by Ramin Mazaheri for The Saker blog
I’m only three years from being a Millennial myself but, wow! They sure have had a much rougher go of it:
Most of them were teenagers when the “victory” of the “leader of the free world” came crashing down on 9/11. Jingoistic hysteria against (fictitious, always Pentagon-supported) Islamic radicalism was followed by the Great Recession. The alleged “economic recovery” was always limited to the 1%, and now we have the coronavirus panic. Ever since 2008, when my elders start to decry the alleged character flaws of the Millennial generation I always point out how they were handed so many handicaps.
“The only Millennials with a decent job and no debt were those selected in the first round of the NBA draft,” is my usual attempt at pithiness. It’s surprising that the phrase “Ok, boomer” took so long to develop, frankly?
So what’s going to happen to this beleaguered bunch post-corona? It seems like even more burdens will be heaped on them, and I can think of five important ones:
First, there will be no growth-rebuilding “corona reconstruction” because infrastructure is not destroyed in a pandemic. When the corona craziness dies down the neoliberals in the US and the austerity-evangelicals in the Eurozone are going to be just as resistant to taxing the rich in order to give useful jobs to the poor as they have been for the past four decades.
Second, there are many fearful Mainstream Media articles detailing how after the Black Plague workers in Europe were emboldened to demand more wages and rights. This is merely an interesting historical vignette – there are no mass deaths in 2020. Therefore, once the corona hysteria ends you will have a flood of workers competing with each other for jobs. In a parallel, compounding development, good jobs will also be even more scarce than in 2008 (although maybe the NBA will expand?) because the corona overreaction is creating such enormous economic devastation with mass bankruptcies, closures and reduced government tax revenue sure to result. Due to a lack of socialist controls and planning, the law of supply and demand will rule unfettered – wages are sure to drop.
Third, the very sectors where Millennials can be most often found – restaurants, retail, tourism, hospitality and creative – will be the most decimated by corona lockdowns. What’s more, this age group has – necessarily – the least seniority, experience and skills and thus they will be the first to be fired in every sector. Labor participation rate for Millennials had only just returned to pre-2008 levels, but – as I stressed to my often-dismissive elders – levels “returned” only via terrible part-time jobs, gig economy work and short-term contracts in Europe. How long will it take to return to (these fundamentally inferior) pre-2020 levels?
Fourth, in these lousy, poorly-paid pieces of under-employment “benefits” like health care, pension contributions and unemployment insurance were often non-existent. The US bailouts have thrown them some unemployment insurance for a few months, but will it be enough? Not to pay the overhead for the moderate-to-successful Millennial classes – that is absolutely certain. Dirt-poor Millennials will, at best, not stop being dirt-poor, and certainly will return after these modest “bailouts” quickly finish. Millennials were already worse off in every major economic indicator compared to their Generation X, Baby Boomer and Silent Generation counterparts.
Fifth, if you thought Millennials were too sensitive before, then imagine how they will be after the corona trauma? There is no “victory” to be had here for the survivors – all they did was cower at home, sometimes snitch on their neighbors, and often couldn’t even risk trying to volunteer to help the elderly and vulnerable. This is going to create guilt and shame personally, mistrust and resentment socially, and a desire to save, hoard and not take risks economically.
And, please note, this is the bad situation for the White youth class in the West – imagine being non-White, or Muslim, or (gasp!) both non-White and Muslim?
To summarise briefly, the same logic will hold true for individuals as for businesses: anyone without savings or stable access to credit NOW is about to be dragged under. Millennials have the least amount of savings, social credit or economic credit.
So what is to be done?
There is a lot of fear among the corporate MSM, conservatives and corporate neo-fascists that the economic downturn caused by the corona lockdown will cause the Millennials and younger to embrace socialism.
To this I respond: Well, it would be about time.
A hugely common Western misconception during the 1950s and 60s was that the youth class would carry the day and float the elderly off on icebergs to the North Pole. We now know much more about modern Western capitalism: this was undoubtedly misguided, because in the West it is the elder classes which dominate the economic assets and political power, and are just as weighty arbiters of cultural power.
As I have repeatedly discussed, only in China and Iran did the upheavals of the 1960s translate into actual political and economic power for the youth class, and thanks to (the world’s only two) state-sponsored Cultural Revolutions. Contrarily, in the West their victory was limited to the pop culture sphere – their Cultural Revolution was repressed and halted, yes, because the real failure lay within the populace: they simply weren’t real, class-warfare, anti-imperialist leftists, apparently.
Maybe this will change now?
However, (truly) fake-leftist Bernie Sanders just bowed out (hilarious timing from a reliable Democratic Party toady); Jeremy Corbyn’s (fake-leftist) anti-Brexit stance failed (of course) and his replacement is far more conservative; France’s (fake-)left wants four things: wine, pornography, no religion whatsoever and to smash the superb Yellow Vest movement’s call for a French Cultural Revolution by any means necessary.
So what is to be done?
The political nihilists – who are stupid, wrong, lazy and cowardly – insist that leftism has failed everywhere in 2020, but there are a dozen or so examples which prove them wrong (simply look to the countries the US organises Western sanctions against). The West, being evangelical, chauvinistic and used to leading for two centuries, ignores and/or denigrates all of these examples.
Now one thing I always try to do is to shoot myself in the foot – as far as getting my articles rebroadcast, retweeted and the like – by praising Iran when deserved. I mean, what surer way is there today to terrify fake-leftist, rabidly-secularist Anglophones and Westerners than to stick up for not just Iran but also (and I’m not sure which is worse to them) Islamic Socialism?
But I feel compelled to point out that the corona-situation of Iranian Millennials (i.e. their youth class) is not anywhere as dire as for their Western counterparts, and I need only one reason to prove why: most of them live at home until they are married or around 30.
Iranian young adults who aren’t working now – at least they aren’t racking up rent/mortgage debt, eh?
What’s more: there are no Western credit card companies in Iran due to the Western blockade, and formal interest rates are constrained by the morals of Islamic finance, so what credit card debt? University eduction is widespread and cheap, so what university debt? The medical system is the best in the region and, while absolute poverty has not been totally eradicated anywhere, it is undoubtedly within the reach of Iran’s lower class, so what medical debt? Europeans usually enjoy the latter two realities, at least, so you can’t say I am talking about impossibilities. Corona quarantines are hardest on the lower class everywhere, but Iran is a socialist-inspired society so political policy actually addresses their needs first and has done so since 1979.
Unlike Europeans (especially Anglo-Saxons), Iran’s entire (allegedly) “failed to launch” youth class also have far more emotional support than in atomised Western households. This is not a small thing for some people during the corona crisis, but also post-corona.
However Iran is not the only example of success amid the post-1980 neoliberal era: it’s grounds for calls of “traitor” in the US, but is not Russia’s amazing rebound after the tragedy of the USSR’s implosion not worthy of interest? How did they do that? They are a socialist-inspired culture to some degree, but what about the continent of China and tiny Cuba as well? The point here is: the primary obstacle Millennials have to overcome are lifetimes of Gen X, Boomer and Silent Generation TINA (There Is No Alternative (to neoliberalism)) to realise that socialism is an actual, still-viable, never-going-away source of solutions.
Without openly promoting socialism all the complaints and public disavowals of Western imperialism-capitalism ultimately reach a dead end, after all. Millennials need to learn that class warfare exists, but in the West only the 1% is cognisant of this reality.
Unfortunately, to see how wide the political-intellectual gap is simply consider: US imperialism more dangerous than coronavirus for international community: Iran president. What other national leaders would say such thing in 2020?
How many actually did say it in 1918 amid the Spanish Flu pandemic? In 2020 you would be crucified for saying that – despite its obvious accuracy – and certainly not retweeted.
But Western Millennials are free to ignore existing examples, and also to go on hating God, Mom, Dad, socialism, central planning, strong social safety nets, all governments etc.; they are perfectly free to stay focused on the current corona “War on Dying” and to not immediately demand socialist-inspired policies for a youth class which keeps being forced to bear the domestic brunt of Western neoliberalism and (never even broached domestic) neo-imperialism.
They’re still young – maybe they’ll get drafted by the NBA?
Corona contrarianism? How about some corona common sense? Here is my list of articles published regarding the corona crisis, and I hope you will find them useful in your leftist struggle!
A day’s diary from a US CEO during the Corona crisis (satire) March 23, 2020
If Germany rejects Corona bonds they must quit the Eurozone – March 30, 2020
No buybacks allowed or dared? Then wave goodbye to Western stock market gains – April 13, 2020 – April 13, 2020
Ramin Mazaheri is the chief correspondent in Paris for Press TV and has lived in France since 2009. He has been a daily newspaper reporter in the US, and has reported from Iran, Cuba, Egypt, Tunisia, South Korea and elsewhere. He is the author of the books ‘I’ll Ruin Everything You Are: Ending Western Propaganda on Red China’ and the upcoming ‘Socialism’s Ignored Success: Iranian Islamic Socialism’.