Hope for Gen Y

MTV Generation Y

A commenter on my recent review of definitive Gen Y high school movie Clueless writes:
How tied to is gen y. I mean, I've experienced and seen a lot of failure in my life and others. Is it a trait? By what means can it be overcome if it is?
I dont mean this as despair, just something you pointed out "being Gen Y, she's incompetent, and her project blows up in her face"
Reader Heian-kyo Dreams answers:
Failure is a common theme in everyone's life. It just means you're still breathing. 
Those movie montages did a huge disservice by making people think that 5 minutes of effort and practice make you good at something. And if you don't learn effortlessly like the movie characters, you should give up entirely.
I answer:

The association isn't failure and Gen Y. It's incompetence and Gen Y.

Ys are the gaslighted generation. Boomers taught them a false vision of the world but failed to teach them practical skills. As a result, Ys tend to have difficulty dealing with the real world and often have a "mugged by reality" experience--which happens to Cher in a literal sense.

As for dealing with these deficiencies, Heian-kyo Dreams has a solid point. Failure is normal. Ys tend to fear failure and get easily discouraged because they were taught to avoid conflict instead of facing it.

Like all bad habits, overcoming counterproductive Gen Y behavior patterns takes work. Luckily, the internet makes it easier. Don't know how to cook a meal, balance a checkbook, or change a tire? A world of knowledge is just a click away.

TL; DR: It's a technical problem that admits of technical solutions.

On what may seem like a tangent, but bear with me, reader Desdichado comments:
Keep in mind that nothing about the plot itself can be pinned to generational cohorts, only the details surrounding it. The movie is a transparent reworking of Emma by Jane Austen and the plot follows that novel point for point.
Which maybe is worth an interesting tangent or so all it's own; in spite of the obvious generational cohort differences, at the same time, at a broader level, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Clueless writer/director Amy Heckerling's admitted cribbing of Emma is why I didn't directly address the movie's plot. However, Desdichado's comment gave me a hunch that a connection existed between Cher and Emma.

I did some research on Strauss and Howe's Fourth Turning generational theory. In a nutshell, they assert that generations come in cycles of four archetypes corresponding to four repeating historical turning points.

  • A cultural High fosters a Prophet (Idealist) generation.
  • An Awakening brings about a Nomad (Reactive) generation.
  • An Unraveling gives rise to a Hero (Civic) generation.
  • A Crisis brings forth an Artist (Adaptive) generation.
Strauss and Howe start our current cycle with the Baby Boomers as the Prophet-Idealist generation that entered childhood during the postwar cultural High. 


However, they immediately veer off course by labeling Generation X, the Millennial, and Generation Z as Nomad-Reactive, Hero-Civic, and Artist-Adaptive cohorts, respectively.

Strauss and Howe's mistake is easy to see. While they correctly define their generational archetypes based on shared formative experience:
They say the generations in each archetype not only share a similar age-location in history, they also share some basic attitudes towards family, risk, culture and values, and civic engagement. In essence, generations shaped by similar early-life experiences develop similar collective personas and follow similar life-trajectories.
They erroneously stick to an arbitrary definition of a generation as a twenty-year period.

As I've argued previously, the Awakening sparked by the Boomers has led to such a rapidly accelerating societal Unraveling that people born just twenty years apart no longer have anything close to the same formative experiences. Shortening the duration of each turning after the Boomer High corrects the problem.

This correction also gives us ten extra years between the Boomers and the X-ers into which Generation Jones fits snugly, plus ten more between the Xers and Millennials perfectly sized for Generation Y.

Making these adjustments gives us:

  1. High: The Baby Boomers: Prophet-Idealist
  2. Awakening: Generation Jones: Nomad-Reactive
  3. Unraveling: Generation X: Hero-Civic
  4. Crisis: Generation Y: Artist-Adaptive
See Strauss and Howe's description of an Artist generation:
Artist (Adaptive) generations enter childhood after an Unraveling, during a Crisis, a time when great dangers cut down social and political complexity in favor of public consensus, aggressive institutions, and an ethic of personal sacrifice. Artists grow up overprotected by adults preoccupied with the Crisis, come of age as the socialized and conformist young adults of a post-Crisis world, break out as process-oriented midlife leaders during an Awakening, and age into thoughtful post-Awakening elders

The generation that entered childhood with the threat of nuclear annihilation hanging over their heads, grew up during a brief return to conformity and consensus in the Reagan and Bush years, were propagandized by the converged post-1980 entertainment industry, had overprotective parents, and grew into adults looking to go along to get along has been well documented on this blog.

Their name rhymes with, "Why?"

Now, there's a fair objection to be made to my modification of Strauss and Howe's theory. My X-er readers have probably spotted it, but for everyone else, here's the Fourth Turning definition of a Hero generation:
Hero (Civic) generations enter childhood after an Awakening, during an Unraveling, a time of individual pragmatism, self-reliance, and laissez-faire. Heroes grow up as increasingly protected post-Awakening children, come of age as team-oriented young optimists during a Crisis, emerge as energetic, overly-confident midlifers, and age into politically powerful elders attacked by another Awakening.
Members of Generation X will probably nod along to the first sentence of that definition. They grew up post-Sexual Revolution in the rugged individualist early 80s. Where the wheels come off is at the "increasingly protected" part. Gen X is notorious as the "Thrown to the wolves" generation.

As a result, they've hardly come of age as overconfident team players. And we know Gen X will never be given the reins of political power. They and Gen Y will be skipped over.

What could possibly have gone wrong? How did a cycle of each generation passing the torch to the next suddenly get derailed after working smoothly for hundreds of years?

I wonder.

Hot Tub Time Machine 2
"Hey. Hey, Boomers, c'mere. We...we just wanna *talk* to you!"

Before discounting my variation on Strauss and Howe's theory, keep in mind that they originally listed the Millennials as a Hero generation. Others have argued that this classification is accurate, but the Millennials' heroic destiny has been thwarted.

I argue that the evidence much more strongly points toward the X-ers as the Hero generation whose collective vocation was ruined by their parents' failure.

The anomaly which explains all subsequent aberrations in the Four Turnings theory is that no prior generation in recorded history actively hated their own children--until the Baby Boomers.

Think that's hyperbole? Keep in mind that the Boomers murdered half of their children in the womb.

Sincere condolences, Gen X. You were supposed to be the heroes we needed. But like hack authors who purposefully subvert the hero of prophecy in their postmodern Tolkien ripoff novel, the Boomers' neglect and abuse killed your optimism and patriotism. Along with half of you.

The bad news is that our civilization probably won't survive the damage inflicted by Generation Locust. Strauss and Howe didn't find anything like the Boomers going all the way back to the fifteenth century. There probably hasn't been such a destroyer generation since the fall of Rome.

In the title of this post, I held out hope--specifically for Generation Y. Now that we've correctly identified Gen Y as an Artist-Adaptive generation, we have a glimpse of what the future may hold for them.

Strauss and Howe have chronicled past Artist generations breaking out of their shells in middle age to master useful processes and take leadership positions. That's an encouraging prospect.

But the tragic tale of Gen X warrants a big caveat. It's highly unlikely that Ys will get to fill official leadership positions. Those are reserved for the Millennials. If Ys are going to emerge as leaders, it will be as local, informal organizers and mentors.

Of course, it's possible that the Boomers permanently sabotaged Gen Y as well. But the key formative difference between Gen X and Gen Y also Gives Ys reason to hope.

Gen X's Hero archetype was broken because they didn't get the necessary protection from their parents. In contrast, the Boomers overcompensated with their younger Gen Y children, enabling them to fulfill their Artist archetype.

The question remains: Will Gen Y fulfill the Adaptive part of the equation? Based on signs we're seeing now, the answer could be yes. Many authors among the PulpRev and Superversive literary movements belong to Generation Y. They're not only establishing themselves as skilled artists, they're actively seeking to inspire cultural change.

Another prominent--one might justly say infamous--author making a cultural impact is Gen Y pickup artist turned Augustinian sage Roosh V. Having turned from hedonism and toward Christ, he travels the globe trying to foster male fellowship at great personal risk.

The greatest obstacle Gen Y will have to overcome is their lack of confidence and practical skill. To fulfill their role of guiding Gen Z, they must embrace failure as a trusted teacher and put in the work to master the life skills they were never taught. And like Roosh, they must return to Christ.


  1. Prime X here. (b. 1974)

    Can confirm. We got SCREWED, and even growing up I sensed it, but only when I came of age did I see how bad it was- and I got it worse than most of my cohort. It's one thing to see one's parents betray you by not protecting you; it's another to see the institutions professing to do so while actively fostering the predation you endure on a daily basis, and "endure" is the best you can do owing to being (a) a child and (b) dealing with Boomer bullshit making it worse.

    1. @Bradford
      Can confirm your confirm. You're like 2 weeks older than I, fwiw.

      Every institution gave me the impression that I, along with those who lived, should have been killed in the womb. For their convenience, of course.

      God bless and keep you.

    2. Side note: We have another explanation for the enduring appeal of Char Aznable. He is the Hero taking revenge against the Boomers that screwed him, and then trying to build something new after succeeding in his initial mission- which is where he falters.

    3. Bradford

      I'm a boomer like you but older.
      In my case it wasn't the parents but institutions. I grew up when the boomers were consolidating and entrenching both the Quiet revolution and Vatican II in Quebec.

      You can't imagine just how intensely the boomers secularized the province. A

      It got worse when I graduated the late 80s_early 90 I couldn't find stable work for 10 years cause the boomer regarded us as incompetent doofuses who would break their stuff.


  2. I want to posit that Presidencies can also fit into this mold.

    The Clinton era was a High. I didn't like the way things were going, but you still have a very cohesive society and trust in institutions, especially compared to what happened after.

    GWB an Awakening (with mini-crisis and high at the beginning due to 9/11 and the aftermath). Institutions attacked in the name of personal and spiritual autonomy? Check. People suddenly tire of social discipline and want to recapture a sense of "self-awareness", "spirituality" and "personal authenticity"? Check. The only thing is that they look back at the previous High with favor and the current zeitgeist as empty.

    Obama during Unraveling. Institutions are weak and distrusted, with Obama taking a hand in making them so.

    Trump now in Crisis: Institutional life is destroyed and rebuilt in response to a perceived threat to the nation's survival. After the crisis, civic authority revives, cultural expression redirects towards community purpose, and people begin to locate themselves as members of a larger group.

    1. Additional notes of perhaps no consequence:

      Clinton, Bush, and Trump are all Boomers. Obama is a Joneser.

    2. I recall the fake news saying Obama was our first Gen X president, and remember thinking, “no way, he’s Boomer-lite.”

      Must have been Boomer journos having a good laugh at Gen X with that lie.

    3. There is no universe in which 1961 is Gen X.

      It's the same Boomer journo juxtaposition that memory holed Gen Y.

    4. FWIW, my dad (b. 1961) always claimed to be X because of how much he despised the Boomers. He asserted that anyone who didn't care about JFK or Woodstock couldn't be a Boomer and he just didn't have anything in common with them, therefore he must be X. I'll have to show him your schema sometime, I think it will resonate. And yes, he loves Chuck Jones.

    5. "And yes, he loves Chuck Jones."

      As do all well-meaning people.

      For the rest of our readers, who may not know the origin of the name, the term 'Generation Jones' comes from the Boomers' younger siblings 'Jonesing' for their elders' easy prosperity. Jonesers live their lives feeling like they showed up to the party after the keg ran dry and only ice cubes and celery were left at the buffet.

  3. I have an alternate theory, but ask your permission before posting it in the comments.

    1. I posted some of this in the previous thread, hence the copypasta + edits.

      The real, you-and-me generations are out of S&H's order. Reality is: Prophet (Idealist, Boomer), Nomad (Reactive, Jones, GenX), Artist (Adaptive, GenY), Hero (Civic, Millennials) and then ??? for Zoomers. Another Nomad or Artist generation is a good bet, depending on how red/blue pilled their parents are.

      Thanks to the social upheavals, the Nomads get closer to a 20 year generation. This doesn't mean that Jones doesn't exist, because their experiences are different than X, but both generations are Nomads. Jones started the Nomad cycle and it peaked in X.

      Life got so messed up that the Hero generation was skipped altogether this cycle --or--Life got so messed up that the Nomad was extended and Hero and Artists swapped.

      There is some precedence for skipping a generation. When the book first came out, S&H were interviewed on NPR and said that in their research back to the 1500s, they only found one time a generation was skipped and it was because of a long war.

      What is happening to America right now is equivalent to a shooting, bloody war. Disgusting and scary.

    2. A well thought-out take. Thank you.

      I believe they were referring to the Civil War, which caused what should have been a Hero generation to grow up scarred and become the second Nomad generation in a row. If I understand correctly, you posit that this has occurred again, with both Jonesers and X-ers being Nomads. If so, I concur.

    3. Thanks, Brian. I couldn't remember what the war was. Figures that it happened to yet another Nomad generation...

  4. I concur, especially wrt your comments regarding leadership: X has been carefully blocked and Y will be passed over, but Y, learning late, will pick up the pieces at the local level. Don't underestimate just how influential this can be; just ask any enlisted man who wields the most formative influence on his life: the officers or the NCOS? When things fall apart, and they will, it's the local leaders that start putting them back together.

    Ours is a generation in prime position to rebuild, not politically, but culturally.

    1. The commissioned officer vs NCO metaphor strikes me as quite apt.

    2. Of course boomers are terrified of giving X power over their fate. I think Y did inherit some of the dislike or distrust of boomers organizations. There is some opting out going on, in addition to blocking and passing over.

      What's interesting is the millennial boomer connection. Millennials seem almost as bad as boomers about accepting literally everything as fact if it comes from a boomer approved organization (college or media).

    3. Y, from my experience, keeps to the fringes. They are the best equipped to be teachers and artists outside of the system.

      Just as the mainstream right now passed over Y directly for the Millennials and are feeling every inch of it, the ones who are killing it in the newer avenues are usually Gen X or Y with some Zs sniffing around. I think if there's a change it will be a Quiet Revolution. Unlike the one in Quebec it will actually be a good thing though.

      Forking might just be the way to go.

    4. Stockman

      Read my comment to Bradford above.
      The boomers DELIBERATELY blocked us. I speak from personal experience. It happened to me and my cohorts in Canada


    5. "What's interesting is the millennial boomer connection."

      Funny you should mention that: Nancy Pelosi recently met with AOC, probably to solidify the generational transfer of power.

      As someone who's studied collapse scenarios for many years, I find Brian's hypothesis that the Millennials will cause it to be both fascinating and unique. Put another way, a war or oil crisis might be the spark, but the Millennials LARPing as leaders will simply be unable to keep the fire under control.

      Gens X and Y have the opportunity to build local and decentralized support structures that can survive the top-down idiocy that will be imposed by the ruling coalition of AOC-like moron narcissists.

    6. "I think Y did inherit some of the dislike or distrust of boomers organizations."

      Not inherited; learned after much pain and hardship.

      "What's interesting is the millennial boomer connection."

      A generation of egoists spawned a generation of narcissists.

      "Forking might just be the way to go."

      Forking is necessary but not sufficient.

      "Put another way, a war or oil crisis might be the spark, but the Millennials LARPing as leaders will simply be unable to keep the fire under control."

      That's exactly what will happen. Try to imagine a Millennial Fed chairman trying to deal with another Great Depression or a Millennial president having to respond to a rogue state nuking a US asset. Black comedy ensues.

  5. I read part of this book and couldn't fit their paradigm onto Xers, Millenials, and Zs either so I kinda gave up on it. Thanks for your commentary that actually aligns quite well.

    Millennials are going into leadership positions already so you having us pegged as Prophet generation does confuse me a little. However, given how moralizing and preachy my generation is I think is spot on, besides I'm a bit of an idealist myself. But aren't the millennials also Hero's at the same time? Aren't all the big social media companies run by millennials as well as the whole silicon valley startup culture a millennial thing?

    An interesting thing to ponder is what generation all the Dissident Right cultural leaders are. I guess the podcasters & youtubers would count as artists though right? Come to think about it I think all the TRS guys are Gen Y, Spencer (as much as he's a Fed) is Y, Metokur is an Xer (or is he in his mid-late 30s making him a Y), Moldbug is a Y, ZippyCatholic was an Xer, I can't think of any others off the top of my head.

    I guess this means Zs will be nomads. From all the interactions I've had and everything I've seen that's a bullseye. If any generation was ever to be homeless wanderers its them.

    1. To go further in defense of your analysis, one of the key criticisms of liberals is that they live in a world of flux but they're in constant denial of it and doesn't that sound like Ys to tee.

      I found this twitter link interesting:

    2. I actually don't think Millennials are a Prophet generation. The evidence at hand points to Boomers having broken the cycle. All bets are off after Generation Y.

      And yes, Metokur is a Y. He'd deny being a leader of any kind, though. Which sums up the problem.

    3. On second thought, I am leaning more toward the Millennials being Prophet-Idealists based on Alexander's analysis below.

  6. I don't think Gen X is out of the game yet. We've just had to wait for everything. I think when we do get a grip on power it's going to be characterized by the grim, cold brand of stoic "heroism" we've been drawn to our whole lives. I don't see that it can be any other way.

    1. We won't be handed power. We'll have to seize it, and the manner of characters like Reinhard von Lohengram is one of the less brutal examples we may have to follow.

    2. They ain't gonna live forever, and alas for the many among them we'd like to keep. But overall it shows God's mercy. Can you imagine an immortal cohort of Boomers? Truly evidence of a careless or malevolent God.

    3. Jones and Xers are dying young and are getting sicker younger. The Boomers aren't living forever, but neither are we. Plus the Boomers are sucking all the resources out of the medical system.

      Health wise, X and Jones are split between being uber concerned, CrossFit wheatfreedairyfreeglutenfreeorganic enthusiasts and slowly committing suicide via diet.

      That's assuming they aren't literally committing suicide.

      It's going to be difficult to seize power due to attrition and bad health.

    4. My larger point is that corpses and children alike run nothing; power moves of its own accord, whether it is seized or not; and history, by and large, is a comfortingly knowable fiction we layer over chaos and emergence.
      Chaos - the degeneration and collapse of systems - does not favour fluffy idealists and idiots. You'll note the signal failure of the Arab Spring to institute progressive liberalism.

      To put it another way, badness isn't unitary. The badness of a bankrupt and discordant West isn't going to favour the badness of an uber-liberal thought-crime state.

    5. Those who survive will take power, whether they want it or not. Xers are pragmatic as a whole and one of them will step up and push troublesome Boomers off a cliff.

  7. Very interesting. I haven’t read The Fourth Turning, but I did read Generations a few years back. Here are the big flaws I found with it (from my review):

    “First, Strauss and Howe say such a Cycle only happens in a “non-traditional” society like America. But they don’t discuss how changes to America could affect their cycle theory, or perhaps break it.

    What changes? How about technology and the stranglehold on information by the elite? It has given older generations even more ways to ensure that the next generation or two are just like them. In fact, I would argue that Millennials are not Civic, but are Idealist.

    More importantly, what about demographic changes? Strauss and Howe touch on this only briefly. Now, in a Balkanized country focused on identity politics and the things that divide us, these archetypes may no longer apply because the majority of the people in the U.S. are increasingly not the descendants of English settlers or African slaves.”

    Like you, I see Millennials more like Boomers (idealist). The Millennial/Boomer war we were warned about is really a Y/Boomer war, but because of the sloppy mainstream generational analysis, Y and Millennial are erroneously lumped together. Millennials and Boomers are natural allies, God help us all.

  8. You didn't mention it, but this cycle would make the Millennials another Prophet-Idealist generation, which fits to a T. This is why the Boomers take so much more interest in them than in the rest of us: they resonate together, even though the Millennials consider the Boomers Idealism hopelessly flawed with the prejudices they arose in (and some Boomers have drunk this Koolaid and agree that they are just impure compared to the rising Millennials). The fact that this model appears to predict the next cycle accurately makes it all the more likely.

    1. As Alexander surmised, it looks like the Millennials are generational clones the Boomers made of themselves using their total control of education, entertainment, and mass media.

  9. Going to third Alexander. I have heard Vox Day talk about Howe and Strauss, and our host here at this blog, but I’ve not actually read the book, only the infogalactic summary. I’ve been referring to Millennials for several years now as Boomers 2.0, because of their similar behavior profiles. I also think their similarity is part of why the Boomers complain about them so much...you hate what you see in the mirror. To see some say Millenials are a different generational model than the Boomers seems odd to me.

    I do agree with Heinan though that the Heroes have been skipped. Just this time it may not have been once, but twice. The question is, can Gen Y help Gen Z to be the Hero generation we desperately need? Also, what happens when a people fail to produce a Hero generation? I would not be surprised if many dead nations of the past failed to produce one after a few turns.

    1. "Also, what happens when a people fail to produce a Hero generation?"

      It happened once. The Civil War's aftermath is your answer.

    2. And you can make an argument that the heritage American nation died after the Civil War and a new paradigm took over. Not as clean as a clear war -> mass death/displacement -> immigrant replacement, but in many ways the new American Empire that was born would eventually copy Rome by extending its idea of what it meant to be American.

    3. It also copies Rome by sucking the money out of the provinces and concentrating it in the capital.