A current tired trend in adult criticism involves whining about millennials and their seemingly inherent apathy and lack of motivation. As a millennial myself, I find most of these arguments to be, as you might expect, vast generalizations that are often wholly inaccurate and, well, plain irritating. There are various angles at which to attack these statements, one of the most frustrating being the older set’s unwillingness to fully explore how the economy could be contributing to our struggle for work. Usually it is mentioned briefly, but with the sense that such a factor is not enough to explain the current situation. No—character assassinations are necessary, too.
But one of the most glaring problems that I’ve found central to the bulk of this literature is the constant description of millennials as spoiled brats. Apparently, all of us are fully loaded, with extremely rich parents who coddle us in cashmere and spoon-feed us caviar. Interestingly, those that aren’t actually living that dream are entirely disregarded whenever these articles pop up. A perfect example is an article posted yesterday in the Boston Globe that describes our entire generation as trophy kids (akin to trophy wives) who are lazy victims of our parent’s success.
Full disclosure: I am one of those well-off kids that journalists have made a sport out of ripping to shreds, although perhaps not on the steroidal level they often describe (read: no caviar or cashmere for me). But I have friends from all different backgrounds, some wealthier and some much less so…and none of this financial diversity ever seems to be reflected in this popular hobby of attacking the supposed MO of my generation.
It’s convenient for journalists to leave this information out, because it contradicts their point that we’re all just too comfortable living in our home movie theaters to seek out work. How can they apply that belief to those who live in government subsidized housing, or who work numerous odd jobs to barely make rent and eat every week? I know these people exist—many of them are my friends.
And those who aren’t necessarily struggling on the same level financially are usually no less content with their inability to find work. Perhaps their survival urge is less intense—as in, they aren’t worried about the same things, on the same level—but they are still worried. In the op-ed posted yesterday in the Boston Globe, the writer made the audacious accusation that we’re all just total shut-ins: “Even more unnerving, this generation has contrived a new level of inertia, which the Japanese call “hikikomori.” It’s young people who don’t leave the house at all, not because they’re scared like agoraphobics, but because their needs are met and they’re content.”
I don’t have any friends out of work who are not actively and rigorously pursuing job opportunities. I don’t know anyone personally who’s genuinely content to live off of mommy and daddy’s money, which is not to say that they don’t exist—they certainly do—but how can a journalist justify attributing these qualities of the very few to an entire generation? Why are they ignoring an entire subset of people my age who are not supported whatsoever by their parents?
If you’re going to make blanket statements about a generation, then you need to look at all the facts, and, in this case, all the different backgrounds that complete the millennial picture. Ah, but I guess it becomes quite tricky to generalize that way—and well, that would make elderly hand wringing far too difficult, huh?
What do you guys think? Are there articles out there that tackle this issue in the way I’ve described, but that I’ve somehow missed?