writer, speaker, content creator

"Kids These Days…"

In Rants on December 2, 2010 at 9:42 pm

More than once in the past year and a half, I’ve felt myself biting back on a strong but irrational negative emotional sensation. It wells up in the back of the throat and steams behind the eyes, fomenting in the upper chest and manifesting in clenched fingers that coalesce into fists. Various primal (and unproductive) responses assert themselves, and I have to say to them “calm down.” In a few moments, it goes.

This incipient rage? Near hatred of the Baby Boomer generation. In particular, any Boomers tilting their heads and gazing in wonderment at the plight of people in their twenties and thirties. I found that much talked about piece in the New York Times earlier this year to be utterly infuriating. More recently, though, the Oregonian ran a story asking if Portland was the new Neverland, (as opposed to the old one?) and the proceeded to mock young-ish people for not yet having “real” jobs and wasting time with bikes and comic books.
Whenever I see this sort of thing, I’m dumbstruck by how Boomers (yes, I’m generalizing) try to assign blame and point fingers at younger generations for presumably not doing anything, being layabouts and slackers. I have two responses to this:
1: Older generations have always complained about “kids these days.” Here’s a famous quote you’ve probably heard before:

The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.

Ladies and gentlemen, that was Socrates. Hearing the older generation bitch about the next is literally as old as Western Civilization itself.

2: The issue of people in their twenties and thirties isn’t really an issue about what’s wrong with them, or the culture, or anything else. It’s an economic issue, and trying to dodge that reality is, I think, intellectually cowardly.

We are still reeling from the effects of a gigantic recession, and are only slowly recovering. The cause of all recessions, broadly speaking, is a failure of demand. When people don’t want, don’t need, or can’t afford various goods and services, we all suffer.

Right now, there is a below-average demand for labor. Experienced workers (older workers) are going to receive preference over people who have just gotten out of degree programs or have only a few years of experience (i.e., less than a decade) and it stands to reason that younger workers will suffer.

In the meantime, why not get on a bike? (It’s cheaper than owning a car!) And why not make comics? (If you’ve got a lot of free time, you might as well do something creative in order to use your brain.) The issue that gets decried as being some kind of generational anomaly actually has everything to do with the disappearing middle class.

And so, when it is framed in generational terms, my instinct is to snap back at the Boomers and tell them that the Rolling Stones are overrated. I bite it back, though, talking myself down with a nice little internal economics lecture.

Wish they’d do the same thing…

  1. I can't believe Boomers are down on Portlanders, when there are haggard-ass 35-45 year old Burners in San Francisco pretending they are twenty at Ecstasy-fueled techno-romps EVERY DAMN NIGHT OF THE WEEK.

    And WE need to grow up…Hmph!

  2. It strikes me that both of you are cherry picking evidence in the same manner as the people you are accusing.

    As much as I've seen "the current generation is a mess" meme float around, I've seen just as many articles talking about how we're great because we're dynamic and creative and not willing to stick to a single tired career path for the rest of our lives. Or saying the exact same things you are: that it's challenging to try and make a living in depressed economic times.

    It's certainly easy to cherry-pick anecdotes and use them to support a poorly-supported opinion — but why pay that any mind?

  3. @Seph You're just bitter because I mocked your horticultural skills over yonder.

    I guess my comment really just meant, "I wish they'd go pick on someone else because there's plenty of other people goofing off, too."

  4. I paid it mind because I am, really, angry about the lack of opportunities. To a fairly great extent, actually. Whenever I hear/read any "the current generation is a mess" ideas, it really, really sticks in my craw (as they say).

    Also, I've seen very little press regarding how dynamic and creative we are. But, maybe I just remember things that piss me off more vividly.

  5. puella_mea: Aaaaah, /that's/ who you are.

    I was curious, so I just did a search for "Generation X" and "Generation Y" on a couple different sites. And pretty much every article I came across had a pretty balanced take on things (many of them offering the same kind of analysis you're doing). But, you know, every so often an inflammatory article like the NYTimes one you linked to comes along and we all get up in arms and post it on Facebook so all our friends can read about it because we're so annoyed by it. And the overexposure makes us think this is a representative opinion rather than the aberrant extreme view that it actually is. Kind of like those articles invariable cherry pick their own extreme data.

    I don't disagree that it's an annoying (and stupid) opinion to have! Just that that attitude is just as unrepresentative of the Boomers is as the anecdotes in those articles are of us.

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