One of my seminar leaders in the term just gone regularly confused the term ‘millennial’ with ‘millenarian.’ If it was a Freudian slip, then I resent its implications. The difference between the two words is sonically miniscule, but semantically gargantuan. The latter group is hoping to bring about the apocalypse by any means necessary — that Christ may return and rule over the wicked with an iron fist for a thousand years — while the righteous ascend to Heaven to enjoy an eternity beside the throne of the Almighty. The former is facing, whether they like it or not, an apocalyptic future, marred by the isolationist tendencies of the baby boomers, in which personal and economic hardship are brutal and inescapable facts of life. I hope the two groups are mutually exclusive.
‘attitudes that older generations hold towards us are a product of their own actions.’
Millennials are lazy. This attitude is present in the very word. The ‘boomers’ boomed, the ‘Xers’ Xed, whatever that means. Meanwhile, our generation is defined not by a verb, but by an adjective, and one that is neither very willingly self-applied, nor even all that meaningful. Not all baby boomers in the generational sense are baby boomers in the literal sense, contributing unequally as they did to the massive proliferation in birth rate following the wars. However, being a millennial is inescapable, and it is not a moniker we can throw off if we dislike it. It defines us by the very accident of our birth at a particular moment in recent history, and the attitudes that older generations hold towards us are a product of their own actions towards us.
‘are we not the product of a generation of people who grew up during the “me” decade?’
Millennials are entitled. Very well; but are we not the product of a generation of people who grew up during the ‘Me’ Decade? Consumerism has defined our lives to the extent that seemingly omnipresent celebrities, idols of our peer group, define themselves almost purely in relation to commerce. ‘Yes I am personally rich and I can buy furs and houses for my family’ tweets Kanye.
our material conditions create a materially entitled generation.
The videos and social media presences of Youtube sensation Zoella are so riddled with links to makeup and apparel websites that it’s difficult to delineate between advertisement and consumption. We live in a world where we can order something we want on Amazon in a pre-coffee daze and have it in our hands before dusk, without even leaving our house. These are the exact conditions that will inevitably produce a materially entitled generation. But as with the material circumstances surrounding the children of Wartime, and their children in turn, the material circumstances we find ourselves maturing in are not there by our volition. We do not run Amazon, and we do not deliver packages by drone to people’s doorsteps. The circumstances one grows up in are necessarily built and determined by previous generations.
It is however, really rather rich for baby boomers to argue that our generation is entitled. Their narcissism was established on a bygone asceticism enforced that our country could fight the evil of bloodthirsty far right groups, and a good thing it is too, that our country did resist those threats to civilisation. ‘We had rationing,’ the boomers cry, ‘but you don’t know what it’s like to go to bed hungry and afraid.’ And we don’t, by and large. The thick-skinned, broad-backed Self-denial of the baby boomers was a boon for the country, and for future generations, and their sacrifices must never be taken for granted. Their asceticism was, however, a thing of the past a very long time ago. The post war economic boom benefitted them greatly as a group, and the middle class flourished. But I do wonder if the very economic circumstances they fuelled and built didn’t contribute to the recent Brexit referendum results, or the current housing crisis.
‘It is the proliferation in population, the fault solely of boomers, that has led to such staggering competition.’
For example, my grandmother is deplorably xenophobic. I have stories about her antics that would raise a liberal’s hackles and delight the votaries of UKIP. However, like many racists, she does not seem to notice that although she hates having a sizeable Pakistani contingent in her Northern Seaside town, she has rather a soft spot for the Pakistani man who runs the corner shop. This cognitive dissonance, by its very nature, eludes her entirely. The widespread distrust of the figure of the foreigner in her generation is very likely down to the foreign incursions on civilised society which defined her formative years. All three of her uncles perished at the hands of a foreign enemy, and the ‘other’ of foreign groups is anathema to what her loved ones stood for in her formative years. That no member state of the EU has been to war against another since the end of the second world war did nothing to sway her leave sensibilities, though. We are all aware of the straight line of correlation that can be drawn between age and euroscepticism.
However, it is the proliferation in population, the fault solely of the boomers, that has led to such staggering competition in job, education, and housing markets.
The impact of this horrifically crowded rat race which we’re thrust into as mere infants in year one of primary school, and compete in until we retire as bent-backed, senile fools at the ripe old age of 65 (70? 75? Who knows how old we may have to be when the time comes), is that as we enter the workplace, our bosses are shocked by our unceasing requests for validation. As employees, we are constantly demanding to know why we’re doing what we’re doing, and what bigger picture our labour is contributing to. The workers of previous generations were a boss’s wet dream due to their unfaltering willingness to follow instructions without question or complaint. One might speculate that this was a consequence of the respect that our military earned from the boomers by carrying out their superiors’ orders to the guaranteed futurity of the country. But, the world has changed drastically, and it is important to our generation that we know why our tasks are important. We want to feel like our life has meaning and like we’ve earned a role that actually impacts the world around us. Make no mistake though; the onus of making a working environment comfortable for millennial employees rests squarely on the shoulders of the employer. Many of us will never own our own houses, may be doomed to rent for all eternity, and our bed was made for us by the very people we’ll end up working for. The least older generations could do, in this commentator’s humble opinion, is respect the content of our characters, rather than denigrate it as lazy, entitled, or selfish.