In Defense of Millennials, Flashback to Communes…

Beyond the super-superficial affectations and customary disses of the ‘Millennial’ brand of bloke—vain, spoiled, shallow, self-centered, self-obsessed—and otherwise obsessed only with their smart-phones and their smart-asses, there is something else happening in this generation that is quite the opposite, quite the story, and long overdue—sustainability.

After all, what happened to our 60’s-era ideals of slow growth, environmental regulation, and political responsibility? In short: what happened to communes? They’re alive and well, apparently, judging by the number of ‘intentional communities’ springing up around my adopted home of Tucson, Arizona, and elsewhere, too…

So maybe the 60’s zeitgeist WAS a bit puffed-up and self-important, but it opened some new doors, too, if only for a moment, if only for a brief glimpse, a brief trial and experimentation. That was currency in those days, lifestyle and experience and life in the moment; forget your installment plans and wedding bands and mortgages and interest on principal. The new interest was on principles, and self-improvement, and the environment and slow-growth economies. That lasted through most of the 70’s (more than the drug-fueled 60’s, really), then faded into the fog of memory. What happened?

Our butts got fat; that’s what happened. Capitalism was the new God, and Ronnie Ray-Gun was the new Messiah. It had little to do with him, of course, though he gets all the credit. His timing was lucky. In reality, our ‘Small Planet’ mentality jumped the gun. In assuming that resources were limited and needed to be preserved conserved and doled-out cautiously, we overlooked one thing: the coming digital revolution. Oops! That can happen once every 100 years! Repubs spouting Reagan’s “voodoo economics” (George H. W. Bush) now simply bankrupt the country and make fools of us all.

All of a sudden, growth could occur without consuming physical resources, only intellectual ones. So that’s where we’ve been for the last 40-50 years, rolling out the digital revolution—until now. When almost every system is computerized, and the digi-rev consists of selfie sticks and SnapChat(TM) I’d say we’re reaching the (im)mature phase—been there, done that. What next?

Time to go back to slow-growth, or even no growth. Karl Marx was on to something; 1917 just wasn’t the right time, and scorched-earth totalitarianism totally unnecessary. Soviet-style communism was as gray as the ‘brutalist’ architecture that it excelled at. Eco-socialism can be green—very green, with bicycles, long walks, gardens, health care and public trans, everything, in fact, but the push-button suburbs with their Subarus and their false promises. I can hardly wait: hope to see it in my lifetime, in fact.