Tag Archives: boomers

A Boomer Loves Us!

So this is highly unusual, but I am publishing my second article in as many days for the first time in the short history of this blog. Yes, give me a trophy, I’m a millennial after-all. Why am I posting a new piece so quickly you ask? Because I’ve just had one of those moments that every person, every writer, loves – a moment of immense inspiration and hope.

I don’t get this feeling often, it’s a rare thing. And I’m running with this feeling now because writing can sometimes be a slog. It can be tough to remain motivated in this millennial blogging space because so much of what is thrown at us is very negative. It’s my job to remain up-to-date on the latest writing by, for, and about millennials. I wouldn’t be a proper millennial blogger if I didn’t. That includes the pieces published at media outlets that are usually unflattering, and exist just to tell me how lazy and deluded I am, and how no one will ever hire me – you hear that? EVER!

You know how a common unwritten rule in columnist-circles is don’t read the comments. Well reading all of these negative millennial pieces that are published every few months, or weeks, online is basically the same as reading the comments. You try to not let it get to you but overtime it does, because there is so much of it. It’s like a wall of propaganda trying to convince us how worthless we really are. Easy to brush off once, twice, ten times – but eventually it eats at you a bit.

That’s on top of the daily mental grind of trying to find work. Sometimes after writing the 6th or 7th personalized cover letter of the day, in which every detail is self-scrutinized over and over, writing a new piece for the ole blog is the last thing I want to do. But blogging is part of the process of finding work, so reading the negativity comes with the territory. 

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Millennials want to work with boomers that are interested in problem solving. We’re not interested in lectures about how lazy you think we are.

This brings me to the reason I’m so ecstatic at this very moment. Out there, in the ether, there is a baby boomer that loves us. Out there, somewhere, there is a boomer that gets it. And today I found him, his name is Cary Tennis. For those unfamiliar with his work, Cary is the advice columnist for Salon. I’m not the type to read advice columns but I often find myself on Cary’s because his answers always seem to connect to larger issues at play.

And today he did not disappoint with his answer to a distraught reader. As an aside, Millennials, Unite! – the headline of today’s column reminds me of the Bob Marley classic Africa Unite, also inspirational and arguing the same point, albeit for a completely different issue – organize organize organize.

The question Cary responds to, in part, reads:

Lately I have spent more and more time asleep, and I know this isn’t normal. I do it because it is far better to be asleep and unaware of my failures and fears, than to be reading how I am not good enough for people to pay me even poverty wages.
I have a wonderful family and they are supportive. But I am also 30, and feel I was lied to my whole life when I was told from childhood, “Go to school, work hard, get the best grades — and a great job will be waiting for you.”

Cary’s response to this millennial – who I empathize with to a great degree – is very empathetic itself. It’s practical, really cuts through all the crap, and gets to the bottom line. It’s brilliant. I obviously won’t post the entire response (go read it for yourself. No really, do it. I’ll wait. I’ll even include another link.)

Back? These are the highlights of Cary’s response:

It begins with the statement of a mass grievance: You were sold a bill of goods. You were lied to. You were swindled. There are millions like you. Why are they not in the streets? If they were, things would be different. There is a political and historical context for this.
Your condition is not unique; it is general. You are part of a class of people to whom this has happened. As such, you have political power.

And a few paragraphs later…

It’s as simple as that. So if you do not demonstrate by the hundreds of thousands, if you do not disrupt markets and streets, if you do not unite with other millennials and refine your message so that it reaches the people who need to be reached, then you will have been robbed and you will have done nothing about it.

When I read this I was sort of shocked. A boomer that’s actually not calling us lazy, entitled, spoiled, idiotic, high-expectation having, deluded, fools? This can’t be real, I must have fallen through some trans-dimensional portal to a world where people actually empathize with other people, and generally try not to be jerks.

Further, here’s a boomer that’s actually trying to help us solve a real problem instead of jumping on a high horse and castigating us for “not taking personal responsibility.” The questioner openly admits to sleeping more and more, most likely a sign of depression – full disclosure I’m not a doctor. Instead of shouting down at the person for being “lazy,” Cary genuinely wants them to get help for their issue. And he implores them to find free resources for that help – no snark, no judgement needed.

Want to know the quickest way to have someone shrink from the world and never find a solution to their problem? Tell them they’re worthless by listing all they do wrong. Cary never does that. Yet he still challenges the reader, and challenges every millennial in the same boat as that reader, to do the only thing that’s really left to do – form a coalition and demand changes.

In a larger sense this does two things, it changes the status quo through politics and policy, and it always ends up employing a large amount of people for the movement. If you have nothing else to do because you can’t find a full-time job, organizing is a full-time opportunity that provides many of the same benefits – networking, organizational skills, logistical skills, discipline, people skills, and more. If you are indeed lucky enough to get paid for organizing the pay probably won’t be good, rarely is it good. But you may end up making the same amount of money as you would working part-time as a barista. And you’ll gain work and life experience that would presumably payoff down the road.

Networking is probably the greatest benefit because individuals within a movement will start their own businesses, employ others in the movement, partner with others, connect their peers to other resources and opportunities. Organizing is both a means to an end (how we typically think about it), but also an end in itself. There are probably dozens of start-ups that were founded from the dust of the Occupy Movement, probably thousands of friendships and partnerships forged in the heat of that nonviolent battle.

Creating a sustainable millennial movement together is a solution to many of the personal problems millions of young people face. There are too many people like that reader, too many people like myself, too many unemployed, too many underemployed, too many stuck living with their parents, too many grinding, too many without opportunity, too many suffocating under the weight of student loans. There are too many of us out there, but just enough for a movement.

So we need more writers like Cary that support us. We need more boomers that love us.

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Joel Stein Doesn’t Get It

Joel Stein, in Time Magazine, calls us the Me Me Me Generation; he’s missing the point. To echo an idea I explored in my first blog post, Millennials are probably the most studied, discussed, and analyzed generation in history. This is not a product of us being particular unique, but a product of the explosion of content creators and content consumption in our culture. People, of all ages, want to read about and share information about generational differences, it feeds into a natural urge we all have to find patterns and group people together. The old have always looked at the young with trepidation and skepticism, the young consume such – weird/loud/obnoxious/talentless/insert your adjective – music, movies, food. The young are so – selfish/entitled/narcissistic/spoiled – and they’re bringing down our society.

The original Time Magazine cover

The original Time Magazine cover

This happens like clockwork with each subsequent generation. I think part of the way we informally and anecdotally separate generations is by gauging the demarcation-line for where old people see a problem. And as generations go by these, either real or created, distinctions will become a self-fulfilling prophecy due to just the sheer amount of content about generational differences. Over the past two decades there has been a real push to get data on generations to move from purely anecdotal evidence to actual evidence. This has been a relatively small endeavor because there have existed some significant constraints on generational studies.

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The first constraint is that prior to the 1980s there really wasn’t much legitimate empirical data available on generations. The second constraint is that defining a generation is a difficult task because it’s such an ethereal concept; I’m not yet sure if this is an inherent fault or a fixable one. The only way to find out is to gather as much data as possible on Millennials (the most studied and written about generation yet) and compare that data with subsequent generations. Generational studies requires longitudinal data as well.

This isn’t necessarily a constraint; but rather a problem with generational commentary in general, the skewed sample sizes that most commentators use is problematic. I’m not an exception to this, as my opinions are based off of a small, non-representative sample of millennials as well. I base most of my opinion on my experience (as every writer does), and most of my information comes from highly educated, mostly NYC-based, mostly white, mostly upper-middle class people. That’s afterall, the environment and the circle I grew up with.

Given all of that, Joel Stein is partially correct in saying that a particular sub-group of Millennials are the “me me me generation.” Although, I’d even be cautious about labeling the highly educated, NYC-based, and affluent Millennials as especially narcissistic compared to people from the same background of previous generations; because you still run into the same constraints discussed above.

This Atlantic piece offers a great rebuttal to the standard argument against millennials, whose newest iteration takes the form of the Time article. I’ve been blogging against these common misconceptions of millennials for months, and I’m just one of dozens of millennial bloggers and writers who are telling our own stories.

One common theme that comes up in millennial circles is the idea of heightened expectations and a non-reflective double-standard from our elders. This is not a new story, strife between generations; but never before has a generation been so heavily discussed and criticized. I think the question many people of my generation have is quite simply, to quote Nas – “most of our elders failed us, how could they judge us…?”

Boomers failed us on 9/11, they failed us by leading this country into an unnecessary war in Iraq, they failed us by extending our stay in Afghanistan, they brought our country and the world economy to its’ knees, and they’ve ignored climate change. Boomers want to blame millennials for possessing a selfish attitude about the world when they’ve been a significant part of the era that saw income inequality grow to record levels.

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One of the many parody covers found around the interwebs

And now, millennials are left with this bag of goodies to deal with. The veterans who fought the Boomers’ wars are mostly millennials – you would have thought the Boomers would have been more sensitive to sending young people to war given their experience with Vietnam. Climate change has reached the tipping point under Boomer watch and millennials will be left to address it and deal with its’ symptoms. The economy is still in recession for the vast majority of people, and under Boomer watch the few jobs that are being created are low wage.

What I can’t wrap my head around is why Boomers don’t seem to understand that helping millennials is in their own self interest. As the largest generation since the Boomers it will fall upon us to pay their social security, and support them as they retire. There is obviously the political and ideological divide to understanding why job-creation has been entirely dropped from the national conversation in both the media and in Congress. But there is also the generational divide that can be looked at as a reason for a non-existent jobs program. The Boomers have largely washed their hands of us in terms of policy and politics because this isn’t a problem that affects them directly – except when their adult children have to move back home because they can’t find work.

Solving the problems of youth unemployment, underemployment, and student debt is not about selfish millennials, it’s about the health of the entire country, and by extension the world. Having said all that, just because there are more outlets for us to gripe doesn’t mean we won’t get to the business of fixing the mess Boomers left us with. We will fix it because we have to.

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