All week we've been talking about what a pain in the ass are these young people with educations and without mortgages.
I've contended that such people have always been a pain in the ass. Now I'm about to contend that it's us oldsters who have changed for the worse.
Or at least, what it is we have to offer these young people in exchange for their freedom.
You want these junior jamokes to pay some dues. To a company that tells them over and over that they have no right to expect job security no matter how competent and committed and loyal they are. (Loyal! When was the last time you even heard that term in connection with the workplace?)
You say they should be more patient. So that they can eventually have—what? The job that's going to be made redundant when you're laid off five years before they're ready?
Are you teaching them a trade that will serve them well their whole lives? I didn't think so.
You want them to show a little more respect, for—what? Even if you're working for IBM, it's not like you're working for IBM—or HP, or GE, the Chicago Tribune. These institutions are not the institutions that they used to be, just as the country they exist in isn't the country that it used to be.
Yet we still expect our young people to buckle down as seem to remember buckling down, back in the day. And when they don't, we say they're coddled.
But we don't tell them that. We tell each other, behind their backs.
They may have been coddled by their parents but they're not coddled by their country, their company or their professional elders, who are too busy surviving to spend any time teaching or mentoring anyone at work. They're neglected by people who don't take responsibility for them, who don't confront them, who don't teach them anything—but who instead despair, like childless aunts and uncles who think it's the children who are being selfish.
It's not them, my friends. It's us.
The problem is our insistence on acting like every generation is special. The biggest thing that ever really sets any “younger generation” apart is their youth, which in some way concerns/offends/annoys those of us who have either lost or are currently losing our own youth (and yet, if we’re honest, we probably don’t really miss most of it). And we get frustrated at our own inability to convince those younger than us not to make the same stupid mistakes we made, knowing all the while that they will in some version because that’s part of the cycle.
2,000 yeas ago Cicero lamented “Times are bad. Children no longer obey their parents and everyone is writing a book.” The only difference now is everyone is tweeting instead of writing a book. We Gen Xers were supposed to be the disaffected, lazy cynics who would never amount to anything. Then Kurt Cobain died and we got jobs and families and mortgages and did what every generation before us did: we grew up.
Overall, millennials will be no different. Sure, the world of their youth is different from ours and the boomers’ in some remarkable ways. But against that backdrop, in the end most of them will still grow up to be reasonably responsible adults who get “average” jobs (whatever average looks like) so they can comfortably complain about what’s wrong with the world while raising their own kids to alternately envy and worry about. A small percentage will do things that change the world for us all – hopefully mostly for the better. A larger but still minority share will never really figure it out and generally be screw ups of some order until the grave, blaming their parents and the system and the world in general for their lot in life (and regrettably a portion of them will have a legitimate beef on that score, but not all of them). And at some point along that path they’ll wonder individually and collectively, quietly or out loud, whether they did it right or well enough to not screw it up for their kids, and whether they treated their kids like they were too special or not special enough. And so it goes.
David Murray says
And so it goes.
I just figure it’s not so much us or them that’s the problem. It’s more us and them. Having said all that, I agree with your point that we’re not exactly going out of our way to make it easier for the kids these days. Although, for all the obstacles we may create there’s probably some truth to the cliche that they also have some advantages even we didn’t have, let alone our parents. It’s harder, but maybe in some ways it’s easier.
David Murray says
Agreed, Rueben, but we should try to articulate the ways in which it’s harder and easier and why. We should do better than, “Kids today are coddled because they always got blue ribbons when they were little.” And yes, we must do better than just blaming the bosses.
I DO, however, think that a big problem—a big change in the last generation or two—is EVERYONE’S lack of respect for and sacred trust in institutions, industries and the nations and very societies in which those exist.
If the employee isn’t thrilled to work there and the boss doesn’t deeply identify with the place and the management doesn’t see the institution as a crucial part of a nation that doesn’t even take much pride in its place in the world anymore … well no wonder everyone is unhappy and unwilling to sacrifice time and love to the whole enterprise!
THAT’S why we’re grouchy. And it’s probably why we give the little fuckers blue ribbons just for participating. Cuz what’s the difference, anyway?
The only people I like in this whole chain of sadness is the little fuckers: Who as I’ve said know goddamn well who deserves the blue ribbon and who doesn’t.
Re: the lack of respect and trust in institutions etc – I could not agree more. You and I are gonna need to start an entirely separate blog to deal with that one 🙂 But I completely agree that it’s the most important societal change we’ve seen in our lifetimes. And the most concerning. One thing is for sure: the solution is not to tear down those institutions. As flawed as they may have become, there are reasons they exist – and those reasons are still valid, we just seem to have forgotten them.