Writing a character with dyed pink hair when you’ve only dyed natural colours, if at all, is worth a...
Recently Kumail Nanjiani tweeted that the best Star Trek...
…in the forum post for the following excellent article:
There hasn’t been work for the younger generations for a long time now, since even before the recession began — a recession that outstrips every previous recession for severity going back to the Great Depression, which means only the “Greatest” Generation had a comparable economic hardship when starting to make their way in the world.
Millenials almost by default are required to seek higher education, which is an impoverishing endeavor and it is no longer feasible for the majority of students to “work their way through college.” Those who graduate with diplomas that are not industry-specific discover that they may have to go to grad school to prove to employers they have the “skills” to enter into the white collar jobs they can’t find.
Nobody just takes a chance on a bright young thing anymore, not even for entry-level positions; they must have a proven track record, often of several years’ worth of experience, in a long list of very specific roles and certifications to get a shot at meeting a hiring manager. Who is virtually unreachable anymore because job applications and the hiring process are increasingly impersonal and digital in nature, which relegates all applicants to a piece of paper and a series of desperate bullet points.
(The jobs you can get without direct experience? Scams, call center work, or sales positions with unreasonable quotas for the economy. And think again if you get booted from an office job and try to find an hourly job; you’re “overqualified.” If you seem smarter or more skilled than your prospective superior for a white collar gig, even if that just means you know how to operate a computer? No call back. Look forward to submitting your resume HUNDREDS of times for every one call back you get. Then, when you do get hired, live in constant terror of the knowledge that you are first in the firing line for layoffs due simply to your age. And thus, get abused by your employer as they demand uninhibited access to every waking moment of your day.)
Statistics say those entering the workforce during a recession will likely never achieve a pay-grade commensurate with those of people who enter the workforce either before or after the recession. There are no apprenticeships or paid internships in the vast majority of our industries, there is little blue collar work to fall back on because it’s all been sent overseas or automated (save for self-employment, which taxes you 10% of every dollar you earn no matter how much or little that is — the year I made a total of a whopping $9K, the government wanted me to figure out how to pay them $900 of that for taxes), there are few growing industries and even fewer burgeoning ones, nobody can obtain personal loans, and young people enter the working world with either badly strained credit and indentured servitude to that debt, or no credit at all and a severely impaired earning ability. There is no venue in this country to truly pull yourself up by your bootstraps anymore, you need to have help: from banks, from individuals, and yes, from the government.
They share their living arrangements, more than almost any other generation in recent history, with other people (friends, family, partners) well into their twenties (even thirties) to mitigate the cost of living on what they make. They don’t buy cars like their parents’ generation did, nor do they (or can they) buy homes. They are under-insured or uninsured, at the leisure of their employers. Salaried employees are lucky to have any retirement plan at all, as pensions are a thing of the past and 401Ks are likewise on the way out. Salaried employees, particularly those without children, are expected to live for their work, working those 60 and 80 hour weeks without overtime and often at a reduced pay-grade to those even five years their senior. Millenials have been paying into social security for ten years, but will likely never receive any of that aid themselves, which was a known reality in the early nineties, when Millenials were grade-schoolers and Gen-Xers were just starting out.
People with college degrees work in minimum wage jobs to make ends meet. Millenials increasingly put off having children because they cannot afford them, or have children only to find the cost of daycare is approaching the cost of a semester in college and is therefore crippling. If a young couple is just starting out, they might find quickly that outdated financial policy (such as the poverty line for a family of four being set at $22K or the lack of a living minimum wage that takes into account the rising costs of food, shelter, and fuel) makes getting themselves established profoundly difficult.
The perception of Millenials as whiny, entitled, poorly educated, or lacking a work ethic is misguided and often the result of expecting Millenials to embrace the economy as is. Millenials fundamentally cannot embrace the economy as is because the economy in no way embraces them. The old rules do not work anymore, not for most. Millenials are stretching their higher education out over the length of their twenties; they are shoe-horning themselves into specializations to find work.
If we seem poorly educated, perhaps acknowledge that ever since integration, support for public schools and education in this country took a suspicious turn for the truly appalling. Perhaps come to grips with the fact that children all over the place are actually being left behind. Perhaps consider that being 16th in the world for literacy of school age children is not indicative of America being number one. Perhaps entertain the notion that in a nation of millions and millions of people, there should be real national standards, that politicians shouldn’t write our text books, and that teachers shouldn’t be villified for working in appalling conditions under extreme stress and for long hours (much longer than the school day itself) to educate children whose own parents don’t respect the necessity of their education (and certainly not the necessity of educating the other children in their peer group, who they will one day have to work with to keep this country running). Perhaps don’t idolize Ayn Rand who, after receiving her own education courtesy of the sweat and dedication of others, decided that no one else deserves the same opportunity.
If we seem whiny, perhaps consider that the system doesn’t work for us. It’s not that we aren’t trying, it’s that what worked for you isn’t working for us, and quite frankly my dear, you’ve had the data in front of you about quite a bit of these hindrances for a long ass time. But because of the increasing polarization in politics and the burning need to get some kind of moral orgasm out of elections, your generation — not mine — has been kicking real, universally beneficial change down the round until we reach a crisis point that the Millenials have been taught our whole lives is coming, but ya’ll seem to be noticing just recently. It’s almost like, if I might borrow some of your language, the Boomers didn’t want to do any actual work in office, or something. So we’re starting to make noise about it and we’re getting louder because nothing is changing for us. We’re not whining, we’re expressing how the system — the system that got you going and that hobbles along rather well all things considered for you now — is not getting us going, is not starting us out, and is not working for us.
If we seem entitled, try not projecting quite so much. We will never, as a whole, live as well as our parents’ generation did. Not at any stage of our lives. Despite that, we are, as a whole, far more willing to sacrifice our current standard of living to pay out in better education, healthcare, public transportation, and standards in food, air, and water quality. We are a generation that desires strong, thriving community living. We are not communists, and we also aren’t afraid of communists. We’ve just lived in suburbs long enough to see how sprawl hurts our country and economy in the long run. We’re fans of efficiency and technology. (We as a group opt for smart phones over cars, and as children of the advent of the internet, we believe in open-source projects, tutoring those just starting out, and bringing people with different strengths to bear on problems) We want to be able to change our course from a model of living that we cannot possibly maintain, to a model that can sustain itself and foster its people to better things. And, I reiterate, we are as a group far more willing to sacrifice our current standard of living to achieve positive growth. We are the people of the Great Recession, and like our grandparents and great-grandparents, we are willing to support each other through the hard times to get back to the good. If that’s entitlement, then yes, we feel we’re entitled to the opportunity to participate in the growth and prosperity of our country.
If, after all of this, we seem to lack a work-ethic, perhaps you should redefine your understanding of the phrase. As defined by Wikipedia (because why not?): “Work ethic is a set of values based on hard work and diligence. It is also a belief in the moral benefit of work and its ability to enhance character. An example would be the Protestant work ethic. A work ethic may include being reliable, having initiative, or pursuing new skills. Workers exhibiting a good work ethic in theory should be selected for better positions, more responsibility and ultimately promotion. Workers who fail to exhibit a good work ethic may be regarded as failing to provide fair value for the wage the employer is paying them and should not be promoted or placed in positions of greater responsibility.”
Millenials are only failing in any of these points based on skewed perception. Millenials, as pointed out above, seek out — of their own initiative — higher education, online education, and the acquirement of new skills, often specifically for the benefit of their work life or hire-ability. (Millenials make up a significant percentage of our armed forces, many just trying to get training for future careers or keep a roof over the heads of their families.) Millenials literally cannot afford to be unreliable, just as they cannot afford to be sick, cannot afford to walk away from their jobs, and cannot afford to have children without family support. On a case by case basis, certainly a Millenial might be unreliable, but that’s an individual trait and not indicative of the mentality of the whole. Millenials have no laurels to rest on, they barter with friends to make sure their bases are covered, and they compromise to get done what needs doing.
Millenials have a work ethic, a strong one, but it is pointed towards a different end goal than the one their parents sought. We have no guarantee that we won’t be forced to work until the day we drop dead. In fact, most of us anticipate that that is pretty much what will happen to us. We don’t believe much in the “American Dream” as an obtainable goal in the near-term. We just want to live happily with people we love, work we enjoy and that fulfills us, and stay healthy as we can (because god help us if we get sick). We want people to be treated equally, corporations to be treated as businesses, government to keep us from being taken advantage of in court or in the marketplace, a non-toxic environment and food on the shelves that won’t kill us, schools that compete internationally, and jobs that don’t dissolve under us or take away more than they provide.
Finally, while Millenial frustration with the Boomer generation grows with each successive, ineffectual session of Congress, the Boomer generation (and, quite frankly, the “Greatest” Generation) have openly disdained, defamed, and derided us for the last ten years (and Gen X before us — and still, for that matter, if the Gen X-ers don’t look more like Boomers than not). We have been called irresponsible, never once having been afforded the chance at responsibility. We have been called lazy without the opportunity to work. We are talked down to, stripped of benefits, taken advantage of, and written off. We fall all over the political spectrum, but receive representation from no one. We are keenly aware that in a few years Boomers will have retired or “moved on,” and that we will then be left holding the proverbial bag for over forty years of policies that haven’t really worked for most of our lifetimes. And the longer some of these things go on, the more devastating the effects of having to rectify them.
So you may think us a lot of things but we? We think you’re lazy. We think you’re entitled. We think you have no business ethics. We think you lack the morality to treat people equally. We think you’ve set up our country as an institution that discourages parenthood, discourages blue collar industry, discourages non-sensationalist media, discourages progress (as in, best practices), and discourages the value of the factual over the blatantly false. We’ll agree to disagree on who has it worse in the job market, but we’ll re-evaluate your moral pedestal if you re-evaluate your empathy.