The Revolution Generation is a documentary about political involvement amongst young people. The film uses the word Millennial but seems to be talking about Gen-Z along with Millennials. It relies on a lot of well known actors and politicians to make the message more relatable. It runs for about an hour and a half and has the expressed goal of encouraging left-wing political involvement. This goal gives the piece a feeling more akin to a long form commercial than an inquisitive documentary. It starts by trying to grapple with negative stereotypes about Millennials, as self-absorbed, lazy, snowflakes. The documentary contextualizes the experience of Millennials/Gen-Z through the background of the internet, 9/11, and less financial security. Usually resulting in a choice between participation in the gig economy and exorbitant student loans. Partially as a result, our generation is largely left leaning and increasingly cares about social justice.
An interesting theory that the documentary introduces is the Strauss-Howe rotational generation theory. The theory eschews that a crisis tends to happen every eighty years, an average lifespan. Each generation is about twenty years, thus a crisis begins and ends each cycle and somewhat defines each generation. The theory believes there are four different archetypes that are defined by four different turnings, a high, a time of institutional strength. An awakening where these institutions are attacked on the basis of individual and spiritual freedom. An unraveling where individualism, pessimism, and laissez-faire are prominent, followed by a crisis, an era of destruction or revolution. At its basis the theory provokes us to think that generations evolve in reaction to the previous and in response to major events. The theory believes that these evolutions prompt a cycle of four generations: the prophet, the nomad, the hero, the artist, repeat.
The documentary explains that millennials are in the hero category, arguably the first cycle. They grow up overprotected by parents during an unraveling and reach young adulthood during a crisis, followed by a high during our midlife. Essentially as a generation we can expect to enter our young adulthood and mature during a crisis. Mid-life is the dominant point of most generations and the generation that comes of age after our crisis will critique our restructuring of society. This millennium began with two “forever wars” in Iraq and Afghanistan, a global pandemic, climate change, and currently a conflict in Ukraine, the breadbasket of the world. The revolution generation seems to be an imperative in this context. The documentary highlights that our generation came of age in an unsafe world, a world worthy of revolution.
Perhaps due to my place in the aforementioned generation, the documentary shines when it introduces potential structural changes. A multi party system, cumulative voting, and even adding legislation to the ballot box are all impactful steps that go beyond supporting a candidate. The documentary introduces these potential changes when it tries to explain the lack of political involvement amongst young people in our last election. If our generation is to meet the crises of this millenium political involvement will be important and if we are in alignment with the rotational theory of generations our strategy should be one of total overhaul. An overhaul that does feel brewing in the zeitgeist.