This Week In Millennials: Everyone Hates Us But What If We’re Secretly Great

We learned this in school: people, especially in groups, have a tendency to pick on the smallest person available, to make a target of whoever looks weak. It’s not a surprise, then, that Americans blame everything on Millennials.

A piece in the Times this Sunday about the runaway costs of weddings for guests diagnosed the entire younger generation with narcissism.

It’s easy to blame this stress on the narcissism of the bride and groom. The millennials “now are the most entitled generation I have ever seen,” said Maggie Baker, a married psychologist in Wynnewood, Pa., who has two sons and a nephew who are all now being invited to weddings. “They are all in that age range, so it’s coming at me from all sides.” …

“There is this sense of entitlement,” said Kate Kaplan, a married psychologist in Los Angeles who specializes in therapy for brides. “There is this self-centered view that it’s all about me, and everybody is going to make it work.”

Never mind that the financially prudent people lamenting that they have to skip nuptial events are also Millennials, and that the people who put the machinery of the Wedding Industrial Complex in place — and profit richly from it — are Gen X’ers and Boomers. And never mind that Gen X’ers and Boomers are beginning to admit that their choices, like waiting until their late 30s and early 40s to start families, are “not going well at all.”

‘‘Three quarters of Gen Xers have higher incomes than their parents but just a little over a third have more wealth,’’ Diana Elliott co-author of the report “A New Financial Reality: The balance sheets and economic mobility of Generation X,” tells Quartz.

‘‘And one of the big reasons why they’re falling short is that they have a lot more debt than their parents had — for example six times more debt than their moms and dads had at the same age — which is a really big difference.’’ …

Gen X professionals left it perilously late to procreate, and are now juggling all manner of difficulties all at once: financial, career, personal and relationship, mental and physical. …

BBC newsreader Kate Silverton, who gave birth to her second child at 43, bravely acknowledged the reality: ‘‘My generation left parenthood till 40. I am not sure we got it right.’’

Over the decades that they’ve been in power, they’ve run up huge debts, started unwinnable wars, shredded safety nets, and made almost no legal provisions to protect families, or even individual workers, from the Dodge Dart of an economy to which they are handing us the keys. But Millennials are the shortsighted ones, because we take selfies. OK, sure.

The Daily Dot has got a round up of more highlights of generational scapegoating:

Everyone loves to hate on millennials. Patricia Sellers at Fortune writes: “While we Baby Boomers typically place high value on pay, benefits, stability and prestige, Gen Y cares most about fun, innovation, social responsibility, and time off.” Charles M. Blow at the New York Times wrote witheringly of the “selfie generation” that: “All in all, we seem to be experiencing a wave of liberal-minded detach-ees, a generation in which institutions are subordinate to the individual and social networks are digitally generated rather than interpersonally accrued.”

Workplace consultant Sherri Elliott-Yeary further believes: “Millennials are not willing to make work the central focus of their lives as Baby Boomers have.”

The article goes on to point out the unfairness of this characterization:

Millennials were promised that if they followed the American prescription for success, starting with a college degree, they’d be on a track to profitable careers and respected roles in American society. Instead, they entered college precisely at the moment tuition was skyrocketing, endowments were falling, and interest on student loans was climbing. College loans are a major contributor to millennial debt, so much so that there are legitimate fears of a college debt bubble that could be as devastating as the tech bubble of the 1990s (boomers) or the recession (boomers again). …

American youth are facing incredible financial and social hardship. At the same time, they’re confronting historic American attitudes about bootstrapping and the belief that the solution to poverty is to try harder.

But as Deb says to Gina in that Millennial favorite Empire Records, in order to stop squabbling and unite against common foe Music Town, “Let’s not fight. Let’s just rip.” Let’s agree to stop blaming each other for the havoc that is our economic situation. Let’s stop the name calling and finger pointing and focus instead of solving the real problems.

Recently, Millennials began using and popularizing the hashtag #PovertyIs. Ringleader Katie Klabusich at Mic uses her own story to explain why it’s so important that we maintain the momentum and keep visible the lived reality of day-to-day poverty.

mostly people seemed to react as though this was their first experience listening to someone in poverty talk.

How can that be? I thought. There are so many of us! How can so many people appear to have had no contact with a poor person? … The reason so many don’t think they know anyone living at or near the poverty line also might be because their loved ones are afraid to speak up about the reality of their situation.

Cultural stigma is very real, and poverty is pathologized through intense, systemic victim-blaming. You can see it resonate in the aforementioned poll’s results, in which 44% of respondents reported that they’re sure welfare recipients don’t, you know, need assistance to stay alive, and 78% believe said individuals could get a job if they really wanted one.

Embedded in those numbers are clear assumptions about who gets government assistance and why. A few phrase adjustments, however, can’t erase the heritage or the power of stereotype. My admission that I’m a SNAP recipient is invariably met by a furrowed brow; I’ve had people over the Internet tell me I don’t “look like” someone who needs or uses public assistance. In addition to the ignorance in those statements — six in seven households receive some government benefit — there’s no getting around the racism inherent to this disbelief.

Poverty is pathologized, but empathy helps, and with more empathy creating tools at our disposal, maybe Millennials will be the first generation to reject the cruelness of the status quo. If we do manage to #hashtag and ‘gram our way to a fairer and more equal society, that will benefit everyone, including the older generations. So, you’re welcome; and also, we’d appreciate your help.

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