variations of each. Each person saw an event or sequence of them somewhat differently based on personal history and context, but the thing was: only some were able to amplify their narratives. Folks in positions of power, especially, were able to say: “This is the story.” More than that, I witnessed how others often believed that assertion without further exploration.
The more I read and watched, the more I began to see holes in a lot of generally accepted authority stories. Little bits and pieces of facts didn’t line up unless the camera through which the story was told shifted to a different angle so that I began looking from many angles to perceive fuller, less fact-filtered stories.
I learned that each assembly of a group of story sets is a narrative. I slowly became agiler at shifting between story sets and narratives and weaving them together in ways that made consistent the misfits between other folks’ divergent narratives.
I first saw this in police and media stories soon after Ferguson. The narrative advanced by police in conjunction with mainstream media often varied–sometimes widely–from other firsthand accounts, including those caught on camera and made available by social media.
Those mainstream variances confused me until December 2014, when I realized that they were about power: who has it, who doesn’t, and how to retain it.
The last few months
I’ve seen many signs that both main U.S. political parties were struggling to retain power they derived, in part, from slow, well controlled public access of and exposure to data.
Neither party’s leaders appear to have embraced that we now live in a world where data flows freely and many sets of eyes can solve a problem that only one set first sees. If one person hears a troubling assertion presented as fact today, they can pose a question and have virtually instantaneous access to the data and experiences in other people’s heads. (This is often described as “hive mind.”)
Despite all this, I unflinchingly accepted the dominant “Hillary’s a more pragmatic choice” narrative until my siblings asked me to explain why. Not only why but what did that even mean?
Without forcing me to accept any particular conclusion, they helped me don my narrative-spotting glasses.
Not only could I never say “she’s the more pragmatic choice” ever again, I was aghast by how clearly I’d accepted the dominant narrative.
When Clinton was announced as the victor before polls even opened in my state of California and many other states with the same primary date, I was incensed, but no longer surprised. I mean, who really needs voters to cast votes to determine the will of the people when superdelegates–each of whose vote counts for 10,000 votes, and 64 of whom are registered lobbyists–can cinch elections a month and a half before they’re able to officially cast their votes? As now ousted DNC chair/scapegoat Debbie Wasserman-Schultz helpfully explained, they “exist really to make sure that party leaders and elected officials don’t have to be in a position where they are running against grassroots activists.” In other words, the Democratic Party has to make sure that it has a mechanism to ensure its interests are protected when those interests run counter to the people’s.
And if one mechanism doesn’t work? Best to have a back-up, and be prepared to attack all those who question.
You might be scratching your head and wondering what all this has to do with millennials
The answer: everything.
To illuminate this, I’ll share an email I sent a girlfriend after she complained about a recurring problem with some of her favorite guys constantly talking over her.
The answer I tapped out on my phone then was one I couldn’t have even understood two years ago. When millennials ask, “Why?” and others respond, “Because I said so,” others perceive them as being “whiny” for not accepting this non-answer.
While older generations try preserving their power, millennials are trying to preserve a physical world they’ll be living in much longer than older generations whose very pursuit of power endangers that same world.
My question for non-millennials now, then, is: Do you choose truth or comfort?
Your narrative shapes the world we have left to leave behind.
This is an edited version of a previous blog post by the author