Indeed, for a while now, Deresiewicz has been complaining about kids these days. The Millennials, he gripes in a recent essay, are "motivated more by narcissism than anything else." At a time when the country is in crisis, young people have withdrawn from politics in favor of social entrepreneurship. They see politics and activism as destructive and would rather work outside the system than change it from within, take it over, or even destroy it. Taught from a young age to play nice with others in the sandbox, the Millennials favor consensus, and shirk from confrontation. Thus, any dissent or disruption of everyday life to draw attention to a problem is thought by Millennials to be "uncool" and unproductive; agitating for a cause doesn't change the world, but creating some sort of socially beneficial entrepreneurial venture does. To illustrate this, Deresiewicz writes:
"A Stanford professor told me about two internships that were open to students at his college last year. One, for a small East Bay nonprofit, drew several hundred applications. The other, for the office of the Speaker of the California State Assembly—the second-most-powerful person in the eighth-largest economy on the planet—drew three."Deresiewicz's actual gripe with the Millennials is not just that they are narcissistic and consciously apathetic, but that they have eschewed the most logical avenue to effectuate change - politics. But the problem lurking beneath the surface is not the self-aggrandizement and narcissism implicit in the Millennials' belief that entrepreneurial activity rather than politics can result in meaningful societal change. The problem is the word "change" itself.
When Barack Obama campaigned with his platform of CHANGE, his candidacy did not suggest a paradigmatic shift or systemic reform. Instead, his candidacy represented merely an aesthetic change and, for the Millennials, a change from leadership by the older generation to leadership by the newer generation. Equipped with saccharine and banally optimistic rhetoric, as well as savvy marketing, Obama presented a packaged promise of a somehow nondescript political future. This remarkable power the Obama campaign had over young voters (read: Millennials) was primarily due to the lack of direction suggested by the word "change."
Many on Left have been disappointed with the way President Obama's first term has played out. In 2008, CHANGE appeared as a form of salvation from the nightmare of the Bush years, but it has been translated by Pres. Obama into few if any political gains. Liberals projected onto Obama their desires for progressive change, most of which have not been realized. With Deresiewicz's analysis of the Millennials in mind, Pres. Obama's inaction should come as no surprise.