Another week, another hand-wringing essay by some grumpy old grump about Generation Y.
This time, the article was run by the Huffington Post: ‘Why Generation Y Yuppies Are Unhappy‘. Although the article waffles on for a while in its weird invective towards my generation, its actual point is quite simple: Gen Y is unhappy because it has expectations about life that aren’t being met.
Apart from being a fairly obvious attempt to create linkbait on social media, it also reveals something deeper — more sinister — about the mindset of the older generations. ‘We are the generations that kicked out the ladder after we climbed to the top. We are the generations that have the greatest control over the media and now act as gatekeepers to maintain that control. We are the generations that entrenched economic absurdities that benefit us but will mean you won’t be able to afford to buy a house, get a post grad degree, or get sick. We are the generations that want to retire next week… you’re okay with footing the bill for that, yeah? Oh, and despite the fact that we are the generations that screwed you over, you’ve got a bad attitude. Really bad attitude.’
So you can’t program the VCR (it’s actually a DVD, grandpa) and now you’re cranky at all the young folk who feel like the world should be bright and shiny. And why shouldn’t the world be bright and shiny? The HuffPo article linked above uses the example of ‘Lucy’. What the article misses out on mentioning is that ‘Lucy’ had to be encouraged day after day at school to feel like she could have any job she liked outside the traditional ‘Teacher/Nurse/Housewife’. And now you’re taking a flying shit on her for thinking that she might one day be President? Unicorns and fairies, LOLOLOLOL. Obviously Lucy should have more ‘realistic’ ambitions. Perhaps she could be a teacher, nurse, or housewife?
Shut your extremely learned mouth, Justice Sotomayor. Don’t you dare give young women ideas above their station.
Even though it’s several orders of magnitude worse for Gen Y women, good luck being a Gen Y conservative who’s trying to make a crust from writing. On the one hand, you have the decrepit dinosaurs — the dusty relics from the old boys’ clubs — who have their rusted on columns with their rusted on media spewing their obnoxious hate and ignorance in order to stay mainstream and relevant. On the other hand, you have the well funded libertarian ‘research fellows’ who happily opine that the world would be better if poor people understood that they weren’t entitled to anything.
But, no. Apparently, the problem isn’t that old people are hanging around longer than ever in the plum jobs; the problem is that I’m a Gen Y and I stupidly thought that careers would be available. Silly me.
It’s even a nightmare in ordinary jobs. Old men who confuse ‘days on the job’ with ‘experience’ cling on to the management jobs and refuse to budge. Why are they there? Because they haven’t got enough in the bank to retire just yet. Because it’s too difficult and expensive to sack them for underperformance. Because if everybody else waits long enough, he’ll leave soon enough.
Perhaps we were too busy listening to all the shitty pop music that my generation created. Oh, wait! The older generations are in control of all that as well. Remember back in the olden days when books were good? Oh, wait! None of the best-selling authors read by my generation are from my generation.
The weirdest part about the critique is that it’s not even new. One of the oldest pieces of Western literature, The Iliad, is about a bunch of old guys telling the hot, young, talented guy (Achilles) that he’s got a bad attitude.
During the Trojan War, Achilles was given a local princess, Briseis, as a concubine. Achilles was this young man who was on top of his game. All of his enemies feared him and all of his older allies were extremely happy to have him on their side. One of those old guys, Agamemnon, was leading the fight against Troy and — for complicated reasons involving the gods — ended up demanding that Achilles give Briseis to him as a concubine. Achilles got mad — mainomai — and told everybody to go suck one.
We can imagine what Agamemnon would have said to Achilles today:
Agamemnon: I get why you’re kind of unhappy. It’s pretty straightforward — when the reality of someone’s life is better than they had expected, they’re happy. When reality turns out to be worse than the expectations, they’re unhappy. You’ve been told that you could be whatever you wanted to be, instilling the special protagonist identity deep within your psyche. I’m sure you think that you’re a shiny unicorn on top of the flowery lawn. But, guess what? You’re not special. You’re not great. And now I’m taking your girlfriend. If you don’t like it, you’ve got a bad attitude.
The older generations are blaming the wrong people. Instead of saying that we’re delusional, have an inflated sense of entitlement, and have a poor attitude, the older generations should be apologising to us for stuffing it up so heinously. We have all the necessary technology to enable the majority of us to have an awesome work/life balance and yet we work longer and longer hours to make up for the previous generations’ failures. We can’t run through the water sprinklers anymore because previous generations killed the ozone layer. And we’ll never, ever be able to retire because we’ll be paying for everybody else’s retirement until we die.
The only explanation for articles like the HuffPo piece is psychological:
Ressentiment is a reassignment of the pain that accompanies a sense of one’s own inferiority/failure onto an external scapegoat. The ego creates the illusion of an enemy, a cause that can be “blamed” for one’s own inferiority/failure. Thus, one was thwarted not by a failure in oneself, but rather by an external “evil.” [Source]
These articles aren’t really about Gen Y. They’re about the creeping, horrible realisation of Baby Boomers and Gen X that they’re inching towards death and can’t have as much fun as we’re having. Pass the torch, guys.
- Breaking Down The Gen Y “Quarterlife Crisis”: A Generation’s Expectations in Context (thenarcissisticanthropologist.com)
- Wait But Why: Why Generation Y Yuppies Are Unhappy (huffingtonpost.com)
- Why Generation Y Yuppies Are Unhappy (babymamasblog.wordpress.com)
- Nobody likes Agamemnon (pridewritlarge.wordpress.com)
- Gen Y: hip? idealisit? brash? engaged? over-confident? future leaders? (candicenertney90.wordpress.com)
- Quick Questionnaire: Why were Gen Y so disengaged form this election? (politicsinkicks.wordpress.com)
- Fuck You. I’m Gen Y, and I Don’t Feel Special or Entitled, Just Poor (aweinstein.kinja.com)
- Gen Y: Entitled or Empowered? How Company Culture Needs to Adapt (forbes.com)
- Teens and Technology – Growing up in the iGeneration (christophercarlson1.wordpress.com)
- Gen Y Yuppies: is disillusion with life causing excessive singledom? (theanthemblog.wordpress.com)