The title of this post is pretentious as hell, for which I apologize. It comes from a marvelous Friday working on our podcast series (we haven’t released them yet but I will announce on this blog when we’re ready), one in which we got to hear incredibly smart and conscious young people talk about their lives and what they’ve seen and experienced, their hopes and dreams.
It’s become less fashionable I think (and hope) to complain about the kids these days. I’m happy about that because I have a vested interest in this group as a college instructor, and I think there are some collective traits that make them pretty unique and that, without being too hyperbolic, give me hope for the future.
Among the many stories that I heard was one about visiting Asia. What struck me was the story was about Taiwan, a country about which I had heard very little. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard this, but Taiwan has a reputation as an incredibly friendly, warm place, one very different from China because of the omnipresence of the government on the mainland, an omnipresence that Taiwanese are free of (at least directly).
The story that most intrigued me was this one:
I went from Korea to the mainland to Taiwan, and the differences between them were most obvious in the conversations I had:
In Korea, folks tried to include me in the conversation but mostly spoke Korean. In China, when information was desired from me I was addressed directly. Otherwise, I was ignored.
Taiwan was different. There, conversations were held in English, and I was able to participate fully. It felt like a monumental difference.
The story in and of itself is fascinating, but what most struck me was the quality of the observation. Millennials are often chastised as being unable to look away from their phones and to have no abilities to interact with other humans. In fact, as I looked for images to accompany this post, most of them featured millennials on their devices, unwilling to look around and converse with their comrades. Clearly, as both of the young people we talked to demonstrate, once again the myth has a large element of exaggeration. My guess is that while there are many millennials who fit this stereotype (and don’t think that boomers or Xers are innocent of this – look who we elected as president), as always there are enough who are conscious and intentional and observant and, well, woke to make sure that perhaps human history does continue to obey the laws of social justice that Dr. King observed, the ones that move glacially at times but always, always bend forward.