I was born in 1976, the child of two Baby Boomers. I guess that makes me a member of Generation X, a.k.a. The Generation Least Likely To Take BS From Anyone. We think everyone sucks—us included. We emerged from the womb jaded. Don’t take it personally.
We’re a unique bunch. We grew up with the Cold War, pay phones, three TV channels, having our questions met with “look it up in the encyclopedia.” Don’t have those?1 Don’t worry, a door-to-door encyclopedia salesman will stop by sooner or later to convince your parents they’re morally obligated to buy a set.
We came of age with the fall of communism, smart phones, 1.7 bazillion TV channels, and a universe of information at the click of a mouse. And thousands of out-of-work encyclopedia salesmen roaming the streets of every American city.
We became adults during some of the most rapid technologic and societal changes in human history. We adapted. We continue to adapt. We’re really good at it.
And now we’re all fully formed, grown people. Now we’re the ones inventing, writing, leading, screwing things up, fixing things, and screwing them up again. Scary, huh?
In 2020, we’re all still young enough to viscerally remember what “being a kid” felt like. And we’re old enough to relate to our elders’ sense that “the good ol’ days” are long gone.
Even so, we’re aware enough to realize those days were also not as good as we selectively remember.
There’s a silly trope that has survived for eons. It goes like this:
“Every generation after mine [is lazy; is stupid; wouldn’t have survived back in my day; is coddled and needs an ass-whoopin’].”
Lately, I see a barrage of aggressive shittiness being lobbed against my so-called “millennial” friends. While some of that is coming from Gen X (because we don’t like anyone at all, irrespective of generation) it seems that most of this befouling comes from people of my parents’ peers: the Boomers.
Today, I’m using my invaluable2 blog space to dispel a few myths about those born in the eighties and nineties. I’m aiming my myth-dispelling mostly at “the olds” because, unlike the rest of us, they still “read” essays they find on the “World Wide Web.” My sincerest hope, here in the dawn of this new year, is that this post will become attached to a chain email that threatens eternal damnation for failure to forward it to at least eight friends’ Hotmail and AOL email addresses.
1. Millennials don’t understand cursive, can’t drive a stick shift, and have no working memory of things that ceased to exist or lost relevance before they were born. JEEZ!
What a bunch of losers, amirite? Born at a time later than you, like a bunch of chumps. Then—get this—they had the audacity to be raised by you and your peers. What a load of horse hockey. They probably don’t even remember Colonel Potter from MASH saying “horse hockey” because they were too busy being nonexistent. Typical millennials with their lack of existence before they were born!
First, understand one obvious point: cursive/manual transmission usage/rewinding cassette tapes/rotary dial telephones were not on the curricula of your children’s school. But seeing as the children didn’t write their own curricula, the more direct attack, to the extent such egregious oversight bugs you, would be upon the writers of said shoddy curricula.
And who, you ask, wrote the plan from which the kids were taught?
That’s right, Boomers. It was people from your generation. People who decided that teaching a faster means of handwriting in an era completely dominated by keyboard usage was an ineffective use of limited time and limited resources.3
You’ll be shocked to learn that kids “these days” also don’t learn shorthand, semaphore, Morse code, skywriting, calligraphy, movable type, or Pharaoh-approved techniques for using reeds to draw hieroglyphics on papyrus. I swear, everything went to hell when they started taking Ra out of schools.
By the way, it’s hard to learn how to drive a car with a manual transmission when they account for only 2% of the cars sold today. Calling kids “lacking” for this gap in their knowledge would be like calling you incompetent for not being good at driving horse-drawn buggies. Even though you’re freakin’ ancient, you still grew up at a time when horse-drawn buggies had been thoroughly replaced by newfangled “horseless carriages.”
“THAT’S NOT TRUE! When I was a kid, I used to see Old Man Cooper drive his horse-and-buggy into town on Tuesdays to buy sundries!” said the Boomer who doesn’t understand the difference between anecdotal and statistical evidence.
Still, please know your grandparents thought you were a bunch of incompetent boobs for your total lack of anachronistic skills, too.
Unless of course you’re Amish, in which case I assume a Boomer printed this chain email and handed it to you. Don’t read and whip your horses, brethren, lest ye collide with an English.
2. Millennials lack work ethic.
Ignoring again the fact that they were raised by you, let’s discuss their drive and passion for work.
First, it’s important that you do not confuse relaxed dress and flexible hours for laziness.
Times change. In 2020, people don’t wear suits and fedoras to work 9-to-5, where they create advertising campaigns while guzzling scotch, smoking, and sexually harassing the gals from the secretarial pool.
Today, almost every work environment is either casual or “business casual,” which I think means dressing like you’re en route to a coed touch football game on a crisp New England autumn day, where this fictional game is the only football being played until next season. #suckitbrady
And that dress code only applies if you’re lucky enough to find steady work at one “real” job4 that pays enough to cover your expenses.
More than likely, that slovenly kid—the one you’re judging for his lack of topcoat and spit-shined Oxfords—is working multiple gigs and side hustles to make ends meet.
It’s estimated that half of all millennials have some manner of “side gig” to supplement their income. And when you’re a 1099 “independent contractor,” there’s no real dress code, and often no set time or place at which to show up and work.
That Oxfordless slovenly kid is still wearing a trilby hat, it’s true, but that’s just because he’s a douchebag.
Oh, and their student loans are crippling them, because the college education you self-funded by mowing lawns in the summers now costs $20,000 a semester. And they can’t buy a house ever since the 2008 market crash. Who was it that bought all those houses on spec and screwed everything up? Hmmm.
Next time you see that unshaven dude typing away on a Macbook at Starbucks, know that he’s probably hard at work in the new gig economy, treading water until he either gets ahead or drowns.
Or he’s working on a passion project, because he might as well be happy while he’s broke.
Or it’s just me, in which case, come say hi.
3. Millennials are socialists.
Yeah, some of them are. Can you blame them? Did you read the last section? Read it again.
Now, before you get all out of sorts and need to pop a couple of Eliquis for your AFib not caused by a heart valve problem, take a step back and hear me out.
Socialism, in its broadest terms, just refers to the pooling of resources to provide services in society that are beyond the capability of individuals. Things like roads, fire departments, Social Security and Medicare, the military, maintenance for city skate parks, and public schools are all kind of socialist.
I get it, they’re not “scary” socialist programs, like der kommissar forcibly taking your wheat and giving you back a pittance of a ration, all while you’re inexplicably wearing a babushka in America in 2020. But they are absolutely an involuntary pooling of all of our resources to provide services to others, irrespective of their ability to pay for those services…right?
So, let’s assume for a second that you’re basically okay with the idea of paying taxes to enjoy a civilized society with ambulances and airports and such. Let’s assume you don’t think that roads should be privatized, or that people without funds should have to walk through cornfields to get from Point A to Point B. Let’s posit that you’re basically fine with your tax dollars going to educate everyone’s kids, lest we have a society full of illiterates. I mean a society of illiterates besides Kentucky.
Note: I’m not talking about the tax rate, the valuation of your land and improvements thereon, none of that – I’m just talking about the concept of pooling resources to spend on everyone’s greater good.
Once we’ve established that some resource pooling/spending on our collective betterment is a positive thing, the only questions left are (1) how much should we collect from whom, and (2) on what should we spend it?
Throughout American history, we’ve decided to answer those questions in a number of ways. But since we started, we have never once stopped collecting taxes and redistributing them in the form of payments and services for things beyond which any individual can or will pay.
Is it surprising that today’s generation has a different opinion on how we should tax income? They don’t think differently on the matter because they’re young, naïve, foolish, or anything of the like. They think differently because it’s an open question, and their reality from which they base their opinion is different than yours.
School is presently free in the USA from Kindergarten through 12th grade. Who decided that? Couldn’t we also decide to make it free from Pre-K to 13th grade? And I know, it’s not free, it’s paid for by property taxes, which rise and fall based on representative democratic opinion.
Which means that opinion can change, and the rates change too.
Medicare presently kicks in at age 65. Who decided that? Yep, we did! So, couldn’t We The People—of whom millennials are a part—decide to change that to age 64? Or age 34? Or age 0?
The Earned Income Tax Credit applies to families with children where the income earners make low wages. You get the picture by now: every bit of that redistribution of wealth is variable based entirely on the will of the people. We can make the thresholds higher or lower, remove the “with children” part, or any other change our little hearts desire.
It’s all up for grabs, and all a reflection of the collective will of the people, which includes these children that you spit on as they try to change their world.
You’re right on one aspect of this issue: the kids today do not collectively remember the newsreels and stories of the Communists of the 1950s-1980s. Thus, they lack one or two glaring examples of the ills of severely corrupt and mismanaged socialism.
But they do have the examples you’re forgetting: the ones of happy, healthy, successful countries with socialist policies. Countries like Norway, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, the United Kingdom, Canada, Japan, and Switzerland, all have economic systems that fall farther to the “left” than the United States.
Oh, and one more thing: you don’t get to decry the ills of socialism while you’re on Medicare. Refuse your own government-sponsored, doesn’t-matter-how-much-you-paid-in-or-didn’t-pay-in medical care, and then we’ll talk.
4. Millennials are self-centered, e.g. the “me” generation.
Here’s a little bit of truth to chew on: everyone is self-centered to greater or lesser degrees. But let’s evaluate the idea that an entire generation of people is disproportionately self-centered versus the generations that came before it.
Again, I’ll echo the refrain from before, as it applies here just as well: YOU friggin’ raised them, Babs. If you’re dissatisfied with their lack of altruism, perhaps you should ask yourself from whence they learned such behavior.
I don’t think they’re any more (or less) self-serving than any other generation, though. I think you’re just more acutely aware of the most egregiously egotistical and unaltruistic of the bunch, and you’re viewing them through a lens of confirmation bias. I’ll explain.
If you’re just like the people of your parents’ and grandparents’ generation, who were certain that you, as a class, were a bunch of lazy nogoodniks, you likely subconsciously presume that millennials are bad in a plethora of ways.
On top of that, the millennial generation is the opposite of you on matters of privacy. That is, they advertise their lives for you to critique. The most self-centered, self-aggrandizing millennials will intentionally jump out at you, and you’ll confirm your bias (albeit incorrectly) that they all suck, and all do so in the same way.
Don’t get me wrong – they do all suck. But it’s actually that they all suck in different, unique ways. Just like your generation!
Some young people are self-centered, some are altruistic, and most are in-between. Do an experiment: every time you see an example of a millennial being a self-centered doofus, purposefully seek out an example of the opposite. You’ll immediately see what I mean.
Was this too long, and thus, you didn’t read it? Do you wish there was an abbreviation to sum up that sentiment?
Well, thank a millennial, because there is: TLDR. There, you learned something new!
And here’s the TLDR: millennials, and likely every category of humans we can create, are more complex and less terrible than you assume them to be.5 They are working harder than you know just to peacefully live their own lives. For every random thing you think they should know, they know 100 things that you don’t know about the workings of the modern world.
And if all else fails, remember: millennials will be running things when you’re too old to fight back. You should probably get on their good side before you’re frail and at their mercy.
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Need some more Hitting The Trifecta right now? Try this one: These Are The People In Your Neighborhood. Sorry. Or how about this one? Hello 911? Can You Send A Sociopath? You’ll like this one, too: To Tell The Truth, I’m Obviously Lying.
1 Yes, the encyclopedia is plural, in that it took a shelf full of 20-lb books to contain a fraction of the information you can now find in its entirety on your phone. Too bad your phone doesn’t have an app to make it smell like a rack of alphabetized knowledge…yet.
2 Just how “invaluable” is it? It literally lacks all value. That invaluable.
3 The resources in question are limited because you voted against school bond measures in order to keep your property taxes low. To hell with these kids, yours already graduated!
4 Save it, whiners. I know that any means of making a living is a “real” job. I’m using it to clumsily cover the kinds of job for which you need a lanyard and ID badge to scan your way into the cube farm. And you knew I meant that, so if you’re picking this to seize upon, might I suggest you add a third side gig so as to absorb some of the ample time you seem to have on your hands.
5 Except people who report memes for being offensive. Those people lack all nuance and deserve to be banished to a far-flung outpost without the blessings of wifi.