Is it a generational thing? In 2019 Harris conducted a poll concerning the rising popularity of socialism and the falling popularity of capitalism amongst those born after the fall of the Berlin wall. These are people who had never lived during the period of hard socialism as the baby boomers did after the end of the Second World War.
Many of those who were polled are only semi-educated about the post-war period and in many cases think that the socialism back then was a cuddlier form of rule with governments more focused on establishing more equitable societies.
All those polled had lived through the 2008 financial crisis and the aftermath and all the hardship people had to endure. They said that socialism does come with higher taxes but in return there are more generous benefits. They also believe the free for all in the gig economy where workers’ rights are not respected would not happen under more socialist societies.
The socialist argument against capitalism isn’t that it makes us poor. It’s that it makes us unfree. When our well-being depends upon the whims of those in power, when the basic needs of life compel submission to market forces and lack of a voice at work, we do not live in freedom but in domination. Socialism, they say, is all about ending this domination by having some of the power that will free us from a state of subjugation.
This change in cultural attitudes in place with the millennial population group is at odds with cultural attitudes of many from the baby boomer generation. Many of them are at odds with the attitude of the young who consider it their birthright to freely express their individualism. This is particularly evident when it comes to discussions about gender and the rights of those who do not fall into the two historical gender categories.
The young also consider it to be totally wrong to have lives where things are difficult or unpleasant and if it becomes either it’s certain that someone else is going to be blamed for it. We are witnessing a growing culture where more is expected from those in power who are being pressured to spend more.
Can this cultural change be anything to do with the launch in 2007 of the iPhone? Suddenly thereafter we are introduced to unedited pictures and videos making many of the iPhone and other smart phone users screen addicts. In turn perhaps you will agree that this has contributed to a sense of entitlement, an expectation of receiving things, that was not as evident prior to 2007.
Since everyone is connected “friendship” takes on a new meaning. Screen addicts do not see making friends in the traditional sense and many they call friends are people they have never met in the flesh. I guess the comparison for the boomers would be “pen friends”.
There was back in 1870 the birth of the Gilded Age when concentrations of wealth and power produced a rigged playing field and the young of today are experiencing something akin to the Gilded Age where wealth inequalities have never been more marked between those who have and those who have so little. In addition to the wealth disparity the young are disproportionately affected as some key costs such as education and housing are excluding them from what they consider is a right that has been taken away from them.
We have two ears and one mouth and perhaps it is time for those in power to listen more and talk less.
Gordon is the former president and chief executive of BMMI. He can be reached at [email protected]