The New Copernicans
Millennials at Work

Three Keys to Cultural Change and Why Millennials Will Lead

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Culture change requires three things and millennials are poised to maximize them. The dynamics of cultural change are more like football than golf. Golf is a solitary sport where the individual is expected to be proficient in the woods, irons, wedges, and putters. Football in contrast is a brutally choreographed dance involving men of different sizes and skills working in total concert for a common goal. Cultural change requires dense networks, social location, and collective curation.

 

Historian and scriptwriters often highlight the extraordinary individual, the genius, or the charismatic leader. However catalytic these individuals may be for the success of an enterprise, it is the “dense network” rather than the individual who is the main actor on the stage of cultural change. Overlapping and purposeful relationships are central to creating significant change.[1] This fact highlights the rising importance of collaborative leaders in contrast to imperial leaders.[2] These networks, whether formal or informal, are key to developing cultural change.

This is seen most clearly in the historic example of the abolition of slavery in England. The singular effort of parliamentarian William Wilberforce is often given front billing.

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President Trump Tweeting

Is There a Method to the Madness of Trump’s Tweets?

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Trump is controversial. Trump’s Tweets are even more so—both to his supporters and his detractors. Perhaps we have been looking at them in the wrong way! Is there a method to his madness?

Berkeley cognitive scientist George Lakoff is an expert on linguistic framing. Everyone thinks first in frames. If the facts don’t fit the frame, the facts bounce off and the frame remains. So in this sense, frames rule.

Lakoff argues that Donald Trump’s Tweets are an exercise in framing and are not to be parsed as a series of factual propositions. They are tactical rather than substantive. Because the news media is addicted to “Breaking News” and has a high proclivity for left-brain propositional thinking, media companies rush to report extensively on Trump’s latest Tweet… playing directly into his hand. Media outlets inadvertently shift the focus off the substance under debate and on to the frame of Trump’s choosing in his latest Tweet. The media may well serve as co-conspirators of Trump’s reframing and serve as amplifiers of his preferred perspective. Trump’s approach may be subversive, but it is also genius. While there may be some substance in some of his Tweets, their main focus is to establish the frame rather than deliver the facts.

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A Misfire that Matters: Kit Harington’s “Gunpowder” and the Modern Religious Sensibility

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Why should we care about historical biopics such as HBO’s mini-series Gunpowder? Is it because it stars Kit Harington—the heartthrob Jon Snow of Game of Thrones fame? Is it because of its message of religious bigotry and violence?

 

This is a British story exported to the U.S. Its resonance here will be very different from the U.K. where it played last October on BBC. The Gunpowder Plot is celebrated annually in England as Guy Fawkes Day. It is the British equivalent of our 9/11. And like 9/11 it is seared into the British consciousness.

 

We have a contemporary U.S. TV drama that is premised on the blowing up of the entire government assembled at the U.S. Capitol, ABC’s Designated Survivor. This is the story of a similar plot in 17th century Jacobean England.

 

Like an iceberg, most of what shapes our identity as persons is unconscious. Only about 10% of who we are is shaped by our direct rational control. Most of who we are is shaped by mysterious unknown factors. Social psychologists and sociologist have determined that past historical experiences are one of those determining factors.

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Thank You For Your Service! Hollywood Educates the Public on Military Life

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The sacrifices of the military are lost on most Americans. It has become customary to thank those serving in the military for their service. What are we thanking them for?

The military is war weary. Deployments are more frequent and conflicts seem interminable—now decades long (Stop-Loss, 2008). Prolonged military sequestration is showing up in equipment failure and training lapses. For most citizens this fact is lost on them. While there are close to 1.4 million people serving in the U.S. armed forces, this amounts to .04% of the American population. Unless one lives in or near Fayetteville, North Carolina, Fort Hood, Texas or Coronado, California the rhythm and cost of military life is unknown.

Young Americans between 18 and 29—the millennial generation—have made the transition into adulthood during the single longest period of continuous war in American history. Surprisingly, their interest in military service has remained steady despite the improved economy and a fading sense of patriotism since 9/11. What attract millennials to the military are things like education, travel, teamwork, and being a part of something larger than themselves.

The Pentagon uses a “propensity” poll to determine potential interest in military service: “How likely is it that you will be serving in the military in the next few years?” Recent results among millennials is 19%, which is not far from the peak of 23% in 2003.

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We Need Fictionalized Heroes Because Real Life Sucks

We Need Fictionalized Heroes Because Real Life Sucks

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Gone are our real life heroes. It’s time for some make-believe ones. Storytelling cultural creatives must come to the rescue.

 

We are living through a necessary national catharsis of sexual misbehavior. I presume that the reality is far worse than is being reported. But the nightly news is no longer “family friendly.” The litany of perversions across a host of industries leaves one disgusted. Social trust is in the toilet. Heroes and integrity appear to be in short supply. Culturally we will suffer scandal PTSD.

 

Hollywood directors and television showrunners have a special responsibility in times like this. Social scientists and storytelling cultural creatives both know the power of story. Stories are what help us make sense of the senseless facts that bombard us day in and day out.

 

Some have claimed that we live in a “post-fact” era. Decorated reporter Carl Bernstein corrected this assessment on Bill Maher. We don’t have a crisis of facts, he explained, we have a crisis of context. We no longer know how to connect the dots. We have a frame problem not a fact problem.

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