JULIANNE SCHULTZ and JERATH HEAD (eds) Griffith Review #56: Millennials Strike Back. Reviewed by Folly Gleeson
Millennials write here about what affects their generation – it affects us all.
This is a stunningly good collection of essays, memoirs, images, fiction, reportage and poetry. Written with flair and commitment, it is fresh and exciting. It is very timely, too. Recently I saw an advertisement for a conference of radical ideas, and the byline was: No jobs, No houses, and No planet. The conference was aimed at millennials, and I think it is time to realise that the recognition of their opinions and ideas is vital if the issues that so affect the contemporary political, social and economic sphere are to have any chance of resolution. They write here of what affects them, but it affects us all.
The topics range from a look at the corporatisation of hope, lived Indigenous life; aspects of identity; the future, and the lack, of work; health spending and the mechanisation of human life; global experiences, inequalities and so very much more. Each topic is treated with a sharp-eyed and often tangential personal analysis. The quality of the poetry and the prose, and the depth and breadth of education revealed is impressive. Much of it demonstrates academic rigour but is expressed with grace and clarity.
Each of these pieces deserves a careful analysis, and I intend to reread them all over the next few months – plenty here to keep one thinking, and because a review is inadequate for giving each piece its due, I will just write here about the most immediate of my reactions.
Julianne Schultz’s introduction, ‘Intergenerational Trust and Betrayal’, outlines a fundamental aspect of the thinking of those under 35: they cannot trust their governments.
I was very taken with idea of the lack of trust, for naturally I remembered how I thought in my youth. I was born before the baby-boomers, and thought of myself as a beatnik, but as I enthusiastically embraced the intellectual life of the times – Ginsberg, Kerouac, City Lights Bookstore publications, art and existentialism, then the anti-Vietnam War movement – when it came to economics, I was full of trust. You could call it stupidity. We even had conversations about how it was bourgeois and un-Marxist to want to own a home. We could only do that because deep down we knew we could get one if we were prepared to try. I think many of my friends totally trusted the government to look after us. And jobs were easy to get, albeit with a very limited palette for women. Reading Natalie O’Brien on ‘Economic Illiterates’ and Briohny Doyle‘s ‘Off the Plan’ on house-ownership grief, and ‘The Housing Black Hole’ by Godfrey Moase and Sam Wallman, it is perfectly clear that that trust is gone.
I would say that for young people the second half of the 20th century post-World War 2 began with a sense of revolutionary excitement underpinned by a sense of trust and hope; both of these have completely evaporated for those under 35 today.
Lack of trust and feelings of insecurity inflect other articles in the collection. Sam Carmody examines male anger and fear in ‘Of Monsters and Men’ through the prism of the desire for shark culling. Changes to the nature of work, such as internships, create insecurity and erode trust as they are usually exploitative. The fact that older generations do not understand this change and tend to blame the young for their own lack of employment also contributes to the miasma of mistrust. This is made clear in Michael Newton’s ‘Unpaid Opportunities’. Frances Flanagan in ‘A Consensus of Care’ argues for humanity and communication in workplaces. And when it comes to security, Bri Lee’s piece on sexual violence and assault against young women makes the situation very clear.
There are other pieces that throw acutely clear light on aspects of life today, all with the faintly left- field, thoughtful weight that means these creative workers are not accepting the biases of older-generational takes on the zeitgeist. It is a challenging and impressive selection and I urge people to read it.
Julianne Schultz and Jerath Head (eds) Griffith Review #56: Millennials Strike Back Text 2017 PB 264pp $27.99
Folly Gleeson was a lecturer in Communication Studies. At present she enjoys her book club and reading history and fiction.
To see if it is available from Newtown Library, click here.