Defining a Generation

By Staff

It’s always easy for one generation to point accusing fingers at another, and the current crop of whatever my age cohort is called (Generation Y, Millennials, Interns?)has gotten plenty of slack from the older folks. Mostly, we’re chided for being apathetic or insufficiently outraged. So, plenty of twenty-somethings have had to come out swinging in defense of our political participation. 

In a web-only essay for American Prospect, Courtney E. Martin joins the ranks of her generation’s defenders by taking on Thomas Friedman’s recent characterization of it as “too quiet” (hence, a few Friedmanesque labels like “Generation Q” and the “Quiet Americans”). Martin asserts that what’s seen as quiet, apathetic, or disengaged is more accurately tagged as paralyzed–a stasis that results from being “overeducated but underutilized.” 

This generation’s response to the barrage of bad news isn’t to march on Washington–though plenty have. Instead, Martin writes, she and her mates do the best they can by choosing careers that match their values, opting for work in nonprofits, as teachers, or as social workers. That, and they look for ways to psychologically and politically cope with the overwhelming multitude of problems facing the world. —Julie Dolan

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