GUU Debating: This house believes that Millennials are rebels without a cause

LoogThe Union has a rich history of debating, stemming from its founding. However, only a few know about it or get involved. This column is intended to stoke discourse outside the usual set of Union debaters, as well as invite you into join with them. You can find them in the Bridie Library, Tuesdays at 6pm during term time, or on Facebook – @guudebating

This motion was brought by the GUU Convener of debates, Harry Coloe, and Suzanne Elliott, both of whom are representing the Union this summer in Serbia, at the European University Debates Championships!

-Owain Campton, Editor-in-Chief

The Proposition

Millennials, have been defined as rebels without a cause, in the sense that they apparently show a clear dissatisfaction with societal norms with no real groundings to base it on.

This definition suggests that millennials are rising up against prior generations, thus giving the impression that they are rebellious. Following the 2016 Brexit referendum, there was a large number of complaints voiced by millennials as many had voted to remain. This led to a dispute that the older generations had jeopardized their future by voting to leave. Arguably they could be viewed as rebels for voting the opposing way to older voters. Further, it may also be perceived that they have done so with no clear cause, as young people are less politically active than any other group. In the referendum, 53% of 18-24 year olds voted, compared to 78% in more mature age groups. Almost half of all millennials not voting would suggest that they cannot have a real clear cause, as the group cannot be aiming for real political change if they do not present a unified, cohesive front.

From this, it can be inferred that millennials could further rebel against the government as they appear as anti-establishment. In posing this argument, a reference to older generations is useful. For example, the peace-seeking hippe movement of the 1960s. Compared to the clear vision they held, with the communes they set up, the millenial generation doesn’t have such an obvious goal. The hippies came as a response to the Vietnam war, presenting a counterculture which sought to change war policy through protests. Whereas, the Occupy movement (which was a response to the late 2000s financial crisis and Arab Spring) is a group that broadly seeks economic and social progression however are lacking in a clear agenda.

Millennials have also been the generation that has grown up with the internet throughout their childhood, witnessing great developments within technology. Often, millenials are part of online campaigns that receive “likes” on Facebook and signatures on other websites like “”. This carries on the idea that they are rebels without a cause as it could be argued they simply jump on the bandwagon, agreeing with the flavor of the moment – which is typically one rejecting societal norms. Instead of actually physically protesting their cause as was the trend in older generations, they now simply click a button on a computer screen. Although some of these petitions do achieve positive outcomes, many do not go beyond a basic online click. Therefore, it can be argued that millenials are simply trend-following without any real cause to fight for.

-Matilda Handley

The Opposition

The premise that millennials can be ‘rebels without a cause’ simply doesn’t stand on even the briefest of glances at the world. Today, there huge numbers of current issues that young people are forced to take up as causes and fight for them. Firstly, there are the issues millennials see as directly facing them – such as the high school shootings in America, which spurred the recent March for our Lives campaign, where millions turned out in support of a cause which is still largely ignored by US politicians. Then, there are the issues that disproportionately affect millennials such as climate change as they have to live the longest with the consequences of past generations. These issues come on top of modern hardships such as finding a job or accessing the property ladder. Further, millennials have cause when they see a political system that shuts them out or simply doesn’t listen to their needs. For example, the systematic shut out of young voices due to the minimum voting age being 18, as politicians would much rather pander to older generations who are more likely to vote. millennials think and reason (often better than those twice our age) and they see these layers of issues and a lack of responsiveness to them. So, it is perfectly reasonable to expect them to take up a cause. Even if they don’t homogenously migrate to the same cause, it is still true that all millennials have something that they can – and do – campaign on.

However, why is it that millenials are specifically rebellious? And, how does this further prove that millennials do have a cause? Part of it, is the systematic failure to actually listen to our voices, ideas, and opinions. Moreover, even when we are listened to and politicians get their ‘photo op’ with the young people for publicity, nothing productive ever comes from it. Some of these problems, like climate change and school shootings in the US, are so damaging and dangerous that radical change is required. This is when politicians tend to turn and say something like, “these young people know nothing of the real world.” The cycle of ignorance is continuous and being radical seems like the only way to break out of this biased regime – particularly for some voices who feel so crowded out that they have to differentiate and draw attention. For example, right-wing voices within youth culture are rarely ever recognised, yet, now, they are coalescing, particularly around figures like Jacob Rees-Mogg MP and the ‘Moggmentum’ movement.

So, with all these reasons to be rebellious, the ease of organisation afforded by social media and the rise of young leaders like Malala Yousafzi and groups like Momentum how can millennials be anything other than rebels with causes?

-Alexander Fraser


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