About a month ago, I read an article in the opinion section of the University Star discussing the high suicide rate among college students—nearly 2% as of 2017 with over 40% of all students suffering from depression according to the New York Times. The student writer accredited depression among college students to monetary poverty and demanded people like President Trauth relinquish their “1% status” to lend a helping hand to students. This article is just one manifestation of an increasingly common attitude among millennials today.
The popularity of socialism has escalated among millennials in the past few years. As a millennial myself, I think the time I noticed this trend was during the Occupy Wall Street protests which targeted the 1% that possesses 50% of the nation’s wealth. People who like numbers harp on this type of rhetoric; my personal response is, “So?” However, though I contend movements like these have logical problems, my focus here is understanding the millennial socialist.
Marxism is an ideology entrenched in an economic power struggle. The prime injustice, according to the Marxist, is the disparity in the “distribution” of wealth among individuals that are equal under the law. No human being is more valuable than another; why then should anyone have more than another? This is the reasoning that undergirds this complaint from the University Star that attacks Trauth for her “ridiculous salary of $525,000” and asserts we millennials—the proletariat—struggle in our poverty. Readers may rightly observe the simplicity in this position, but it is emotionally contagious and has by no means receded in the last year. My critique as a millennial, however, may be summed up in one question: exactly why did millennials start thinking that wealth and material comforts—plus free college and whatever else you want to throw in there, Bernie—would guarantee us happiness?
I can say that when one-on-one, I have made a point to ask my peers what they want in life, and it is not money. People just want to be loved. This leads us to another set of statistics far away from our 1% oppressors. According to the U. S. Census, 27% of children under 18 in 2017 were living with just one parent in the home. The number of children born out of wedlock has moved to a decline since 2009, yet the emotional consequences of the 40% peak that year are still manifesting in the young adults of today. This scratches the surface as we could cover the cases of child abuse and neglect as well. Broken families are directly correlated to the likelihood of depression, jail time, and divorce. Around these statistics are the Band-Aids. Millennials flock to social media as a stand-in for social connection, yet the glass of their screens maintain the distance between themselves and the human contact they long for. What we observe in the millennial—as we will continue to see in Generation Z and the now emerging Generation Alpha—is the fruit of homes that are producing increasingly isolated individuals. The suicidal person is not always poor but usually believes he or she is alone in the world.
The outcry for socialism is also a Band-Aid; we cannot fill the hole in our hearts with green paper. Perhaps if Marx had lived a little longer, he may have found that money is the real opiate of the masses. A better cure is in coming to terms with our upbringings, rebuilding broken bridges with the generations before us, and seeking to build families and support communities around us where we had none. We can work towards ensuring our families do not reflect the families we came from. I am a millennial, and I am not rich; however, I will never be poor so long as I have friends among those older and wiser than myself. That is what really counts.
– Robert J. Jorash is a rhetoric and composition graduate student