Apparently, Churchill didn’t say “If you’re not a liberal when you’re 25, you have no heart and if you’re not a conservative by the time you’re 35, you have no brain.”
The quip traces all the way back to John Adams. But I like the sentiment and I’m heartfelt in my belief that millennials do have a brain — it’s just suffering from a prolonged and progressive delirium. Indeed, when I attend Liberal events, economically dry events, such as book launches and conservative women’s forums, one thing that is particularly obvious is the absence of my generation (those in the vicinity of 30).
But I do notice the millennials seem to be making their mark just about everywhere else. We are embroiled in identity politics, naively embracing feel-good socialist ideals (because there is ignorance about what socialism actually is), we lack basic economic understanding (because for us it was passé), we can’t work out if Ayaan Hirsi Ali is black or white (because the cross-currents of identity politics have swept common sense out to sea) and we aren’t sure if we are feminists or want to be Married At First Sight.
As a group, we are increasingly close-minded and reactionary, morally self-righteous and deluded about the state of the world and ourselves. We are quick to condemn others; Trump as fascist, without having any idea of what fascism actually means. Bill Leak as racist, because I’m not sure we understand that definition either. Why? Because tweets, online outbursts, memes, posts and mob shaming don’t hold people accountable.
The art of boycotting is performed even more ostentatiously. My peers enthusiastically smashed Cooper’s beer bottles, they obsess about the morality of the clothes they wear (see Oxfam’s ‘naughty list’) and the foods they eat (see paleo pear at the Ministry of Finance). Are we going to interrogate the moral underpinnings of every consumable? In which case maybe Cory Bernardi’s halal endeavours will get some twitter time (unlikely)?
Millennials don’t even believe in democracy, for goodness sake. Only half of Australian millennials thought a democratic government was preferable last year. Is this because they haven’t known otherwise? Are they too many generations away from the hand-me-down ideals of freedom courtesy of WW2?
Indeed, exercising one’s democratic right doesn’t seem pressing to the 250,000 18–24-year-olds who have not enrolled to vote — an improvement from 400,000 in 2013. Even when they do rock up to a poll, they are more inclined to make a mess of it.
Professor Lisa Hill from The University of Adelaide inferred from an analysis in 2016 that intentional informal votes are on the rise and the culprits are most likely young people. Not an excuse to moan, according to Peta Credlin, who suggested young people make the most of their democratic right instead of dispensing with it.
We seem to have tweeted and ‘grammed our way through adolescence and arrived in our parent’s house, furiously interpreting the world through a lens of undergraduate culture studies with no philosophical soul searching and an entitled, superficial fragile sense of self. But I still have hope — call me optimistic.
Millennials have delayed moving out of the family home, delayed getting married, delayed buying a house and delayed having children; so perhaps we have delayed our political transformation as well?
I might be making myself unpopular but I don’t think they will find me here. If you do come across one though, I hear a dose of reality is good for progressive delirium and — as Churchill also didn’t say — “This is the sort of bloody nonsense up with which I will not put”.
Jessica Borbasi is a research associate at The Centre for Independent Studies
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