Millennials are no different from previous younger generations

by | Apr 10, 2014 | Opinion

Megan Rach
Arts and Entertainment Editor

Megan Rach

Megan Rach

TIME Magazine’s May 2013 issue featured the headline, “The Me Me Me Generation: Millennials are lazy, entitled narcissists who still live with their parents.”

The argument, that the Millennial Generation is made up of little more than vapid, expectant, disrespectful kids who would rather do nothing at all than succumb to the lower-pay grades of the workforce, is growing old.

My favourite piece of writing chastising the millennial generation, “The Cheapest Generation,” came from Derek Thompson and Jordan Weissmann in the September 2012 issue of The Atlantic. Not because it was a particularly well thought-out piece, dissecting the apparent anomaly that happens to be my generation, but because it was more than 2100 words chastising twenty and thirty-somethings for being “too cheap.” Long story short, we’re less inclined to contribute to the economy. However, a particular point made by commenter Eric Garland hit the nail on the head.

“You mean the generation that paid three times as much for college to enter a job market with triple the unemployment isn’t interested in purchasing the assets of the generation who just blew an enormous housing bubble and kept it from popping through quantitative easing and out-and-out federal support? Curious.”

I think the biggest issue that prior generations have with those born between 1982 and 2004 boils down to a simple fact: generational divides have and always will be a topical matter.

“Our youth now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for their elders and love chatter in place of exercise; they no longer rise when elders enter the room; they contradict their parents, chatter before company; gobble up their food and tyrannize their teachers.”

The above quote doesn’t come from a recent article. It is, in fact, most commonly attributed to Socrates.

Plato, who studied under Socrates, also held contempt for the youth of their generation. According to Plato, they disobeyed authority–they would riot in the streets with wild notions and decaying morals.

No matter the era, the younger generation has always been regarded as a societal anomaly. The difference between Ancient Greece and today is we have smartphones and the Internet to contribute to our proclaimed narcissism.

The most refreshing piece of writing on the matter comes from Ted Rail’s article in the Santa Cruz Good Times, “The Gen X/Gen Y Generation Gap.”

“Every 20 years, TIME Magazine depicts people in their 20s as ‘lazy, entitled, selfish and shallow.’ This time the target is the Millennial generation…According to (cough, cough) the Boomer-run media, [Millennials] are narcissists. Whatever. Back in 1990, TIME was smearing Gen X as shallow, apolitical, unambitious shoe-gazers.”

Rail’s point is simple: Generation Y isn’t as selfish, lazy and entitled as media likes to say – we’re just a boring mystery.

Boomers knew what they wanted; they came so close to a revolution and gave up. Rail says this is what Generation X hates about the Boomers. But Generation Y remains “unaccountably satisfied,” remaining a mystery to Generation X.

We shouldn’t have to rush to our own defence. We are a younger generation continuing to ease our way into existence and relevance while still young. Of course we don’t want to buy expensive cars, and we aren’t thinking of paying a mortgage on a house in suburbs. We’re too busy working three jobs in an obscene job market to pay off our student debt.

But, we will grow up, contribute more heavily to the economy, and gain cultural and political influence. And in twenty some-odd years, we too will be complaining about the next generation. But in the meantime, we’re the antithesis of every Baby Boomer’s idea of a responsible adult.

Maybe I’ll put it in terms a Boomer should understand – we’re the younger generation, and we will “tune in, turn on, and drop out” until it’s time for the next generation to do so.