My generation wants to be Katniss Everdeen. Her courage, empathy, and morals weave together, much like her iconic braid, to form a heroine that is at once strong and vulnerable. It is her relentless pursuit of truth, however, that is most definitive. Despite her sometimes showy appearance of enlightened cynicism, my Apple-toting, “tweeting” millennial peers glory in this romantic notion — the heroism of pursuing truth. But we are often more interested in the glorious idea rather than the brutal reality. The truth is hard.
Millennials like to focus more on the fight for truth, the journey of self-discovery and eventual victory; the story-telling stuff. We don’t pay much attention to the District 12 treasures Katniss is actually trying to protect: her family, shared history, love and the peaceful prolongation of the ordinary work that sustains their community. Katniss can literally save people with her bow hunting and survival skills, but her ultimate goal is further beneath the surface — to preserve her own humanity and the humanity of others.
Millennials want to be the symbol — the Mockingjay if you will — of a revolution, but only if promised a segment on the Today Show. Yet actual heroism rarely carries with it societal acceptance. Thus, while hip millennials think of progressivism heroic and necessary revolutionary behavior, the reality is that the modern era drowns in individualism and self-obsession. Consider the young 20-something running for Congress in a state where he doesn’t reside or know the constituents, he is presumptuous enough to think that purchasing a local estate in the area gives him license to run, without any connection to the people.
Millennials readily throw out inherited traditions like so much Chinese take-out, while looking toward the ever more glorious future. This type of behavior is not new, of course. George Orwell once said, “Every generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it.”
Therefore, while many in my generation of millennials perceive themselves as part of a stalwart revolutionary force – with Katniss-like tenacity and spirit – alas, their efforts are hardly unique. While each individual does have the ability to make a significant difference in the world, most individuals in my generation have confused “be the change” with “I am the change.”
They perceive themselves and their fellow right-thinking people as the sole source of good in the world, thinking forward and never looking back. They rarely consult their elders about how to improve society — they already seem to know. I mean, how many ‘likes’ would that Facebook post get?
Katniss was a different breed. She was the antithesis of a progressive revolutionary. While she overthrew a corrupt political system, she did so in order to keep the values of her past alive, not necessarily to create new ones. Similarly, without the necessary conservative reformiser to revive the current political sphere, social destabilization will ensue. The Katniss of today would need to be more conservative to counterbalance the overwhelming progressive drive into the future.
True heroes recognize the need for moderation and temperance in society, and play a balancing role. Without equal representation of different viewpoints, society can be swept up in passionate fury.
The messages fed to youth today by the media and public schooling do not inspire a moderate or balanced perspective. We live in a political climate where progressive ideas are whole-heartedly embraced and where looking to the past is a reactionary cliche. As Orwell said, “He who controls the past controls the future, he who controls the present controls the past.” If the past is indeed the tool for controlling the future, what does that mean for a culture that refuses to appreciate it?