On Being a Millennial Turning 30

I have written two full length books and 160 articles for this website but I walk dogs for a living. Part of this was leaving college in the wake of the financial crash, part of this was refusing to water down my politics to suit an increasingly regressive employment culture, part of this was journalistic institutions shunning my job applications when I got out of college due to my heavy involvement in Occupy Wall Street.

I wish it paid more, but I’m pretty happy walking dogs. The dogs themselves are great, I get exercise, I get to be outside, and it gives me a lot of flexibility in my schedule. It doesn’t really leave me with much of an economic future, but few things in this economy do, and most of them are more greedy for your time.

And it was a pretty cozy arrangement for a couple years. But like most other things in my life, the repeated terrible decisions humanity has made since the dawn of the 20th century, particularly brute forcing society to revolve around personal automobiles and the advent of the internet surveillance economy, have fucked it up.

The heat wave this summer has been so bad that when I get to the dogs, as often as not they literally do not want to go outside. They get out quickly, do their business, then look up as if to say “What else do you want from me?” Sometimes the sidewalk is so hot they rightly refuse to step on it and tug the leash as if they were telling me to check my shoe privilege.

Sometimes it has been so hot that I don’t feel right even taking them outside for the full time I’m contracted for and I’ve had to get creative, walking them around the hallways of their apartment complexes or mapping out what sidewalks will be shaded at what time of day in my head.

If you’ve ever owned or met a dog, you know that pretty much every dog always wants to go outside all the time. But that’s the reality of climate change. Everything has its limits.

People frequently ask me if I work for Wag, a rent-seeking, parasitic “platform” company that most people seem to trust despite the fact that literally all they do is siphon money from professional dog walkers and leave your pets with people they have not really vetted at all. I hear horror stories about Wag walkers not actually showing up, sleeping in peoples’ homes when they’re not there, or hitting the animals.

Yet people are hooked on platform companies like they were heroin. And that addiction has worked out to economic warfare against my generation.

The generation that gave birth to most of the Millennials, the Baby Boomers, have turned out to be the most selfish generation in human history. They value their own comfort and convenience over the lives and futures of their children. They ignored climate change until…until shit. They’re still ignoring it.

“Tune out, turn off, fuck you I got mine” seems to be the refrain going through their heads. They run around gleefully shitting on everything, reveling in the fact they may well be the last generation that gets to die restfully on their own terms.

I want to be a positive and inspiring voice, but I don’t see much in the future to be optimistic about. US infrastructure is still crumbling. Every year the drinking water becomes less safe to drink, the outdoors become less hospitable to walk in, the people I meet seem to have retreated into the cocoon of their phones and endless window shopping. Everyone (or at least everyone I’m around) sees their standard of living rapidly decreasing to subsistence level. Kids get eviscerated by automatic weapons in schools on a daily basis and all the 1% see are more dollar signs. Should I expect anything different? The same 1% are lining up to push us into World War III, Holocaust II, and complete environmental collapse like they were rides at an amusement park.

As they always have, the 1% get off almost sexually on our suffering in and of itself, perhaps even more than they get off on profiting from it.

Like Ted Bundy, the ability to inflict pain makes them feel powerful and secure.

Perhaps at least this time they will be cooked alive with us. Such are the small consolations that run through the Millennial and Gen Z mind.

And beyond the environmental collapse, there has been a collapse of the social infrastructure as well. People used to connect socially by entertaining each other, but who has the energy for that when “entertainment” surrounds them in a claustrophobic cycle of emotional manipulation? Why would anyone spend the time and effort to know someone when they’ve been conditioned to know there will always be something shinier around the corner when they swipe right?

The greatest social effect of the cell phone has been to privilege communications of those people who are nowhere near us over those close to us, as if every text message were a dire emergency. And we’ve rolled over and accepted this as the new normal. We purposely distance ourselves from others so we can become complicit in exploiting them despite the fact they are us. Exploitative internet apps like Uber give us little tastes of what it feels like to be the one doing the exploiting in drips and drabs and it turned out that was enough to buy us off. We haven’t forgotten the children in cages at the border, we have ghosted them.

The timidity of those who favored self advancement and personal comfort over supporting those of us who have chosen to fight will be remembered harshly by history, presuming anyone’s still there to write it.

Yet I have great hope for Gen Z. They have grown up with no illusions about the dire situation we face. They have no choice but to struggle.

My resolution for my 30s is to throw in my lot with them.

43 comments

  1. I’m a very early Gen Xer, really part of that Boomer X generation born between 1960 and 1968. I think a lot of the pathology (both political and sexual) that millennials sense but don’t really understand came out of the collapse of the idealism of the 60s counterculture. This is a pretty good article about the rancid aftermath of the sexual revolution (which I clearly remember from my childhood). My childhood and adolescence was the time when early Boomers were actively and consciously trying to strip the idealism (and really the sweetness and light) out of everything. The sexual revolution stripped of its idealism turns into Jeffrey Epstein. The writer uses almost the same language you do.

    The sexual revolution gave the elites and the circles orbiting them intellectual permission to downgrade sexual violence to a matter of taste.

    https://www.thecut.com/2019/07/jeffrey-epstein-operated-in-plain-sight.html

    1. Right. That’s probably why Thomas Pynchon is so obsessed with the collapse of the hippie period, since he seems like he genuinely believed it was going to change the world, then saw that it did, just for the worst by leaving the wake you’re talking about.

      Robert Crumb sensed it earlier than most. Fritz the Cat was basically Crumb’s bitter but accurate analysis of how a movement built around exalting hedonism and the “self” was never going to help anybody except rank opportunists and predators in the long run. Crumb doesn’t get into the economics of it too deeply, but that “divide and conquer the left by removing class analysis and exalting self-indulgence as liberation” thing totally worked.

      1. I don’t think this guy actually proves his case (that the hippie culture was a conscious effort by army intelligence to subvert the anti-war movement) but it’s a fascinating read nonetheless. Jim Morrison’s father was the Naval Officer who planned the Gulf of Tonkin incident.

        https://the-eye.eu/public/concen.org/Weird%20Scenes%20Inside%20the%20Canyon%20-%20Laurel%20Canyon%2C%20Covert%20Ops%20%26%20the%20Dark%20Heart%20of%20the%20Hippie%20Dream%20%282014%29%20by%20David%20McGowan%20%26%20Nick%20Bryant.pdf

        It’s interesting to think about how that sex and death nexus has been passed onto the millennial generation. My generation was probably the most sexist and homophobic generation in history. I think a big part of the woke millennial culture is a subconscious reaction against it. But then there’s also the violent incel millennial culture. Manson becomes Elliot Rodger. The Boomers got sex and death. Millennials were left with death and no sex.

        1. I kinda wonder if my generation is gonna be remembered as the Occupy generation turned cynical. I feel like it happened a lot faster than the hippie burnout, but the speed with which millennials went from “this is wrong and needs to be fixed” to dog-eat-dog-but-with-selfies was alarming. All the vaguely positive stuff that was happening regarding gender stuff and awareness curdled into a lot of people just feeling self-righteous as an excuse to verbally abuse each other.

        2. Like, as soon as I realized I had pretty intense functional autism, all that stuff about Mansplaining seemed incredibly ableist, since it was constantly being weaponized against me when people didn’t want to acknowledge me socially despite the fact I talk so much bc its literally how my brain is wired.

          1. Reading this book and I can immediately disprove a lot of the music facts he’s citing, which isn’t a good sign (The Grass Roots had literally nothing to do with Arthur Lee’s Love beyond them both being rock bands is the most obvious one so far.)

            1. Tho given your Epstein analogy, it seems interesting he brings up John Philips so much since Philips repeatedly molested his own daughter for years, which definitely supports the “free love was a way for predators to live in the open” notion.

              1. Ok, yeah this guy is saying that Lenny Bruce was “whacked”, which…I know Lenny Bruce stuff as well as anybody and have spoken personally to 3 guys who knew him, one of whom I was related to. If Lenny Bruce was assassinated, it was by Lenny Bruce’s addiction to heroin.

        3. I complain and complain but yet 12 hours later I’m still reading this guy’s book lol. I’m not sure he’s really making his case re: The Byrds were a military psi-op that well. But he at least has gathered a lot of the entertaining and juicy Hollywood Babylon type stuff about the Laurel Canyon hippie scene into one place. Its that rare book where I don’t mind constantly fact checking it since the fact checking keeps leading me to other weird/juicy stuff-if it had been a better book it would’ve been a much less fun book.

          1. Conspiracy theories are addicting, even when you know they’re mostly bullshit. When I first heard they arrested Epstein my first impulse was to look for a good conspiracy theory to explain why the ruling class finally decided to throw him to the wolves after all these years. I think it has something to do with how reasonable it is to assume bad faith on the part of the corporate media and mainstream politicians. Stevie Wonder, who I’m pretty sure isn’t a psyop, wrote a great song about it. It’s supposed to be about Nixon but seems more fittingly about the Democrats. Trump and the Republicans these days aren’t even promising to turn wrong to right. They’re just nihilists. https://youtu.be/QxrzT8WNxDc

            1. Finished the book. I also double checked a lot of his research. Honestly, while his overarching theory of “this is a psi-op” doesn’t hold up at all, as a dossier/pile of facts around a theme, he did a pretty good job. He inadvertantly makes a really good case for “all of these rock stars were really shitty people and Charlie Manson was a difference of degree not kind.” Which I kinda knew but not the full extent of it.

              My GF and I are debating whether we should get rid of my near complete run of Michael Jackson LPs now that we saw that HBO documentary. My newest conspiracy theory is she told you to send me that book to convince me to clean the rest of the LPs out of the apartment lol

              1. McGowan is part of the 1960-1968 Boomer X generation. I’d guess part of his motivation was Oedipal, to take down all those countercultural figures he grew up worshipping as gods. I don’t know if a millennial can really understand just how much social status rock stars had before the Internet or how ubiquitous certain songs were. Personally I hated it, maybe because my brother learned how to play the guitar an I never did, and mostly listened to classical. But finding out Neil Young hung out with Manson still hurts. I must have listened to Suite Judy Blue Eyes 100,000 times as a teenager. It’s the perfect baroque rock song. How depressing that David Crosby and Steven Stills are just a couple of ruling class WASP assholes.

              2. I never had any attachment to Crosby and Stills until I realized they were both in the Byrds (EDIT: brain fart, Stills was in Buffalo Springfield, who I still don’t really care about except for 3 or 4 songs, and CSN, who have always sucked), who I do like and have many LPs by. However, the core of the Byrds was Gene Clark and Roger McGuinn. McGuinn’s 12 string work pretty much invented the 80s jangle rock stuff I loved as a teenager (the DBs, Lets Active, REM, etc.)

              3. As far as I can tell REM are good people even if all their post-Automatic for the People albums sucked.

              4. Marty Balin got the shit beaten out of him at Altamont defending people from the Hells Angels so you have to respect that. Until McGowan’s book I had never heard anything bad about George Harrison but the incident he brings up is pretty insignificant. He made some anti communist remarks after the Soviets invaded Prague and gave his blessing to some sort of CIA sponsored event Who cares.

              5. Yeah, especially in comparison to John Lennon beating his ex-wives and Ringo Starr being insensitive to cavemen.

              6. Young also didn’t stay entrenched in his Manson phase the way Dennis Hopper seemed to.

              7. And I went into my Beach Boys obsession knowing the whole band was damaged goods. One of my friends’ dads growing up had owned a big record store in the village and had bought the entire remainder run of Manson’s only officially released LP (the one with Garbage Dump) and had 200 copies of it in a storage unit somewhere since that album still goes for tons of money as a weird cult artifact, like $100-300 apiece in any condition. That probably paid for my friend to go to college.

    2. That also kinda makes analyzing Gen X slacker culture more complicated. I know your general analysis is it was a way of selling downward mobility, but I think it’s also the first generation/set of cultural objects (since I was way too young to remember the period directly) to embrace a kind of fatalism for its own sake as a form of chic. Capitalism and resistance to it were both portrayed as empty dull not-glamorous pursuits, which ultimately favors giving in to capitalism since if everything is meaningless, why not be evil and comfortable. It tells people “everything sucks but resistance is futile.”

      On the one hand, parts of it had an enormous impact on me (its the first point in the media fossil record I can think of where thrift-store pastiche fashion is a thing) and set the stage for what I guess I would call the late capitalist Da Da/nihilism style (think any viral video ever or Beck lyrics, The ethos: If nothing means anything, the thing that can be meaningless on its own terms is king. Since youtube, that style has taken over the culture.) Slacker/Gen X culture is the first stage of US pop culture built around exploring anthropocene total media saturation replacing whatever was left of the so-called “natural” (re: not entirely human designed/controlled) environment.

      On the other hand, the legacy that leaves is a lot of “hahahah all this shit is fucked” and not a lot of ideas of what to do about it.

      1. A big part of Gen X fatalism was just being spiritually crushed by the Boomers, who by that point were utterly cynical and materialist. The thing that most millennials won’t get is that people HATED youth in the 1980s. If you were young you were trash. The Boomer culture had become “everybody under 30 sucks.”

        The movie Out of the Blue captures some of it. The last scene is the ultimate FUCK YOU to the world.

        1. Out of the Blue is such a good movie, and by a director whose other work was uniformly offensive garbage (see: Easy Rider). Its ironic that he saw that so clearly while being the physical manifestation of everything that went wrong with the hippie culture.

  2. Interesting. I just found this YouTube film critic who just turned 30 and he just put out a video called “films that helped me get through my twenties.” It’s a history of the 2010s from a guy who graduated from college the year Occupy broke. He seems to like a lot of shitty mass produced movies but can explain why they help him overcome his despair.

    1. I see that a lot talking to my girlfriend and people a couple years younger than me-you and I grew up in periods where “alternative culture” was ostensibly an “alternative” to having corporate Donny Osmond style nonsense shoved down your throat. “Alternative” only meant something to most of the culture as the antithesis of the gatekeeper driven monoculture. It was records/books/movies you had to actively dig for since they frequently had poor distribution.

      Once the internet broke that wide open and everyone could find a gaggle of people online to support their critical (or uncritical) views, junk culture started to be revived since the context that made it so obvious why it was manipulative junk wasn’t there for younger people, and the backstop remnants of modernism that said “there are things that make a movie good or bad beyond it pulling your pork or not” went out the window. The resistance to corporate product being inauthentic/insulting died off. The criteria I generally use to analyze films tends to come off as elitist to this crowd since they see the purpose of cinema as “an object I can identify with” vs. “an object that has to challenge me in some way.”

      Example: I thought Moonlight was a terrible movie because it seemed to be checking off boxes of what “woke” is supposed to look like without ever leaving/challenging the perceptions of the protagonist. It says “It’s ok to be gay and mixed race” (I 100% agree with that) but also says “And the way I show that is by constructing a world that entirely revolves around your being abstractly gay/mixed race and flattens every other character to where they literally only do things because of your gay mixed-raceness” (I 100% hate that set of aesthetics since it perpetuates the solipsism/narcissism of the phone generation.)

      Another example is Shape of Water-its a pre-packaged idea the audience seeing it will already accept pretending its controversial/deep. “Will she fuck the fish or not?” becomes “Her fucking the fish=progressive politics” because the audience wants it to be. End of the day, the movie is still about whether a lady fucks a fish.

      John Cassavetes doesn’t let any of his characters off the hook and any time they start to think the world revolves around them their perspective is pretty abruptly challenged. You can’t “relate” to a character in a Cassavetes film without Cassavetes forcing you to consider the other perspectives in the film you’re not “relating” to.

      1. In some ways I think my biggest failure as a film critic is that I always manage to find something to like about shit, “woke” movies, largely because I tend to assume the younger generation is onto something I’m not. You’re right about Moonlight. It was just boring. Then again, La La Land wasn’t much better.

        I liked that guys channel because he came out and said The Force Awakens just sucks. He’s young and probably gay so it checked off all the right woke hipster credentials. Yeah. It was shit. Thank God someone else noticed.

        On the other hand I’m a lot more comfortable writing contrarian takes, like Casablanca was racist and sexist. I currently have an idea I’m trying to write about. Namely, Conan the Barbarian is one of the best movies of the 1980s. John Milius has to work in chains on Apocalypse Now. Marlon Brando was just not convincing as a charismatic cult leader. James Earl Jones mentally enslaving some dumb privileged white hippie kids was. Why did Martin Sheen care about killing Kurtz? Who knows? But we all know why Conan wanted to kill Thulsa Doom. YOU KILLED MY MOTHER YOU KILLED MY FATHER YOU KILLED MY PEOPLE.

        In fact the genocidal attack on Conan’s village was just a replay of the genocidal helicopter attack in Apocalypse Now. Only it was from the point of view of the Vietnamese. Yeah Conan’s people are Northern Europeans but it was a way of getting around the taboo of actually siding with the Vietnamese.

        And then there’s that incredible score.

        1. Right, and at least Conan the Barbarian isn’t trying to posture. When it’s smart or at least straightforward, it’s not trying to preen. Apocalypse Now is a meh movie. Any time government sanctioned genocide is reduced to “the abstract notion of evil!”, the director/writer isn’t being deep, they’re avoiding naming names.

          1. Conan’s a pretty blatant ripoff of Eisenstein but a fairly good one. The original trailer even used the score from Alexander Nevsky. Funny how much a right winger like Milius owes to Soviet film.

          2. Another thing Conan really gets is just how much a Jonestown style cult relies on brute muscle. Thulsa Doom still needed his enforcer Rexor, played by Ex La Raider Ben Davidson. 6’8”. You can see at one point that he just dwarfs Schwarzenegger. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=K1GkvdbMzI0

    2. Also re: shitty mass produced movies, it could be because their ubiquity in a weird way comes to represent the phantom of actual community that’s been lost post-phone, since they’re at least a decent replica of an experience shared with many other people. I think a lot of my generation has grown up with the specter of climate change and as such values being comforted/pandered to more than prior generations or at least with fewer associated feelings of guilt.

      It’s generally considered a faux-pas in social situations now to outright declare a movie “bad”, even if you back up your point. People don’t want to debate things now since they see all things resembling hostility as being entirely equal since the point of cinema now is, as Baudrillard said roughly, “to construct a symbolic constellation of objects meant to replace the self.” They see their liking or disliking a movie as part of their identity, not as an opinion about a movie. Identity is created through conspicuous consumption.

      1. Right. I didn’t even have to watch Game of Thrones. The only thing I needed to join the discussion was a few YouTube clips.

    3. My final thought on this: TV getting good has made most movies in the last 10 years (or at least the ones I’ve watched) be progressively more and more boring/lackluster since the good writers left for TV and the only things theaters will run is boring stuff they know will make them money. I know many who love Marvel movies, but despite my having loved comic books for as long as I’ve been able to read, I haven’t liked any of them. The only commercial movie I’ve seen and liked in the last ten years that I can remember was two Godzillas ago. Oh and American Hustle was pretty good. Also Certified Copy by Kiarostami. Maybe another one or two but that’s not a long list for 10 years worth of movies.

      Feature films are basically a dead medium as far as I can tell. People keep telling me “oh go see this one!” and I walk away unimpressed/insulted.

      The best moving pictures in general I’ve seen in the last couple years were Nathan For You and The Show About the Show (one on comedy central, one a youtube thing done by Caveh Zahedi.)

      1. One film I was genuinely impressed with recently was Leave No Trace.

        1. I saw that with the director in attendance and hated it. I wanted to like it, and I hoped the Q&A would convince me my instincts were wrong, but the Q&A just made her seem like an out of touch cosmopolitan who got money to go hang out in the woods.

          It seemed like a comfortable person from NYC’s idea of what being homeless was and gave way too much slack to the father/visually the entire thing was a rip-off of Old Joy by Kelly/Richard Reichardt. Also Wendy and Lucy did a better job with the homelessness angle. As far as “borderline/actually homeless veteran” movies go, Jon Jost did it way better multiple times (Bell Diamond, Over Here.) Having the father somehow be perfectly functional beyond his wanting to live in the woods all the time avoided the uglier parts of what homelessness entails-his hair is perfectly coiffed the entire film, he’s the perfect father etc. It seemed like she was saying “I want credit for empathizing with these people but I don’t actually want to look at them.” As far as parent-child relationship movies, give me Bicycle Thieves any day.

          1. Granted, I also instinctively tend to hate any film that goes out of its way to look “pretty”. Also, why does every fucking thing in the movie have to be green? She may as well have called it “It’s Not Easy Being Green”

            1. You’ve identified its major weakness. It’s not a realistic portrait of homelessness the way Wendy and Lucy is. But I do think it’s a realistic portrait of alienation. He still feels lost, even when people are nice to him and even when he knows his daughter wants to settle down and fit in. He just can’t. He wants out of society, which is ultimately suicidal.

              1. Right, it is a decent portrait of alienation. But I think by making him homeless instead of confronting the alienation she probably experiences/witnesses in her day to day life, she ends up falling into the trap of “the audience can both pat themselves on the back for seeing a sanitized version of something they know nothing about” and “the audience can think ‘that isn’t me’.” This is why it’s such a big deal that Cassavetes made his movies largely about fairly well off white people-he didn’t want them to be able to otherize his fairly brutal portraits of them.

              2. I guess what pissed me off so much in the Q&A was that she kept saying that the film was about homelessness and that she “wanted to tell their story”, yet the film just whitewashes the actualities of it. My first movie is literally other people talking about themselves directly for 45 minutes, but at the end of the day I’m not such an egomaniac that I would say the movie is about telling their stories for them, its about me and my own issues and I was able to make it because they were kind and generous enough with their time to speak with me openly and let me film them.

              3. Yeah. It’s not really about homelessness. Will doesn’t want a roof over his head. Most homeless people pray for one every day. Will is determined not to fit in, even it if means psychologically damaging his daughter in the process. It’s about suicidal alienation.

  3. My experiences with the homeless community (living out a car for a while, I had quite a few) have tended to look more like Occupy Wall Street-a lot of the people have excellent intentions but also a lot of them are dysfunctional and glossing over that doesn’t make them any less dysfunctional. Glossing over the dysfunction also pulls the sleight of hand of showing how their surroundings and the values of the larger culture force them to be dysfunctional in certain ways. if the director refuses to explore the angle of “having his daughter is his mental block against feeling homeless”, how is the father any different than a rich parent choosing to homeschool their kid for fear they might lose their grip over them to “non-christian influence”?

    Also, while I mentioned Bicycle Thieves, I forgot to mention the best father-daughter film of all time, Ozu’s Late Spring, which similarly features a scene where they’re forced to part ways.

    1. Yes. Ozu is dealing with the same subject inside a conservative bubble.

      Wendy in Wendy and Lucy btw was originally black, a Katrina survivor suffering fro ptsd. But it works just as well with Michelle Williams. She nails the body language and mannerism of the underclass. It’s like every motion or word is an apology for existing.

    2. I do think this scene works. You mentioned the movie all looks so green and beautiful but that’s only on the outside. The indoor scenes are sterile and alienating. Perhaps that beautiful green represents Will’s longing to be outside all the time and indoor sterility his alienation from straight society.

    3. Another much more romanticized version of alienation, also with Ben Foster.

    4. And he goes down shooting to save his brother.

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