Why Are Millennials Hating On Police?

The WWII generation was called “The Greatest Generation”.  Their kids were “Baby Boomers”.  Millennials are their own special breed however.  We call them Millennials, but maybe we should call them, “The Entitled ‘Me’ Generation”. While generations have come and gone, each had its’ two cents to put in regarding their horror about “kids today” and how different it was “back then.” When analyzing Millennials, we must consider them as the first generation ever to have experienced such an inundation of technological advances designed to change, alter, and potentially hurt us in an instant. This adds to the interesting nature of how Millennials tend to spend their time, think, play, and connect. It is important to define who Millennial are.

Who Are Millennials?

Generally this group is described as those born between the early 1980's and the early 2000's. There are also certain qualities that tend to describe or make up a “typical Millennial.” Some of these characteristics include the following: 

  • The need for consistent feedback connected with frequent rewards; referred to as the “everyone gets a trophy generation.” 

  • Highly interconnected with technology and an accompanying attitude of taking it for granted as if it’s been there forever. 

  • More likely to be “gigsters” and jump from job to job.

  • Overly connected to parents/family. 

  • Typically self-promotional and overly confident. 

Millennial Attitudes Toward Law Enforcement

This is a brief, yet comprehensive snapshot of a typical Millennial. With the idiosyncrasies of this particular generation it is interesting to explore their overarching attitudes toward law enforcement. In addition to the evolution of generational attitudes, there has been a consistent evolution in today’s law enforcement agencies in both tactics and citizen interactions. More than ever, police departments are being scrutinized to the extreme regarding issues from response times, to racial bias, to police shootings.  It begs the question, are Millennials one of the reasons policing is becoming more and more challenging?

In 2016, YouGov found that these millennials do not tend to have trusting and open feelings about the American justice system, specifically the police. This is in comparison to older Americans who tend to have much more trust in police, but less trust in the court system. Ultimately, however, the only group that reported less trust in police than the under-30 surveyed population were African Americans. Time Magazine supported this statistic reporting that nearly half of Millennial voters do not have any confidence in our general justice system, including police. 

The Huffington Post also reported on research which found younger Americans have a less favorable perception of police and community interactions. More specifically, only one third of Millennials, in comparison to 50% of those over 35, believe that police officers treat citizens courteously in everyday interactions within the community.  Another similar study of Americans aged 18-29 found 66% of young African-Americans do not have any confidence in law enforcement officers. Similarly, a whopping 53% of young Hispanic Americans do not.

More recently, in survey results published just this year and conducted by Harvard University, Millennials were asked about their trust and confidence with those in the public service sectors. When asked about the police department specifically, it was found that 45% either trusted the police department some of the time or never. Nearly half have a fairly low trust level in law enforcement. Even more interesting, in 2015, The Washington Post  reported the growing trend of distrust of local police is something being seen as trend in broader culture.

The Struggle Is Real

When examining the underlying factors for such distrust and skepticism emanating from Millennials, it is helpful to examine the specific characteristics of Millennials in relation to police culture.

Police culture in regards to the officers themselves, is organized around long-held assumptions and beliefs that are not only deeply held, but where challenging those beliefs within the police culture could cost you more than your job. By nature, police officers exist within a culture that makes them socially unacceptable. There is often the “us versus them” attitude that portrays the importance of the thin blue line and leads to an insular group mentality within police departments.

Millennials represent something completely opposite. Millennials are very social online as well as in person, big on empowering each other, networking and connecting to others in ways.  Millennials views on privacy are much more laissez-faire than the generations proceeding them and especially police officers.

Police departments, and thus police officers must work in a world with clear rules, boundaries, and laws. Police officers are authority figures and command a sense of respect. This is also in direct conflict with some of the underlying foundational aspects of your typical Millennial. Millennials are much closer to their families and parents in ways that previous generations are unable to relate to. Families are more apt to make family decisions, discuss things within the family and communicate in a way that promotes two-way conversation and empowerment. Long gone is the idea children should “be seen and not heard.” 

There is wiggle room with some of the rules within families and often things are up for a diplomatic discussion. Not so within the police. Millennials are unaccustomed to the “authority figure” persona. When a cop pulls a Millennial over for driving under the influence, there is never a discussion about feelings with the individual or a chat involving legal explanation, consequences, and other choices. It’s the law, and the cop is there to enforce it. 

In Conclusion...As Millennials Learn To Adult

As Millennials are transitioning into adulthood, the gap between police and Millennials only appears to widen. The relationship between the two is still at odds with two very different mindsets ruling the actions behind any decision or interaction.  Forbes reported in an article about the particular workings of the “Millennial Mindset.” Essentially, Millennials seem to demonstrate a sense of entitlement which provides them with their own permission to argue, advocate, and voice ideas to authority figures much more than individuals from previous generations. They are much less likely to simply comply to any order or directive because they believe they have all of the answers. 

In terms of Millennials growing up and learning “to adult,” this presents an interesting dynamic between the relationship of police and Millennials.  Conflict is inevitable as police provide directives. Generally speaking, it is understood (by everyone, perhaps except Millennials) that the directives should be followed. There is no room to collaborate and come up with a mutually agreed upon answer or solution during the moment of contact. This appears to be hard for Millennials to reconcile.

It will be interesting to see how the relationship between law enforcement and Millennials continues to evolve.  It may seem kind of “Millennial” in nature to think that maybe this generation and the police force could come together in a more peaceful and cohesive way with a mutual trust. After all, Millennials are not going anywhere and neither are police.  

Sources: 

https://www.forbes.com/sites/victorlipman/2016/06/20/understanding-the-millennial-mindset-is-increasingly-important-to-management/#47db6c38250f

https://www.policeone.com/police-leader/articles/7530028-7-things-police-leaders-need-to-know-about-Millennials/

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/jody-weis-/millennials-demand-digita_b_7742798.html

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/04/29/millennials-police-poll_n_7172604.html

http://iop.harvard.edu/sites/default/files/content/Spring%202018%20Toplines%20%20-%20Web.pdf

http://time.com/3839923/millennials-distrust-justice-system-back-democrats/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2015/04/30/millennials-dont-trust-anyone-what-else-is-new/?utm_term=.738a297eed70

https://www.sagepub.com/sites/default/files/upm-binaries/38432_4.pdf

https://business.linkedin.com/talent-solutions/blog/2013/12/8-millennials-traits-you-should-know-about-before-you-hire-them

Atheism May Be the New Normal or Just An Excuse for Bad Behavior

Human beings are intrinsically motivated by meaning. There is a constant drive for humans to be actively involved in an emotionally charged  pilgrimage to find meaning in their lives and in the world around them. As a result, many people “find” religion or cling to a set of moral or religious beliefs in an effort to extract such meaning. Otherwise, why bother living? What’s the point and the purpose? How can we find structure in our lives without a clear set of rules that seems to be adequately aligned with the notion of morality. This leads to the ultimate quest and subsequent search for meaning. Can one be considered a moral human being without the wholehearted belief in God? Additionally, is it possible for morality to be only anchored in religion? Maybe there are other internal factors that strive to push us to be better human beings and act with integrity and kindness.

Many believe that atheism, as Cameron Jackson  constructively points out may be actually “dulling the knife blade of intellectual thought.” This leads to an interesting notion that individuals would rather believe that there is no God, Higher Power or Supreme Being in order to lessen the mental or emotional struggle of trying to understand something so beyond human touch. It is quite difficult to understand something on a deep level, let alone explain it without the tangible set of molecules that ultimately make it up. That said, it is much more convenient to be an atheist. In fact, atheism is the fastest growing "religious" demographic in the country with almost 40% of Americans under the age of 30 proclaiming to be “non-religious.” It’s important to remember that atheism is not a religion. 

What is Atheism Exactly? 

It is essential, while pondering this question, to truly understand what atheism is from a common definitive perspective. Atheism, as defined by Merriam-Webster as “a lack of belief or a strong disbelief in the existence of a god or any gods.” Atheism is essentially a rejection of the assertion that there are gods; additionally, atheism is not considered a religion which can make for a confusing debate at times. For example, atheism is protected by many of the same rights within our Constitution that protect Americans’ freedom of religious choice.   

Exploring Morality

In a perfect world we could all live together in blissful, polyana-type harmony. Utopian values would permeate all cultures and in a way that fostered tolerance, kindness, and trust. Since we are unable to truly exist in a world painted with perfection, the reality is that there exists the concepts of right versus wrong and good versus evil. These ideals are rooted in the concept of morality, yet atheists are thought to lack these grounding ideals due the idea that because they abide by no “religious” code. As a result, they are seen as immoral beings. This begs the question, does one require a set of religious principles to anchor one’s morality?   

In a recent study that was published in the journal Nature Human Behaviour, findings revealed that “atheists are broadly perceived as potentially morally depraved and dangerous.” The most interesting, and slightly shocking, fact reported as part of this study is that even atheists themselves believed that when it came to other atheists, they are likely to commit to behaving immorally unless they fear punishment from a religious deity. 

Interestingly, another study published in the journal, Science, in 2014 found that both religious and nonreligious people actually commit similar numbers of moral acts regardless of political beliefs, agendas, or religious backgrounds. However, when it came to concept of “moral phenomena,”  there were some differences in how people in different groups responded from an emotional perspective. Those people who identified as more religious reported experiencing more intense guilt and disgust after committing an immoral act than those who identified as nonreligious. This demonstrates an interesting finding that people often feel more likely to commit moral acts as it aligns within religious and moral structures.

Perhaps Religion Is Anchored by Morality...So Where Does That Leave Atheism

Morality is not only anchored, but structured, by the institution of religious doctrines. These studies indicate a strong relationship between having something potentially punishing and accountable to answer to with regards to the commission of a potential act of evil. Now, let’s play devil’s advocate (no pun intended!), what if morality was actually based more in nature, a view atheists take? Perhaps, our biology and values are strongly influenced by our actual brain chemistry? This is just a thought as there appear to be people who identify as atheist who are able to abide by the law in a humanistic, organized way and follow societal rules.  But what keeps an atheist from not doing what’s right in terms of Judeo-Christian teachings?

If we come from nothing and will die to nothing, then what is the point?  Why have morality at all?  Why not kill for the sake of killing?  Why not make someone suffer for the sake of suffering?  A true atheist should take no issue with any of these suggestions.

What About Biology and Free Will

Free will allows us to choose an action, any action that we see fit. This is simply put, however, many believe that if atheists have free will with no consequences from a God or Creator of the Universe, then that free will instantaneously transforms into self-will run riot and a lack of boundaries. Everyone, even those who are religious, has free will. The rules of morality and religion may serve as a guide for those who believe in a particular religious doctrine, however that does not provide a reason why an atheist may decide to also follow rules and seek pleasure from positive behaviors and intrinsic rewards. Although we are all in search of meaning and structure in our lives, it could be the case that not all structures must be based upon either an external or internal process or a set of dogmas that set out to provide a moral road map. 

Biologically a person may be predisposed to impulsivity or depression, for example. Does that mean that if a person is predisposed to acting out immorally in a way that demonstrates his free will? Is that because he does not believe in God? Maybe he believes that God failed him. God can definitely bring a certain sense of constraint to atheists where they may feel the constrained need to follow certain religious structures and abandon their “own way” of conducting themselves.  Perhaps they fear a loss of identity, an inability to be “authentic”. This lends the question of how often a person’s immoral actions are directly related to feeling constrained or not wanting to explore something deeper. Additionally, physiologically there may be other challenges that have altered an individual’s brain chemistry that has nothing to do with a psychologically-based perspective regarding atheism and morality.  

Simple, Lazy, and Somewhat Obedient

There is no doubt that it is much easier to not believe in a Power greater than oneself. It saves the intellectual debates that most of us have within ourselves on a fairly consistent basis. It keeps things much simpler and easier to navigate. It also allows those intellectually elite individuals to keep the facts straight in their own minds in a way to help construct their own internal and external worlds. These worlds suit their needs and desires, whether for good or evil. Atheists can make things up as they go when they are not tethered to religious constraints. Essentially, atheists can alternatively be grounded in laziness and a belief in their own will within the status quo.

In conclusion, atheism may in fact be an excuse for immoral behavior, but could also be a poorly constructed brain chemistry. In that case we can blame immoral actions on bad biology. Atheism can definitely shine in pointless debates where intellectual and scholarly points are absent. It’s easier and much less complicated to succumb to a belief system with no accountability. Immorality is always accountable, though, regardless of whether it stems from a structureless belief system or brain chemistry. Whereas morality built upon 2000 years of Judeo-Christian is rooted in something tangible, even though it’s the mystery of faith.

References: 

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/aug/07/anti-atheist-prejudice-secularity

https://www.atheists.org/

https://www.atheists.org/activism/resources/about-atheism/

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/ronald-a-lindsay/atheism-leads-to-moral-de_b_6423018.html

https://www.livescience.com/47799-morality-religion-political-beliefs.html

https://evolutionnews.org/2017/09/on-atheism-and-morality-study-confirms-voltaire/

http://theconversation.com/are-religious-people-more-moral-84560

https://www.secularhumanism.org/index.php/articles/5640

https://www.merriam-webster.com