In the comments section of my old article on Baby Boomers and economic malaise, Beatrix had this to say about my fellow Millennials:
“I deal with a lot of Millennials, they have to be the most pathetic generation yet – Their attitude – why bother with education when you can download the world in an instant? Socially retarded, I guess manners & basic courtesy have become completely outdated also. The unbelievably prolonged adolescence, supercilious narcissism, blatant ageism – ughhhhhhh you can’t tell them anything, they know it all.”
Here’s what I had to say in response:
“Believe me, I’m hardly singing the praises of Millennials. As I pointed out in my last interview with Robert Stark, many if not most really are a bunch of feckless social media addicts and gamers.
However, the Baby Boomers still deserve significantly greater scorn and criticism than Millennials. They were essentially handed the most prosperous civilization in all of human history on a silver platter, and through their greed, hedonism, and negligence have driven it into the ground. Say what you will about Millennials, but we didn’t create the housing bubble, outsource all good blue collar jobs (along with many white collar jobs), crash the global economy, etc.
I also concede that many Millennials have significant problems relating to everyday people. But again, it wasn’t Millennials who created “helicopter parenting” and an obsession with safety and security. When even a tiny scraped knee becomes an emergency, it’s hard to develop a sense of adventure and independence as a kid. Not to mention, as the late and great George Carlin once pointed out, they even have “play dates.” How can kids learn to develop a healthy sense of social skills when neurotic helicopter moms are planning the simple act of hanging out with a friend? When life becomes so aggressively regulated and stultifying, the natural response is to just retreat and do things like play video games.
Millennials are very much dysfunctional, but they are a product of the cultural cesspool and economic quagmire bequeathed to them by the boomers. The boomers pissed on the sacrifices and traditional values of their Greatest Generation parents, and have medicated, aggressively regulated, and sold short their own children. They were given everything, and have given those coming after them very little. They deserve to go down in history as the worst generation.”
Just to clarify, Beatrix’s comment does not anger me, nor is she a Boomer. However, I nevertheless feel compelled to tackle the question of generational blame once and for all.
To add to my comment posted above, I feel that generations ought to be judged based on how they behave when it’s their turn to wield power. The Greatest Generation, while reviled as bunch of mean racists and sexists, were an industrious bunch that made numerous sacrifices and enabled their Baby Boomer children to inherit a better world than the one in which they grew up. When the Boomers were kids, they deemed their parents a bunch of conformist oppressors, which prompted various forms of rebellion. And hey, compared to economic prosperity and family stability, being able to smoke weed and engage in “free love” are indeed vital components of a free and healthy society.
However, now that the Boomers are the ones wielding power, they have proven to be even more tyrannical than the Greatest Generation could have dreamed of being. For starters, a significant number of Boomers practice a kind of invasive parenting that would have shocked and appalled their own parents:
“More than two-thirds of us think there ought to be a law that kids as old as 9 should supervised while playing at a public park, which helps explain (though not justify) the arrest of a South Carolina mother who let her phone-enabled daughter play in a busy park while she worked at a nearby McDonald’s. We think on average that kids should be 10 years old before they “are allowed to play in the front yard unsupervised.” Unless you live on a traffic island or a war zone, that’s just nuts.
It gets worse: We think that our precious bundles of joy should be 12 before they can wait alone in a car for five minutes on a cool day or walk to school without an adult, and that they should be 13 before they can be trusted to stay home alone. You’d think that kids raised on Baby Einstein DVDs should be a little more advanced than that.”
Boomers who are always whining about how today’s kids won’t step up and take responsibility should perhaps consider the possibility that overprotecting and smothering children with safety might have a little something to do with such fecklessness and a lack of independence.
In general, the most aggravating part about Millennial bashing from Boomers is the way they conveniently absolve themselves of any responsibility for creating our current mess. For a great fictional example of such behavior, check out the following clip from the show The Newsroom (Skip to around the 3:00 mark):
When ridiculing that blonde college girl, it’s as if he’s blaming her generation for the various American pathologies that he bemoans. Last time I checked, Millennials aren’t in charge of our schools, prisons, health care system, the military-industrial complex, or any other institution responsible for these various problems. Millennials likewise are not responsible for our completely useless and dysfunctional congress, which is dominated by (you guessed it) Baby Boomers.
Under the watchful eye of the Boomers, income inequality has skyrocketed, the police have grown more militarized, wealth has been increasingly “created” through paper shuffling rather than any genuine production, our liberties continue to be eroded through the likes of NSA surveillance, jobs have been increasingly outsourced, and our nation’s debt is enormous. Need I go on?
If anything, Boomers ought to be grateful that Millennials are not engaging in mass rebellion and protest against their corrupt practices, even though we have far greater cause to resent the Boomers than they had to rebel against their own parents.
In conclusion, while Millennials are indeed screwed up, we are not the architects of our society’s demise. Our worth as a generation will ultimately be determined once it is our turn to act as the stewards of our civilization.