The Editor’s Desk: Ease off on millennials

The younger generation will be the ones cleaning up the mess they’ve inherited from the older one

There is a fair bit of contempt from many older people for the “millennials” (those born between 1982 and 2004); and presumably there will be a comparable amount of worry about, and censure of, whatever those born after 2004 come to be called.

I don’t know why every generation feels compelled to look at those who come after them and call them out as lazy, ignorant, entitled, and rude. Aristotle did that 2,400 years ago, but somehow we’ve managed to keep things going.

I’m the mother of a millennial, and have never considered him to be “grossly thoughtless, rude, and utterly selfish” (as one commenter said of the younger generation in 1925), nor did I think these things about his classmates, or the many younger people I’ve worked with on many theatre productions. Sometimes it’s hard to read the criticism levelled at the millennials, given that many people who study these things have predicted that their generation will be the first in almost a century not to enjoy a better standard of living than the generation that came before them.

That’s why it’s heartening to see that millennials are fighting back: not with demonstrations, or violence, or vulgarity. but with the simple term “Okay, boomer.” It’s usually said dismissively, with a hint of weariness and a soupçon of contempt, and as you might guess, it’s levelled at those who they consider to be baby boomers; that is, people born between 1945 and 1964 (full disclosure: I was born at the very end of 1963, so am technically a boomer, but have never thought of myself as one).

Why pick on the boomers? Because they’re the generation that millennials see as having created much of the mess that younger people will have to deal with, and the generation that enjoyed many things — inexpensive post-secondary tuition; steady, well-paying jobs that didn’t necessarily need anything past a Grade 12 education; guaranteed pension plans; affordable housing; and much more — that many millennials will never experience.

The boomers have for decades been the largest demographic in our society, and they have dominated discourse and decisions about almost everything. Millennials see them as the epitome of the “I’m all right, Jack” mindset: having benefited from so many advantages, they’re largely uninterested in doing the hard work necessary to make sure those coming after them have a fair chance.

Millennials are among the loudest voices calling for action on climate change; hardly surprising, as they’re the ones who will be living with the consequences and dealing with it after the last of the boomers have shuffled off this mortal coil (and it’s interesting that it’s older people who seem most opposed to the idea of climate change, or the need to actually do anything about it). Millennials are the ones going heavily into debt to get the post-secondary education that 80 per cent of jobs now require, and having to wait longer and save more to purchase a condo or townhome, let alone a four-bedroom house. They’re the ones who increasingly don’t have the luxury of a company pension plan, and will probably never be able to afford to have a stay-at-home partner to look after their children, one-income families being (for the most part) a thing of the past.

They’re the ones whose taxes will go to support the health care needs of boomers, and the building of the long-term and residential care facilities that the boomers will increasingly need (and mostly failed to fund the building of when they had the chance).

In short, millennials are carrying a heavy enough load as it is, dealing with the mess that the older generation has left them. Ease off on the invective and criticism, and consider a heartfelt “I’m sorry” instead.

Barbara Roden is an editor with Black Press.

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