X vs Y (re. Generations rather than gender/chromosomes, surprisingly)

It is now a commonly accepted fact of life that the Millennials, individuals who were born between the early eighties to mid/late-nineties, are a spoiled, dependent, lazy, selfish and ridiculous bunch.

We complain too much, we pity ourselves too much, and most of all, we expect too much.

Yet we’re also the first generation who is making, and is expected to continue to make, on average, smaller salaries than our parents did and are.. I don’t know whether or not this projection takes inflation into account, but I’d believe it either way, and would also go so far as to say this fact warrants at least a partial amount of our complaints, and our expectations of more. But the criticisms against the Y Generation far exceed concerns related to the economic sector…

We are also over-sensitive, too easily offended, irresponsible, self-important, self-aggrandized, ungrateful, disrespectful and totally removed from reality.

But here’s the thing, the majority of our faults, are not all our fault.

If we are entitled, it is because our parents indulged us.

If we have failed to become hard workers, it is because our parents failed to discipline us.

If we whine and complain, it is because our parents rewarded whining with excessive sympathy and complaints with excessive coddling.

Thus, many of the popular epithets used to describe us are extremely unfair. And yes, I know that by writing such a statement, it may seem as if I’m conforming to the stereotype, but I don’t believe that I am, because yes, I am well aware that ‘life isn’t fair’. But life isn’t what I’m taking issue with here, ‘life’ itself did not produce and propagate these unjust disparagements against Generation Y out of nowhere, our parents did.

To clarify, when I use the words ‘unjust’ and ‘unfair’, I am applying them not to the labels themselves (for yes, the majority of us do have entitled and self-involved attitudes, and succumb to bouts of ‘woe is me’ etcetera etcetera), I apply them to the notion underneath these criticisms that imply the onus for our state of ideological affairs is entirely on us.

For the irony of the injustice lies in the fact that our parents’ favorite complaints are about our complaints, their favorite well of self-pity to draw from is our self-pitying,
that they are never more immature than when addressing our immaturity, or more deluded when discussing our delusions.

If we are lazy, it is because you permitted us to be.

If we have high expectations, it is because our parents bred that in us.

Because if you tell an entire generation that anything is possible as long as they believe in themselves hard enough, how can you be surprised when that group matures to be so immature that they are nicknamed ‘The Peter Pan’ generation, when that group refuses to grow up because they are funnelling so much energy into ‘believing’ rather than ‘doing’….

But before I delve further into the intrinsic hypocrisies of Generation X, and attempt to unpick their baffling, nigh-omnipresent proclivity to evade self-awareness and accountability at all costs, I’ll recount, for context’s sake, the latest encounters I’ve had with texts that blatantly offend, or address the blatant offenses against, myself and my peers.

The first, and most recent, is an article written by someone who sits in the same camp as I, that of ‘A Millennial fed-up with this bullshit’.

The second consists of passages from a recently released novel, written by someone who sits almost as far from me demographically as possible (a white man approaching his seventies).

Radhika Sanghani, the author of the first, had to use the public’s fixation with ‘celebrity’ as a pretext to publish her point- That “the roll call of dismissive labels used to describe my peers shows no sign of slowing down”, and “we must learn to distinguish between the truly gratuitous and the honest”. But of course that message had to be folded into a more Media-and-the-masses-friendly topic: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/life/reaction-emma-watsons-sulky-day-bed-speaks-volumes/

“This week, we moaning millennials welcomed another to our ranks. Emma Watson, one of the most successful 26-year-olds in Britain, has been called a “poor little luvvie” for “harping on” and “bleating” (read: dare to speak honestly) about her life.”

This, Sanghani goes on to say, is symptomatic of the increasing fad to belittle and dismiss our generation “as ‘Generation Whinge’. Or ‘Generation Snowflake'”.

Sanghani, like myself, admits that we deserve these epithets to an extent, but she doesn’t ask the reader to do anything beyond be more considerate and less eager to attack, when stereotyping our generation in this way.

Her article is also directed to a general audience, anyone who jumps the gun with these descriptors, where as mine is directed more specifically to those who not only perpetuate these stereotypes, but are largely at fault for their existence in the first place- our parents.

And despite the willingness of many of us Millennials to discuss our widespread behavioural faults and supposed ‘predispositions’, and nearly all cross-generational individuals’ enjoyment in vituperating about this new status quo, there are still no mainstream attempts to probe the ‘why’ or ‘how to resolve’ elements of the issue***.

But let me back track slightly and move on on to reference number two to provide an example of the gleeful vituperation I mentioned..

“A strange mood has seized the almost-educated young.” Ian McEwan writes sarcastically in his latest novel, “They’re on the march, angry at times, but mostly needful, longing for authority’s blessing, its validation of their chosen identities. The decline of the West in a new guise perhaps. Or the exaltation and liberation of the self… ‘I’ll feel therefore I’ll be. Let poverty go begging and climate change braise in hell. Social justice can drown in ink. I’ll be an activist of the emotions, a loud campaigning spirit fighting with tears and sighs to shape institutions around my vulnerable self.'”

If we are almost educated, it is because YOU and YOUR peers allowed our schools, along with the whole education system, to deprecate under standardized rubrics and lack of governmental funding.

If we are all not volunteering to conceive and enact plans to clean up the mess our parents and their parents and their parents before them left behind, perhaps it is because you have failed to blaze a clear enough trail for us to follow and do so, or because most of those in charge or in positions to do so, are NOT members of our generation, and have not themselves sufficiently or actively addressed the crippled environment & attempted to prevent further human trespasses against it, nor invested enough effort or money into either tackling the issue or pressing the importance and urgency of it into the public mentality at large.

If we prefer the ink from our pens (or printers) to picket lines in our attempts to promote social change, why are YOU allowed to do just that and not us?

Don’t get me wrong, I actually adore Ian McEwan, just as I adore many of my own relatives who feel exactly the same as he does, I’m just disappointed in them, and the ease with which they’ve all clamoured on to the anti-millennial trend, which frankly, in my opinion, is one big, fat COP OUT.

Because if these patterns in our characters have taken hold of the vast majority of our generation, then isn’t the mathematics pretty simple as to why this happened and where it came from?! If there is a common denominator among all subjects of a defined age bracket, and that being studied (personality) in those subjects (human beings) is essentially composed of some combination of two variables (nature and nurture), and generational parameters are subject entirely to the second variable (nurture- environmental factors), then the answer to the ‘why’ and the ‘how’ should be painfully obvious.

These faults of ours have one main and easily identifiable cause, the very entities that are giving us the most shit for them, our parents. From a biological standpoint, it would be simply impossible for all of these traits, ‘selfishness’ ‘entitlement’, ‘ingratitude’, ‘idleness’, etcetera to be ‘inherent’ in every single member of our generation’s natures. No, those were either learned, or fostered in those with the actual genetic ‘proneness’.

Every individual is a composition of some combination of nature and nurture. The precise percentages vary, and have not yet been standardized because the territory and overlap is so complex and intricate, but the irrefutable fact is we are all some of one and some of the other, and whatever the ratio is, the responsibility of most aspects of our characters rooted in ‘nurture’, lies almost entirely with our parents.

If we are not robust, it is because we were babied far too often and for far too long.

If we can’t get jobs, maybe instead of blaming our work ethics and questioning our qualifications, you could blame the economy and the housing crisis you and your kind, your negligence and stubborn refusal to confront reality, created…

If we don’t understand how easy we have it (compared to you), it is because you never showed us how hard it could be.

[SIDENOTE- and if it makes you and/or your frustration at our lack of appreciation, feel any better, try to bear in mind how hard it’s been threatening to get, and now is finally about to get, for us, by remembering who our president is. And sleep peacefully reminding yourself that our ‘ingratitude’ will be punished all the more severely by these imminent hardships, by the suffering you failed to equip us to deal with. YOUR generations caused the financial crash, YOUR generations voted for Trump, voted for Brexit, ours voted resoundingly against all… No we may not know what it’s like to be spanked, but the world is preparing both literal and figurative bombs to slap, hurt, and destroy us with, for us to experience instead, thanks to the way you ran this planet]

And if we are monsters? It is because you were our Victor Frankensteins, because you were not prepared and/or able to properly raise and nurture what you created, and chose to abandon us and/or our needs, rather than take the more difficult route of adjusting us to the difficult world your arrogance chose to bring us into.

McEwan goes on to write in Nutshell-

“My identity will be my precious, my only true possession, my access to the only truth. The world must love, nourish and protect it as I do. If my college does not bless me, validate me and give me what I clearly need, I’ll press my face into the vice chancellor’s lapels and weep. Then demand his resignation.”

If we are precious and protective over our identities, that comes from the lessons our parents gave us.

If we are obsessed with and vocal about our emotions, it is because we know we live in a world with dwindling material resources, and are adjusting our priorities accordingly….

If we demand sensitivity to our emotions, it is because you provided a space of constant sensitivity to them that we were then conditioned to expect to be the norm.

If we can’t control our emotions, it is because you never validated them.

To be clear, this is not at all an attack on my own parents, I love my my mother and father beyond words, and know they did their best, in more than usually challenging circumstances.

This is an appeal to all parents, that have succumbed to one, some or all of the irritating and unfair finger-pointing and blame games that I have laid out here.

An appeal to them to take partial accountability over how I, my siblings, and my peers, have turned out and will turn out. And it is no more and no less of an appeal to my parents as it is to all of the parents of children my age or there abouts that I’ve never met, as well as some specific parents that I have met.

It is an appeal to the parents of one of my bestest of best friends, who refused to acknowledge that her mental health issues and mood disorders were ‘real’, until she was hospitalized for them multiple times. Until then, and sometimes still now, they blamed her issues on ‘self-centredness’ ‘ingratitude’ ‘self-pity’ and ‘laziness’. Because, I suspect, it was easier for them to attribute any negativity in her life to her attributes rather than their own parenting choices, for the sake of their own consciences and self-esteem (are they so feeble they require more nurturing than your kids?). Which is an emerging pattern with many of our parents, but my question to them is: Are these measures of self-worth more important to you than your children’s well-being? Because that is what you are telling us every time you insist unquestionably on shrugging all accountability for our trials, tribulations, and traits, off of your own shoulders and onto ours.

Just as much as it is an appeal to the parents of a once upon a time friend, who had been so ill-equipped and indulged by her divorced parents (at twenty-eight, not only has she never supported herself financially, she also regularly bitched about being made to dip into her trust fund to pay for grad school), that she had developed a shocking lack of self-awareness (despite being adept at reading and understanding others) and become pathologically in love with playing the victim. This ex-friend demonstrated on multiple occasions that holding onto this deluded sense of self was far more important to her than friendship, reason or integrity. Her delusions proved to be more powerful than her compassion (which was usually strong), and ability to treat people with decency and respect… She also was so incapable of coping with conflict, that she had her father email my father to intercede in one of our final disputes… When I discovered this, I was staggered at how reminiscent of grade school the whole debacle had become, and fully sympathetic to the frustrations re. my generation that those older than me voiced- this woman in her late twenties acted more sheltered, spoiled, removed from the real world, and reliant on her parents, than my eleven year old cousin.

This is also an appeal to the parents of another dear friend, who, after throwing money at him for thirty years, refused to loan him the small sum he needed when his job was in jeopardy, after he had been independent for the first extended period of time in his life (and hadn’t asked to borrow money from them for the longest period before that). It was at this time that his parents decided the circumstances were ripe ‘to teach him a lesson’,  to give him a harsh ‘taste of reality’ so he could finally ‘learn how to handle money’. I’m sorry, but they should have been giving him those lessons a decade ago, and gradually. My friend consequently lost the job, and his parents responded by hurling hurtful and insulting allegations against him, when it would have more just and appropriate to take some time to reflect on how his mistakes were more of a reflection of their defective parenting than his inherent personality.

There are a number of other examples I’m tempted to include here, but this text is already far too lengthy, so I’ll save them for another time, and try to start wrapping things up:

To all the parents out there who may or may not be reading this: Just know that every time one of you says out loud something along the lines of; ‘but what did we do wrong? I just can’t think of what we did wrong’, or ‘but what more could we have done?’ you’re not fooling anyone. Though kudos for figuring out this way to appear empathetic and concerned while essentially just bragging about your spotless parenting record. But I suppose that’s appropriate though for the generation obsessed with being the martyr (oh, I’m sorry, does that offend, upset, or hurt you? I guess epithets that recriminate an entire generation aren’t very fair or nice, huh?)

But speaking of martyrs… My final grudge:

If we are too quick to play the victim, it is because our parents taught us to do that by example.

The best evidence for this assertion is the defensiveness our parents display whenever this topic is breached. The readiness of Generation Xers to lose it when confronted with any kind of criticism is, in no small way, astounding.

Our parents also have a habit of looking not only below but also above, to account for practically every single one of their hardships, without hardly ever considering the possibility that they might also need to take some onus for some of the crap in their lives and this world.

And though our parents love criticizing their parents almost as much as they love criticizing us, the plain fact of the matter is, if our parents are indeed ‘better’ than us, the only reasonable explanation for that umbrella demographic superiority would be- they had better parents than we did.

However others have posited that our grandparents are also indirectly responsible for the ‘character defects’ all millennials share (that they too love to point out and disparage, however usually in a fonder way, which I assume is rooted in the lack of insecurity that they are the cause). Many of the baby boomers raised their children with strict rules and disciplinary measures, demands of respect, encouragement of independence, and ideologies of pragmatism, which was a logical consequence of being the children of those who had lived through the great depression and/or WWII. In turn, their children went towards the opposite pole when it came to raising their own kids- with sheltering and incessant praise, demands of friendship, encouragement of ambition, and ideologies of ‘special-ness’….

This, as I’ve noted, is not an original correlation, I’ve read about studies on the second degree repercussions of generational parenting in a couple different places. However I would like to point out that the fact that this material exists indicates that explanations to the shared ‘negative’ commonalities of the previous generation have been sought, with the majority of responsibility being placed squarely on our grandparents. And so, while Millennials are scorned and made to bear the brunt of blame for their personalities, those that preceded us are excused, and the circumstances surrounding the socio-political climate of the years they and their parents grew up in, taken into account instead of aspersions being made on their innate selves.

And look, we know your tried. We know some of you tried really really hard and gave it everything you had. And most of us are extremely grateful. But I’m not saying you didn’t try enough, didn’t do enough. I’m saying there’s a chance you might not have gone about it in the best possible way. And that, it itself, is one hundred percent okay. We are all human, and de facto all susceptible to human error (of which there are infinite possibilities of). What isn’t okay, what I’m getting really freaking tired of, is your refusal to accept any culpability over the negative aspects of the adults you raised us to be, and your taking a lot of your own B.S. out on us.

I’m also not trying to imply that you didn’t raise your kids well, or that you were at all bad parents, what I’m getting at is: You need to own up to the fact that how you raised your kids directly affected who and where they are now (so if you have a problem with that, you need to share a load of that responsibility), and you might do well to think about the ways you could be better parents to your kids now, when we’ve grown up.

Basically, it’s time to admit there were a few things you did wrong, that you were not perfect, because none of us are.

 

***Addendum: I have to eat my words here because just yesterday I happened to catch a ‘recommended’ headline in an email from linkedin- The Brutal Truth about Why Gen Xers Hate Millennials (how did you know linkedin?!)- I was of course prompted to open the link (and prompted to polish and publish my own piece on the subject as quickly as possible)..

The article’s writer, Matthew Jones, is a licensed therapist and has a PHD in clinical psychology- and it was affirming indeed to have a much more technically qualified professional not only back up of some of my own hypotheses, but also go further in his indictment of the demographic I’m challenging here.

The overlap in Jones’ text and mine, are 1) our delineations of the almost bigoted attitudes of Generation X towards Generation Y: “These older individuals perceive a sense of entitlement, difficulty taking feedback, a tendency to ask too many “why” questions, and a lack of work ethic in the younger generation.” (Jones)

2) Our expressions of discontent with the harmful results of that attitude:

“These perspectives prevent Gen-Xers from giving back and may lead them to feel even more isolated from contemporary culture and the youth they raise” (Jones).

And 3) our belief that our parents continually translate some of the deficiencies in their parenting into deficiencies in our characters, out of some fundamental resistance to accepting blame:

Blaming Millennials is a great way to make yourself feel better. It makes you feel like you did something “the right way” and they are doing things “the wrong way.” It also helps you feel justified in your actions, giving meaning to your suffering. The more you can deal with an external conflict, the less you have to look in the mirror.” (Jones)

Our paths fork however in our endeavours to define the underlying cause of these attitudes and their adverse impact- where I see ‘insecurity’ and ‘resentment’, Jones sees ‘hatred’ and ‘envy’, where I detect temporally specific and circumstantial causes for the phenomenon, Jones cites the more universal and timeless ‘fear of mortality’ as the explanation…

For those interested, here’s the link to the full article: http://www.inc.com/matthew-jones/the-brutal-truth-about-why-gen-xers-hate-millennials-that-no-one-wants-to-admit.html

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