Deborah Hill Cone
Deborah Hill Cone is a Herald columnist

Deborah Hill Cone: Maybe the young are different from you and me

Insights of younger generation could show they have got it right more than the grown-ups.
Maybe we could learn a thing or too from them. Photo / Nick Reed
Maybe we could learn a thing or too from them. Photo / Nick Reed

Are young people a bit dumb? Asking for a friend. Economic commentators much smarter than me seem to think so.

Millennials apparently don't lift their heads up from their smartphones long enough to realise they are being shafted by people like me (aged over 45, own a house. Sorry.)

Young people don't vote (49 per cent of 18-29 year olds voted last election) and don't own their own homes (10 per cent in this age group).

Commentators have concluded from this that young people are ignorant. One optimistically suggested they read a recent 73-page Treasury report showing the government's grim long term position.

Here's a summary: my generation's selfish resistance to capital gains tax and limiting superannuation means by 2040 the country is going to end up in a hole of debt and the younger generation will live ghetto-ass primitive.

Treasury's report came out, no one reported on it, Stuff's top story that day was about Chrissy Teigen's wardrobe malfunction. I don't know who she is either.

Maybe young people are enfeebled halfwits with the IQ of a hat-stand, but just as I wrote this the Cartoon Network said: "Look at the world through the eyes of an adult with a mortgage."

Young people see things differently. "We look at the world once, in childhood. The rest is memory." So, what I'm wondering is, just throwing it out there, maybe millennials are not ignorant but enlightened, only in ways we oldsters can't see.

We are not robots. Daniel Kahneman won the 2002 Nobel Prize for his findings challenging the assumption that human rationality prevails in economic decisions.

Maybe this cohort believe relationships, the environment, and not being a tosser will be a more accurate predictor of their future happiness than working for the man.

Maybe like all of us cognitive-misers, young people choose to channel their limited attention into other endeavours - a soy-alternative - aside from mainstream politics.

A lot of the ones I know seem to be pretty busy with creative pursuits, making their own music, writing their own plays, rather than idolising Billy Bragg and poring over the airmailed NME from London as my generation did.

Maybe [young people] aspire to being a compassionate human being rather than a sound economic unit.

Maybe they don't feel there are any politicians they trust. Maybe they are making their voice heard in different ways; in a digitally connected world they are promoting causes and holding institutions to account directly.

Maybe they don't want to end up living a life like their parents, being a wage slave in a veal-fattening pen, sacrificing freedom to buy a house in a good school zone.

Maybe young people actually have some insights that it has taken older people like me a lifetime to glean; dumb slow-learner that I am, Bill Murray-like falling in a puddle and learning the same lesson over and over in different ways, whereas young people get it already with their reverse bucket list.

They are more into empathy than one-upmanship. Maybe young people, more worldly than my generation, have already experienced first-hand the precariousness of life - living through the trauma of earthquakes, some of them - and they have internalised the wisdom of Kierkegaard's axiom: "Anxiety is freedom".

Maybe they realise traditional status signifiers are no security against the randomness of fate. The most fortunate of us is no more than a couple of pieces of bad luck from destitution.

Maybe young people have woken up from a trance and don't subscribe to the magical thinking of "just world syndrome", the assumption that doing the right, socially-approved thing is rewarded, and doing the wrong thing is punished, so they've decided to run their own race.

Maybe they aspire to being a compassionate human being rather than a sound economic unit. Maybe they are deeply rational and have concluded whatever they vote it won't make any difference.

Beware! Maybe they are integrating their aggressive wishes, secretly amassing arms and going to declare a brutal inter-generational war on baby boomers.

Maybe we could learn a thing or too from them. Or maybe they really are just too busy on Snapchat to care.

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf04 at 11 Dec 2016 19:07:48 Processing Time: 1059ms