Millennials and the Lessons of Past Pitfalls



The term millennials is used in English to refer to those born between 1981 and 1996. That is, people between 24 and 39 years old who were born near the turn of the century. Spanish translations of the term include the ineffective “milénico,” the existing but inadequate term “milenios,” and probably the most accurate, “generación del milenio.”

A recent article by John Phelan entitled, “Millennials Are Ignorant of History. They Also Like Socialism. Coincidence?” notes that according to a recent study presented on Holocaust Memorial Day, two-thirds of millennials in the United States couldn’t identify Auschwitz or describe the horrors that occurred inside the extermination camp. In other words, knowledge of the genocide that wiped out around 6 million Jews during World War II is not a well-established fact among a significant group of the population. (Read also, “The Joker,” by Fernando Rodriguez.)

For simple biological reasons, millennials represent the future. It should also be noted that studies published in The Huffington Post reveal that millennials are also the most educated generation in U.S. history.* In other words, there is a somewhat incomprehensible paradox that when it comes to one of the most important historical events in human history, those who have the most access to information and education are also those who have the least knowledge of real historical events.

According to the article, historical ignorance could also explain the fact that millennials are the only age group in the United States who view socialism favorably, as reported in The Washington Post in 2016.

In a national opinion poll, Reason-Rupe found that more than half of American citizens under 30 viewed socialism favorably, compared to less than one-third of those over 30. Furthermore, a Gallup poll showed that more than two-thirds of millennials would be willing to vote for a “socialist” candidate for president. Compare this surprising proportion to the mere one-third of their parents’ generation who would be willing to do so.

To trivialize this information and turn it into a ridiculous argument that there is a communist conspiracy led by Sen. Bernie Sanders, backed by millennials, trying to seize control of the United States is a profound act of intellectual and civil irresponsibility. It is something which has been shamelessly spread by many Venezuelans fleeing to American soil from the horror of the Hugo Chavez regime.

It would be much more interesting to try and understand what exactly is leading so many millennials to back Sanders, in order to argue and debate with them. It’s important to add that according to the Phelan article, millennials tend to reject one fundamental aspect of socialism: that it has to do with government ownership of the means of production. Only 32% of millennials favor an economy managed by the government.

Basically, millennials appear to ignore a fundamental aspect of “real socialism,” that it’s linked to social control and repression which has led to its resounding failure in all countries which have tried to implement it.

Everything appears to indicate that millennials have adopted a supportive position when it comes to certain social reforms which aren’t associated with communism in Europe, but with social democracy. Particularly Scandinavian social democracy, which is related to access to education, progressive taxation and universal health care. Having said this, Sanders’ position on Cuba and Venezuela and his admiration of the Cuban Revolution’s achievements are undeniably unacceptable and profoundly damaging to the cause of freedom and democracy. But it’s important to approach this complex discussion with intelligence and prudence, and not to put everything in the same irrational “red” box.

The simple story told by many Venezuelans, those who claim to see a communist conspiracy behind Sanders’ candidacy, a candidacy supported by millennials and supposedly tolerated by the Democratic Party, only contributes to the polarization of American politics. It is just as damaging as haphazardly supporting Donald Trump simply because he heads an administration that clearly supports the Venezuelan resistance against the scourge of Chavez. All this despite the clear fact that some of the current administration’s politics affect the stability of many institutions. In the same vein, it is completely unacceptable that people treat Venezuelan Republicans as if they were fascists, chauvinists and enemies of their own people.

What Venezuelans should have learned more than anything else, and still have not, is that what brought us to Chavez in the first place was a combination of social resentment, polarization, collapse of the party system and the weakening of institutions.

This lethal combination opened the door to the populist catastrophe of the “Galactic Commander.’ We need to encourage support from both political parties for the Venezuelan resistance against the Chavez regime. This means recognizing and acknowledging the committed support of the current American administration and, at the same time, interacting with both parties to facilitate the understanding that the Venezuelan crisis affects the region as a whole, and that there is no way Venezuelans can exit this crisis alone.

Back to the millennials. The article cited above concludes with a line from a Whitney Houston song, “I believe the children are our future.” It is crucial to discuss and delve into the reasons for the historical ignorance among the new generation, and try by any means necessary to ensure the horrors of the Holocaust, or of “real socialism” are not repeated due to ignorance of the social processes that led to them.

These tragedies can only flourish amid the ignorance of history. Education is a fundamental pillar of democracy and freedom.

*Editor’s note: The Huffington Post is currently known as HuffPost.

About this publication

About Hannah Bowditch 116 Articles
Hi, my name is Hannah. I hold a Masters degree in Translation from the University of Portsmouth and a BA in English Literature and Spanish. I love travel and languages and am very pleased to be a part of the Watching America team.

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