Recently I came across a youtube link with the heading “The most honest three and a half minutes of television, EVER”, and I clicked on the link, curious as to what bold truths I was going to discover. The link took me to the opening scene of Aaron Sorkin’s latest television series The Newsroom, where Jeff Daniel’s character verbally unloads on a young college woman and laments over times past after she asks him why America is the greatest country in the world. This particular video is an edited version, with the full version giving the scene a bit more context. While the stats this character rattles off in succession may be true, the second half of his speech is, if I may be so eloquent, a load of crap. Beautifully written, yes, but condescending, ignorant, and far from the truth. Now I’ve been a fan of Aaron Sorkin for years, starting with The American President, all the way through to The Social Network, but this diatribe is so off base, I don’t even want to know what happens next on the show. You must be wearing one hell of a pair of rose tinted glasses Mr. Sorkin, and I’m calling you out on it.
I am a proud member of the generation you describe through your character as the worst in history, and if that is what you think of us, then you don’t know us at all. In interests of full disclosure, I have not seen an episode of The Newsroom, however, I am familiar enough with your work and career to know that when a character delivers a sermonizing monologue, its purpose is usually to extol your point of view on that particular topic. Therefore, I can only take away from this clip that you believe that my generation is the worst in history. Well let me clear some things up about the Millennial Generation, whom you dismiss so callously.
Our generation began in the 1980s, born into a decade now renowned for its excess and extravagance, and driven by the Reaganonmics that favoured profits over everything else, including sanity or common sense. “Greed is good”, remember? As we grew up, I am of a generation that has been consistently told that we were no good, would amount to nothing, and were blights on our society, because as far back as I can remember, the mainstream media would cover ad nauseum anything remotely negative about teenagers and youth culture. This is not uncommon, as it seems that every generation is appalled at the one coming up next, but the widespread advances in technology and communication in the past twenty years have ensured that we were the first generation to have this message rammed down our throats 24/7.
We are a generation raised to believe that education is the key to a good career. I must have been told a thousand times during my days at school, “Get a good education or you will end up flipping burgers at McDonalds.” Now, degrees in hand, we are entering a work force where jobs are few and far between, and we then get called entitled for not wanting to settle for a job at McDonalds.
You lament the fact that the days of being informed by revered men are gone, and to that I say good riddance. You say people were more informed back then, well I say we are the most informed generation in history thanks to the growth of information technology and the vast resources of the Internet. A quick Google search on any subject will deliver thousands of sides to any story, and while it may take some time to sort through the mess of information to find the truth, I will take that process any day over having to simply trust the words of some old white guy on television every night.
We are the generation raised by parents who benefitted greatly from the economic boom created by the post-war Baby Boomers. We were bred to believe that we are only as good as the material goods we own, never mind the fact that this materialistic obsession has left the majority of the Western world in a state of such crippling debt, that our economic systems have been near paralyzed for the past several years, creating historically high unemployment rates among young adults, just as we are starting to make our way in the world. Our reality is that the flagrant spending, borrowing, abuses of power, and total disregard for natural resources by the generations before us mean that we will be spending the rest of our lives cleaning up after your messes, politically, economically, environmentally, and socially. And you’re ready to call us the worst generation in history?
We are a group that has been labelled spoilt, lazy, narcissistic, and has been given the moniker Generation Me, but we have also been ranked as the most educated, innovative, and among the most forward thinkers in history. Your generation has been quick to call us entitled, but I see my fellow Millennials as a generation who while we may have been initially overwhelmed by the problems facing our world, we are now starting to do something about it. Being informed means that we are acutely aware of the mistakes of the past, and we are determined not to repeat them. Some say we have been given a raw deal, but I say we have been given an incredible opportunity to work together to solve these problems so that the next generation will inherit a world that is better than the one we got.
So Mr. Sorkin, you can go on about how the world is being wasted on my generation, and you can mourn for a past that bears little resemblance to historical reality, but I am done listening. I would much rather use my time to look forward, rather than to dwell on the past, and although the challenges ahead may be staggering, I know that we will succeed. I have faith in my generation, because I know that we are so much better than anyone has ever given us credit for. I believe that history will remember us as those spoilt, lazy, entitled brats who turned around and changed the world.