I’ve been reading a lot of Dr. Samenow lately, which always gets me thinking about personal responsibility. Naturally, given the Dr.’s area of expertise, I’m sure sometime soon I’ll be rambling on about how that relates to criminality. But for now I’m just feeling old and cranky.
Seriously, I got out of bed this morning, my knees cracked and my back hurt from the effort. Somehow, by the power of Monster, I managed to drag myself to that thing I call a job. However, the pain doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things.
Which sort of (in a very roundabout way that makes sense in my brain) brings me to the main topic, it’s not uncommon to hear those of us who are older and already established expressing a negative perception of those in their late teens and early twenties entering the workforce today. We’ve all heard it, if someone was born in the 90’s or later they’re lumped into the generation of Millennials, and what makes them different than Gen X or Gen Y? They’re “entitled, lazy” etc… Regardless of your opinion on the matter (or which side of 1989 you happen to fall on), I would challenge you to consider a couple of things:
First, technology as it now exists has massively expanded the possibilities of human relationships. An 18 year old today has had access to endless communities of people who share his interests and views his entire life, he’s never had to experience the separation from a loved one when post cards and paid long distance phone calls were the only options for communication. The advancement of the internet has increased our ability to form a sense of familiarity and build a support system as human beings. Which is awesome.
Personally, this shift didn’t really start to catch on in my circle of friends and family until I was already well into my 20’s. Many of us, myself included, found that we didn’t really care for most types of social media at all. Though I found Facebook to be a lifesaver because it allowed me to stay connected with people I became close with throughout my military career, which was a relief since one of the downsides of serving is giving up your newly adopted family with each new assignment.
On a broader scale this sense of community has been used to mobilize the downtrodden masses against a common good. For instance, the Arab Spring probably wouldn’t have happened at all if it weren’t for Facebook.
So maybe we are in the middle of a cultural shift from an individual oriented society to a more community oriented one?
At least one thing is for certain, if you are suffering in any way, it is easy to find other people who are suffering in the same way across the world within minutes. However, does that mean your suffering is a valid cause for community outrage and change? Or should it instead be cause for personal reflection and growth?
Which brings me to my next point. I think part of the reason the older crowd gets so angry at the societal shift that’s occurring, is because as of yet there’s not really any established sense of morality or personal accountability. Everything is still new and running at a thousand miles per hour, so we still have to press the limits to really figure out where they are and what’s too far for us as a collective.
Personally, the thought of something like a demand for a national minimum wage in the double digits is baffling because I entered the workforce during the worst economic downturn since the great depression. I can’t tell you how many minimum wage burger joints turned me away because they simply weren’t hiring anyone at all. But at the same time, I also realize how much that sucked. I further realize that my father had many more employment opportunities and much greater earning potential than he ever bothered to pursue during my childhood because he valued being un or under employed over ensuring a good quality of life and future for his children. So THAT is what I consider a lazy person, which is not necessarily the same thing as someone who advocates for a particular type of politics or was born in the 90’s (he was a baby boomer after all). What I’m getting at here, is that while I might not agree with something, I’m trying to learn to be less judgmental of the individuals behind the idea.
At the same time, I think one of the most important things we can be doing as parents right now is reinforcing the skill of realistic self-reflection. It’s difficult because it’s not a fun thing to do even as an adult. I mean, really, who likes to actually look at themselves and admit when they’re being an asshole? When they’re wrong? That they need to be less sensitive? That Ryan Gosling will never want to date them and they should lower their standards drastically or give up their dream of getting married before they turn 35 in 2 years? But the hard reality is, just because you can find 700 people on Tumblr who support your opinion, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re morally or ethically right. It also doesn’t mean that you should always start a radicalized social movement over it and try to change the laws of your community. Though in the case of the Arab Spring maybe it can be a good thing. If you have a good, realistic, sense of self-reflection and you can sit back and honestly ask yourself “am I full of shit right now?” Then, hopefully, someday we’ll reach the point where we can tell the difference between what’s actually worth fighting for, and what’s just a minor discomfort that we should learn and grow from.
If you’re being tortured, beaten, and starved that is a cause for revolution; however, your growing pains are not.