Did Millennials Fail the “Hero Trial?” A Perspective from a Millennial Rising
The Ermi Group is passionate about Millennials. In fact we have 2 on our staff, and one has agreed to write a blog post on the subject from a Millennial’s point of view. She also happens to be my daughter!
Welcome to my guest blogger Lexie Ermi!
I am a Millennial. I have heard the ups and downs, pros and cons, of Millennial in the workforce, in the family, in society, for years. I don’t like all the labels that are placed on my generation, but some of it gives me hope for the future. After all, we are the over-protected, the over-diagnosed, the over child-proofed, the children around whom the parents’ world revolves—but we are also the children who think it is cool to be smart, who strive to achieve our goals, who respect authority, who set their own boundaries, and, according to Neil Howe and William Strauss in Millennials Rising, are the next “Hero generation.”
Howe and Strauss promote a theory based on the concept of the “hero generation.” They claim that roughly every eighty to one hundred years, the United States has entered a period of crisis (re: Great Depression and WWII, Civil War, American Revolution, and the Glorious Revolution of 1689).Each crisis is propagated by some spark of history, and the hero generation must rise up, correct the excesses of its parent and grandparent generations, and essentially set the country back on its proper track. Howe and Strauss refer to this as a “hero trial.” A generation seen in a special way, protected from harm, pushed to achievement, pressured to behave, responds to a crisis situation and creates a new order from it—and that is a hero generation. The last hero generation was the G.I. Generation, who are now being compared to Millenials in many ways.
The Millennial generation began with high optimism and promise, as Boomers began having their babies and giving them everything they thought their parents hadn’t given them. The first Millenials were born into a world where the economy was stable, the U.S. was secure, children were prized and cherished, and the future seemed bright. We have been told since we were born that we are special, that we can do whatever we set our minds to, that we can change the world. Teamwork, community, and honor have become core values of Millenials, again tying us to the G.I. Generation. Howe and Strauss comment on this, suggesting that perhaps Millennial will be the first generation with heroic capacities that are completely stunted as things just continue to get better, negating their ability to respond to a crisis as none exists!
Howe and Strauss’s book, was written in 2000. Just a year later, the U.S. was rocked by the 9/11 terrorist attack, arguably creating what they refer to as a hero trial. It is an eerie coincidence. A civic minded generation was needed. But did one arise?
In the line-up of Millenials, I am nearer to the end than the beginning. I am twenty years old right now, and I cannot remember a time when there were no metal detectors in airports (or security at public schools, for that matter), when national security was not a common phrase and terrorism not a constant threat. I cannot remember a time when the U.S. military was not mocked and derided for their attempts to correct the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan. Did we fail our hero test?
Howe and Strauss exalt the capabilities of Millennial to revolutionize society and create a new modern order. Imagine what could be achieved by such a generation, they say, so different from Boomers or Xers.
Yet there is also a dark side to Millennial: we are the kind of generation with the technological advances and potential hubris to create an Orwellian society, controlled and monitored. Howe and Strauss leave it open for history to decide the answer to the question. What will Millennial do for society? What have they done? Have they risen up and created a new order in response to the world crisis they were finally
facced with? Have they destroyed society? People such as Dr. Kermit and issues such as euthanasia may lead some to conclude the dark side of Millennial has conquered. Or have we merely lacked the capabilities of the G.I. Generation? Have we simply failed to do what our parents always told us we could do? Are we merely a lackluster, commonplace generation?
I am hopeful that we aren’t done yet. I think Millennial could pull through and revolutionize society, bringing good things. We’ve gotten lazy since 9/11, complacent in our situation, and we have forgotten the urgency it once created. Perhaps what we really need is a new trial. Scary thought—and only time will tell the answer.