The traditional idea of “individualism” has faded from American people since the advent of affirmative government. Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal and Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society were both Trojan horses for the erosion of personal sovereignty. Any sort of government assistance erodes one’s personal sovereignty, and makes that person chained to the government. The effects of such actions are not immediate. The hard working generation raised during the Great Depression still worked hard throughout the subtle construction of the welfare state. The Baby Boomers were raised by hard working parents from the Great Depression. That work ethic was passed on to the Boomers. However, this ethic may have backfired, as Boomers became parents, yet still pursued full time careers. What this created was an absent parenthood; an entire generation (generally speaking) was raised without the traditional structure of the family. The absence of the family from a child’s life creates a void. The creation of a welfare state is the first step in the way of attempting to fill that void.
I was blessed enough to have a mother and father who chose to raise me as best they could. My mother stayed at home for the first fifteen years of my life, taking only a part time job at that point. She chose to put aside her ambitions to raise me, and for that I am forever grateful. My father kept a full time job as society would expect, yet still played an active role in my upbringing. However, not many Millennials were as blessed as I was to have parents who were willing to make the difficult choices for their children. The following few paragraphs may seem harsh on the parents of Millennials, but it is rightly deserved.
The Baby Boomer generation at large chose to continue in pursuit of their full time careers and in doing so cast off the responsibility of raising their children. Whether this was neglectful or not is meaningless; bringing a child into the world adds on a new responsibility that parents must be willing to take on. This is not to say that there are some parents who can manage a career and a family, but on the overall this cannot be done if a healthy generation is to be raised. Daycare and nannies became the traditional method in raising children. Often times grandparents would do more in raising children than would their parents. The disconnect between parent and child is a dysfunction in a child’s upbringing. Nature dictates that the child’s parents be the primary raisers. There is obviously nothing wrong with having other family assist in the raising of a child, but that direct connection between parent and child is quintessential to a properly functioning society.
So what has the effect of this disconnect been? We see a generation that has decided to cast off responsibility as well. School performance is at an all-time low, the amount of drug and alcohol abuse has skyrocketed among Millennials compared to other generations. Simply put, it is due to the parents’ absence that we find a generation in distress. Baron de Montesquieu puts it into simple words. “It is not the young people that degenerate; they are not spoiled till those of maturer age are already sunk into corruption.” While corruption of a generation is up for debate, it is the principle that remains. It is the older generation’s responsibility to ensure that the young are properly raised.
Resulting from this dismissal of responsibility as well is a different kind of individualism in Millennials. The traditional idea of individualism was rather Victorian, defined by the “self-made man,” and self-reliance. What we find among Millennials is rather odd. Millennials are very protective of their “personal space,” much more so than any other generation I would argue. Personal property, like our phones, computers, and clothes has become something to which we are almost constantly attached. It becomes all about “my space, my time, my stuff.” Yet in the midst of “my space” there seems to be an absence of concern for one’s surroundings, namely the government.
This is where the welfare state comes in. That void that parents left in Millennials now is open for the government to come and make itself welcome in the unsuspecting generation. The welfare does not just include financial assistance; it also encompasses the idea of positive rights that the progressive left has tried to instill into American culture. The right to education, the right to healthcare, the right to privacy, are all positive rights, meaning they are not found in the Constitution, yet are pushed as being fundamental rights. Actual constitutional rights are not emphasized, and these unsuspecting Millennials are transformed into a different kind of generation, one that looks not to the Constitution for its rights, but to the government which is has come to depend upon. This is a subtle move that takes over a generation to fully manifest.
This new individualism that has overtaken the Millennial generation seems to be something that could prove to be fatal. However, no generation is beyond hope of redemption. For the sake of space, here are two areas where this new individualism could prove very useful. Millennials are not happy when anyone enters into their space, especially in their digital devices. Are you thinking about any specific government agency yet? You got it: the NSA. The idea of someone watching you through your webcam is an utterly creepy thought for anyone, but for Millennials I believe it plays an even stronger note. We like our privacy, and a government agency has been found to have a dragnet system of data mining and communication collection. This desire for privacy could be a key factor in pushing for the scale-back of this Orwellian surveillance state.
A second is the socialist scheme that is slowly appearing before our eyes. Millennials do not like it when their property is taken from them (does anyone?); we like our stuff. While the cultural implication of this is a different story for another time by another author, using this desire to cling onto one’s property could prove useful in combatting big government that seeks to swallow more and more personal wealth. Keep it simple: we want our stuff, and you (the government) is not going to take it from us.
It must be realized first though, that the government does not have the answers that we seek. That is a fundamental fallacy that has been taught to children for years. The only answers we can find on this earth will come from us. Cultural deficiencies created by an absent generation of parents will have to be addressed, but in the short term, Millennials can use what they have at their disposal to combat the ever-growing government Leviathan. If you like your property and privacy, you will want to keep your property and privacy (though I won’t make any Obamacare-esque promises). However, it will be up to Millennials to stand up for themselves against this Leviathan. This new sense of individualism will either bring us back to prosperity and freedom, or the continuing deterioration of the American republic. The choice lies with you.