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The Crossroads Generation Essay

In Ann Hulbert’s “Beyond the Pleasure Principle”, she outlines the Millennial Generation and some of the qualities that set this unique generation apart from the rest of the generations. The Millennial Generation is at one of the greatest social crossroads in our history as a country, as political ideology divides the nation like no time ever before. We as a generation are growing up in a time when political ideology threatens to gridlock the country; A time where media outlets spin and manufacture the news to suit one political ideology or the other; A time in which multiple social issues are being pushed to the forefront of political platforms. This is the setting for my generation and the influence that it has on us. I am the Millennial Generation. Ann Hulbert shows us “the dichotomy the Millennials pose with policy issues that ostensibly eradicate any strictly “red” or “blue” label”. By this she means that ideologies that were traditionally strictly related to conservative or liberal ideology now become shared ideologies under the Millennial Generation.

The Millennial Generation leans strongly towards the pro-life ideology under the issue of abortion, but then also leans strongly towards equal marriage on the gay rights issue. Why would a generation side with one political party on one issue and then reverse their party affiliation on another issue? In my opinion the Millennials are the social rights generation, even more so then the generation that led women’s rights in the 1920s or the generation that led civil rights in the 1960s. The Millennials are not only looking at the human rights of one group of individuals, but humanity as a whole. Women’s rights, African American rights, Latino rights, gay & lesbian rights, privacy rights, and minority group’s rights, the Millennial Generation is tackling all of these issues all at once. Women’s rights were legislatively “solved” in the 1920s, African American rights were “solved” in the 1960s, but looking at the society around us today it was all solved on paper, but not in the real world instances. There has been a remarkable amount of changes and progress that has been made of the last century, but there are still social problems that plague society to this day.

Hulbert later goes on in the article to try and place a reason as to why the Millennials are so different than any other generation before them. She discusses the “life-cycle effect”, which is the theory that individuals go through ideological phases as they go through life. This concept would hypothetically state that the base for the liberal party would be primarily young people, while the base for the conservative party would be a much older group of people. Another way to look at this is to say that young people start off with a more liberal ideology, but as they grow older they change to a more conservative ideology. This theory can be put to practice while looking at the 2008 presidential election, President Obama carried the youth vote while Mitt Romney struggle to connect with the youth in America. This theory is a possibility, but not always true. Another theory that Hulbert discusses is the “cohort effect”, which states that a variety of circumstances and the external environment in which a group is exposed to determines a set of distinct characteristics that a group may have.

In my opinion this is the most logical theory while discussing a person’s or group of people’s ideology. The Millennials as a generation have encountered specific life altering events that have gone on to shape up as a generation such as 9/11, the Great Recession, the wars in the Middle East, the election of the first African American president, and so many more events. These events mold and shape the Millennials into the group that they are today. Just like the Millennials are shaped by their environment today, I would theorize that the United States moved to grant Civil Rights in the 1960s to African Americans partly because of the affect on a generation that the horrors of persecution based on race encountered in Europe during World War II.

This is a very distinct event that can be traced to a specific generation and an ideological switch that followed this encounter. Each generation has had events and environments they grew up with and endured to shape their sui generis ideologies and characteristics that they hold today. The Millennial appear to have a drastically different ideology then that of other generations, but we must also take note of the drastically different environment that Millennials are growing up in. The world has changed more in the life time of the Millennials than it has the last century. We are all a product of the environment that we are exposed to and we adapt and shape our ideology to fit the environment that we live in.

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