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FILE - In this Nov. 18, 2012 file photo, Justin Bieber accepts the award for favorite album - pop/rock for "Believe" at the 40th Anniversary American Music Awards, in Los Angeles. (Photo by John Shearer/Invision/AP, File) FILE - In this Nov. 18, 2012 file photo, Justin Bieber accepts the award for favorite album - pop/rock for "Believe" at the 40th Anniversary American Music Awards, in Los Angeles. (Photo by John Shearer/Invision/AP, File)  

In defense of millennials

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Timothy Philen
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      Timothy Philen

      Timothy Philen is the author of Harper&Row/Lippincott's "You CAN Run Away From It!" a satirical indictment of American pop psychology. He is currently at work on a latter-day “Walden,” a tightly knit collection of essays on post-modern American culture.

My wife and I just completed a milestone journey from our Santa Monica Mountains home to the hallowed halls of Baylor University, deep in the heart of Texas, for our daughter’s graduation. This “Lone Star trek into darkness,” as I’m sure most leftists would characterize it, was actually a most enlightening experience.

In addition to being gratified by the achievements of my child, I couldn’t help but enjoy the temporary solace of being a comfortable 1,400 miles away in either direction from California Sen. Barbara Boxer — whose latest shameless syllogism blamed the deadly twister in Moore, Okla., on Republicans’ refusal to embrace carbon tax legislation.

Thanks to a Time magazine cover story “The Me Me Me Generation,” which caught my eye at a newsstand just before boarding the plane, I was able to pull my brain away from cap-and-trade and back to cap-and-gown concerns, musing about my daughter and her millennial mates, and the likelihood of their success in this still-anemic economy.

The Time article began with author Joel Stein dragging out all of the traditional tropes that older generations use when multi-“tsk”ing about “the problem with kids these days.”

Buttressed by data from the National Institutes of Health, he showed that Americans born between 1980 and 2000 have a three times greater incidence of Narcissistic Personality Disorder than baby boomers over 65.

I was beginning to get visibly agitated.

Stein went on to decry the fact that millennials aren’t just narcissistic. They’re also lazy, with a deep-seated sense of entitlement, and brimming over with an impatience for social change bordering on the delusional.

Well, that was enough. I blurted out “Serenity now!,” took a blood pressure pill, and grumbled to myself for the next few minutes.

After all, the nerve of these upstarts treading on the sacred ground that we plowed so diligently back in the late 1960s!

Narcissism? Young man, we invented narcissism, and self-esteem, and stress, and all the rest of it. Laziness? Young lady, we used to “stop and smell the roses” for a year at a time. A sense of entitlement? Just who do you think brought you affirmation action? The Easter Bunny? Impatient for change? “What do we want? Peace. When do we want it? NOW!”

And that’s not to mention our contributions to promiscuous sex and contraband drugs.

As William F. Buckley, Jr. once observed, it was “the pursuit of pleasure” masquerading as idealism.

We baby boomers were the accelerators, if not the progenitors, of many destructive traits. And, to be honest, the 1970s was a decade of indulgence and arrested character development. Many of us got a late start on living truly “together” lives.

And still we survived.

And most of us, if we escaped the siren song of substance abuse, flourished. So much so that we became far more “establishment” than the parents whose materialism we rebelled so indignantly against.

Sipping our syrahs in the borrowed-money magnificence of our brushed nickel and granite kitchen remodels — the coming collapse nowhere in sight — we found it easy to enjoy the great American pastime of dismissing the young, just as our forebears always had.