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A Baby Boomer’s Observations of the Impact of Millennials' on the Protest Movements of Today

Updated on November 16, 2016

An Epiphany Formed at an Anti-Dakota Access Pipeline Protest

Attending a recent demonstration by opponents of the Dakota Access Pipeline, I was struck with the high number of non-Native American participants in the crowd and the fact that many appeared to be in the age range of the Millennial Generation. Watching video of anti-Trump demonstrations from all over the United States and recent Black Lives Matter protests, I felt the same vibe and began to wonder why they have chosen these causes to rally behind.

Having raised a Millennial of my own, I realized that so many of the traits shared by this generation were formed by their association with their Baby Boomer parents. In contrast to my own upbringing, these young adults were not subject to the conservative, work-oriented, rule-based world that Baby Boomers experienced in their youth. Generally, Baby Boomers chose work as a priority and the quest for personal gain was a powerful force. As a group, Baby Boomers achieved the greatest level of wealth, were the most active on a personal basis and the most physically fit of the generations preceding their birth. We felt we could improve on our lot in life and knew that on the backs of our efforts, we could change our economic well-being. As a result of that attitude, we experienced unprecedented levels of income, did not have to worry about where our next meal was coming from and were able to set money aside for a comfortable retirement. We became the most consumer-products oriented generation with a “Keep up with the Jones’” focus.

The Millennial offspring of this mentality did not share these priorities as many did not have to question the source of their next meal. Benefitting from the economic prosperity of their parents, they had opportunity to dwell on issues higher up on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. With smaller families, they were given more attention, were heaped with praise, had adequate allowances and were not often subject to the word “NO”. The most technologically capable generation, they were wired into their friends via social media and were subject to a much different message than that provided by their parents. More information was obtained via Google than via Dad and the messages received tended to be more idealistic and tinged with a liberal slant. Being anointed as something special by their parents, the Millennials enjoy a higher level of narcissism. Their inflated sense of self-importance needs an outlet and the Protest Movement provides a welcome venue to a group not burdened with the need to earn a living, find and pay for shelter or worry about the source of their next meal. They have the gift of time, a shortage of responsibility and require a platform to elevate their standing amongst their peers.

A Millennial Photographer at the Fringe of the Crowd of DAPL Protest


The Occupy Wall street Movement, the “Black Lives Matter” movement, the anti-gun movement, the plight of the illegal immigrants, political correctness, LGBT Rights, the fight against global warming and now the Anti -Dakota Access Pipeline movement all provide this outlet for the Millennials. They have seen example after example of social activism gaining headlines by utilizing self-sourced videos to garner publicity on unprecedented levels. The concept of trending video has become more important than a solid news story and major news outlets no longer require objective news coverage. They are much more about entertainment and much less about content and there is nothing juicier than video of law enforcement personnel in riot gear, carrying AR-15 assault rifles, pushing back a line of protestors, using pepper spray and making arrests. It is almost as exciting as a strategically edited cell phone video of a police shooting taken by screaming bystanders who are intent on showing the person being shot at as the victim. This fact was driven home to me by observing almost as many camera wielding anti-pipeline protestors on the fringe of a recent protest as there were protesting. They were intent on capturing any conflict and using this to bring publicity to the cause.

As one who contributed to the current state of chaos seen on TV screens nightly, I am humbled by the fact that a new reality has been formed and the message is carried forward by a generation that numbers (by some counts) over 80,000,000 in the United States alone. Baby Boomers like me are becoming obsolete in the main stream and we shall spend our waning years in a society that does not conform to our ideals. Better get used to it Boomers, we created the environment for this change.


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    • cfin profile image

      cfin 12 months ago from The World we live in

      I always enjoy how one generation blames the generation that they created, for all the worlds problems.

    • Shyron E Shenko profile image

      Shyron E Shenko 13 months ago from Texas

      Dakota, interesting read. I hope the pipelines are not allowed to go through our country.


    • Duane Townsend profile image

      Duane Townsend 13 months ago from Detroit

      Excellent observations Dakota. I agree.

    • Mr. Happy profile image

      Mr. Happy 13 months ago from Toronto, Canada

      "As a group, Baby Boomers achieved the greatest level of wealth" - Yes but at what cost? One of the last articles I wrote is titled "Success and Suicide". One of the documentaries presented in my piece of writing is about the high levels of suicide in South Korea.

      "It is explained in the documentary that after the Korean War in the 1950s, South Korea went through a period of extreme, rapid economic growth but as a result, people have become “spiritually and mentally exhausted”. So, chasing wealth, success, or any other egotistical desires is not necessarily good.

      "We became the most consumer-products oriented generation" - this is not good either. Consuming, consuming and consuming some more. What are we vermin? Money and material possessions do not bring happiness. Take it from the guy who holds the name.

      "They have the gift of time, a shortage of responsibility" - We do have the gift of time but a shortage of responsibility we do not have. We inherit a sick planet which we have to help heal because the people who came before us did not know the implications of what "progress" means. Nor did they understand the cost of this chase (on the individual, societies, the planet, etc.) for wealth which You wrote about at the beginning.

      "They are much more about entertainment and much less about content" - You do much assuming here. This actually shows how little You understand the younger people. You should listen to people's concerns and intentions instead of making-up assumptions.

      "Baby Boomers like me are becoming obsolete in the main stream and we shall spend our waning years in a society that does not conform to our ideals." - I remember my grandmother's disagreements with my father. She felt the same way You do about the younger ones. It's a generational thing. Times change. Everything changes though. Every day our bodies change, the landscape/environment changes, laws change, ideas change, etc. We either adapt and move on, or we join the dinosaurs.

      Even though I cannot say I agree much with what You wrote, I thank You for sharing your opinion and perspective. All the best! : )

    • lions44 profile image

      CJ Kelly 13 months ago from Auburn, WA

      I would not be so down on millennials or the parents who raised them. They make up the majority of those serving on active duty in our military right now (maybe over 70%?). Wars and fiscal crises have defined their generation. They have a right to question a lot of things, if not downright confused about everything. My nieces and nephews are good people. They work hard. Granted, their parents are my age (Gen Xers). Not sure if you spend a lot of time with them, but keep talking to them. Things change.

      Unfortunately, most of the baby boomers I know, are crazy. Both left and right. Spout conspiracy theories and always want to talk to me about "big banks." Not sure why. Anyway, keep hope alive...