Tuesday, April 27, 2010

It's not the generation, it's the age of the generation

Woe is us! Kids these days don't want to work! They don't appreciate how much their parents have given them! Their cavalier attitudes and arrogant attitudes will be the downfall of civilization!

Does this sound familiar to anyone?

The millennial generation -- about 50 million people between ages 18 and 29 -- is the only age group in the nation that doesn't cite work ethic as one of its "principal claims to distinctiveness," according to a new Pew Research Center study, "Millennials: Confident. Connected. Open to Change." The Washington-based nonprofit group found that young adults and their elders agree: Baby boomers and Generation Xers have better work ethics and moral values than those in their 20s.

I swear everyone was saying the same thing about Xers 15-plus years ago:

Beavis and Butt-head were their icons; Beck's Loser was their song ("Savin' all your food stamps and burnin' down the trailer park"); Richard Linklater's Slacker, with its Austin, Texas, deadbeats, was their movie. This was the MTV generation: Net surfing, nihilistic nipple piercers whining about McJobs; latchkey legacies, fearful of commitment. Passive and powerless, they were content, it seemed, to party on in a Wayne's Netherworld, one with more antiheroes--Kurt Cobain, Dennis Rodman, the Menendez brothers--than role models. The label that stuck was from Douglas Coupland's 1991 novel, Generation X, a tale of languid youths musing over "mental ground zero--the location where one visualizes oneself during the dropping of the atomic bomb: frequently a shopping mall."

Heh. I'd almost forgotten that Mallrats was about US.

But of course, every cloud must have a silver lining (at least in our modern media; that's what "balance" is, right?) so there's more to the story.

The "laziness" of this generation is a reaction to - and indictment of - our culture at large. They are pulling away from the endless cycle of work-consume-work-consume-work (and so on). To us they seem lazy, but maybe that's more of a reflection on us. Maybe we work too hard. Maybe we're caught up in the "gotta make more money" mentality. Maybe we could learn an important lesson from these so-called shiftless youngsters.

I'm reading and ... I'm just getting this creepy sense of deja vu. Because I know - I know they said the same things about Gen X back in the early 90s. And I bet the boomer babies probably heard some of the same things - I mean, come on, Woodstock? That whole 60's culture? Definitely turning your back on "the grownups."

Maybe I'm stretching to make connections where there aren't any, but I don't know. It just got me thinking. Is this something that's particular to our culture or is it more universal?

I'm wondering if it's less about any particular generation - than it is about what it's like to enter the world of adulthood, particularly as a child of privilege. You know, human nature. At this stage of life, you recognize the problems the world faces and you want to do something about them. And it has to be something new, something different, because obviously the old ways don't work (or else where are the problems coming from?) so you reject those ways.

I guess the more things change... you know?

Image thanks to http://www.flickr.com/photos/slworking


Sarah said...

It's the way we have raised them... to expect too much, because we are falling over ourselves to give them what we did not have :)

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