Eighty-four percent of millennials admit that they don’t know how to change a lightbulb. When asked what they do if one goes out, most either said that they call the landlord to fix it, or just accept having less light in future.
Readers of this publication will be savvy enough to know that a crisis of biblical proportions is on the way. It will begin as an economic crisis, but will quickly morph into a political and social crisis as well.
There can be no doubt that my generation (the baby boomers) have done more to create this crisis than any other. So, who will be the ones that will have to deal with the crisis, once it’s under way?
Well, that always falls to the young, strong, energetic segment of the population. The twenty-to-forty group would be the ones who would need to roll up their sleeves and bail out the sinking rowboat.
That means that, by the time we’re in crisis mode, the generation that will inherit the job of fixing the mammoth problem will be the millennials.
The “depression generation” were known for hard work and self-reliance. Their children – the boomers - were their spoiled children, who became the yuppies. They sought to live luxuriously, with a minimum of responsibility. The next generation – the millennials – have, so far, proven to be a generation that not only does not wish to take on responsibility, they are literally unable to do so.
With notable exceptions, it’s a generation of people who blindly expect that their parents, the government and perhaps the tooth fairy, have the full responsibility to take away all of their problems and inconveniences. This has reached the perverse degree that students at even the best universities have “safe spaces,” where no one may say anything that upsets them. Harvard now has rooms where students who are feeling stressed can play with Play-doh. Rules are established based not upon what is practical or workable, but on “How I feel at the moment.”
This is not just a generation that’s a bit spoiled and needs a shot of hard reality to aid their maturing process. This, tragically, is a generation that is simply unable to cope with responsibility of any kind – a generation that, literally does not know where to begin if a task as simple as changing a light bulb occurs.
Those from older generations tend to say, vaguely, “Well I suppose they’ll just have to grow up. If there’s a crisis, they’ll just have to get on with it.”
Well, no, unfortunately, neither the mindset nor the skillset exists for millennials to take on the job. At best they will fail to act. Just as they now accept darkness rather than figure out how to change a lightbulb, they’ll fail to roll up their sleeves to rebuild a working market during and after a crisis. But, at worst, they’ll have meltdowns, resorting to violence in the belief that, “This shouldn’t be happening to me!”
So, if this is the case, who, then, will be the saviours of the rather large portion of the world that will be self-destructing?
Well, historically, these developments tend to be generational, as described above. So, to understand how the crisis will play out, we might look at countries that are further along on the same curve. After all, boom and bust patterns are perennial; it’s just that, whilst one nation is in boom mode, there’s always another that’s is in bust mode.
France fell apart around 1800 and Russia did so around 1900. But we have a more recent example, right in the western hemisphere - Cuba.
In 1959, the Cuban government had become so corrupt and so oppressive that a small band of ne’er-do-wells was able to take over, with very little bloodshed.
Cubans from my generation were so pleased to have the fearsome Battista removed that they were prepared to accept whatever jury-rigged government the Castro brothers might dish up. Fidel Castro was no communist, but he quickly adopted communism when the Soviet Union agreed to pay him three times the going price for Cuban sugar, and they would take all he could produce.
Then, in 1991, the Soviet Union went bust and the flow of unrealistically high revenue came to a grinding halt. Cuba was thrust into dire poverty. (It was so extreme that, during that period, I recall never seeing a dog or cat on the streets of Havana, as they had all gone to the stewpot.)
Then, in the late nineties, Hugo Chavez began to pour money into Cuba and the country began to recover. At that same time, Raul Castro began to create a capitalist society within the communist framework. Private businesses were not only allowed, but encouraged. In time, the taxes that these businesses paid to the government refloated it and created the beginnings of prosperity. This year, Cuba will decide on changes to its constitution that will include a major shift toward a free market. Cuba, although most of the world does not yet understand it, is one of the emerging capitalist countries.
So, let’s have a look at how this has played out on the street level. How have the people of Cuba dealt with this over the last sixty years?
Well, for more than half the population, life is measurably better. For some, say 20%, there is genuine prosperity. Plenty of food, lots of private restaurants, nicer, newer clothes and new Hyundai SUV’s to replace the rusting Russian Ladas.
But, psychologically, what changes have taken place? Well, interestingly, almost no change has occurred, other than a generational one. Those old enough to remember the days of the revolution still talk on the park benches about the hope that that period created and wish that those days would return. They won’t. The generation that came after them, now in their forties, pine for the days of Russian largesse, vainly hoping that another Russia will come along and put bread on their tables. That won’t happen either.
However, those Cubans in their twenties have only known the post-Russian collapse period. They thoroughly understand that the government is never going to deliver on their promises of free stuff for all, sufficient to sustain life. They know, first hand, that there’s only one solution – go out and work.
Today, a twenty-something waiter in a Havana restaurant will say, “If I work ten hours a day, I’ll be able to buy a flat screen TV. If I work twelve, I’ll also be the first in my family to have an air conditioner.”
An entire generation in Cuba is figuring out the simple equation that work = prosperity. Cuba is only in the formative stages of this understanding, but their future is promising.
Concurrently, in the US, Canada and Europe, the generation that will be tasked with digging their countries out of depression will be the millennials. They will fail utterly at their task and they won’t reprogramme their brains to understand what’s necessary, any more than the last two generations of Cubans have. The task will fall to the next generation. It will be their children who take on the task and rebuild.
What this means is that the Greater Depression will not be brief. A recovery is likely to take twenty-five years, since another generation after the millennials will need to mature before a recovery can be effected.
And during that time, those jurisdictions will be quite a bit less than ideal as places of domicile.
Editor's note: Clearly, there are many strange things afoot in the world. Distortions of markets, distortions of culture. It’s wise to wonder what’s going to happen, and to take advantage of growth while also being prepared for crisis. How will you protect yourself in the next crisis? See our PDF guide that will show you exactly how. Click here to download it now.