Published in the Baltimore Sun, opinion page, today, 29 Jan 2016 [Read full article here]
"So, when you tell me I can't work from home; when you tell me I can't have more time off; when you tell me I'll only be allowed six weeks of unpaid maternity leave, I'll tell you good-bye. Because when I grew up, people told me I could be anything. They told me I didn't have to settle for "good enough." They told me that there are many opportunities out there, and if I leave a job, another job will be waiting for me where I can be better and stronger."
We are the voices you hear now. We were quiet at first, but we are growing louder, and soon you will hear us shouting from the tops of mountains. As millennials, we fight to make our world fair. We see injustice and we act. We have been raised to know that we matter; each life matters. We demand better care, better government, better education, better technology, better food and better working conditions. And you will fade and we will brighten as your generation did in your time. Now it is our time.
Watch me. I will rise to a new height. I am a millennial.
OK, let me start off by saying I knew a man once who very much incarnated these attitudes. He was highly skilled vocationally and one of the most intelligent men I have ever known. The problem was that he never held a job very long. If the boss didn't treat him right or if he didn't like this or that about the people with whom he worked, he would basically tell them where they could go, how they could get there and what to do when they arrived, and walk out. Why? Because he was highly skilled and very intelligent, there was always "another job ... waiting for me." He much preferred to hang out with his friends down at the local "joint" (as we called bars down South), going hunting, fishing, etc. That man died penniless, with little to show for his life other than four kids who learned from his (negative) example: (1) that life is not all about you... (2) that productive work is or should be a large part of a human being's self-identity and that (3) if there is not a higher value present in your life, one that requires self-sacrifice and which defines objective, measurable goals that are achievable through perseverance and persistence, then there will be a certain emptiness to your existence that warm, fuzzy, companionship simply will not fill.
I was one of those four kids.
As a reaction to an overly materialistic, workaholic "other" extreme, the Millennial view expressed in the quote above has some things to commend it. Yes, there is more to life than work and balance must be achieved in it. I wonder, however, if this author (authoress?) recognizes the presumptions upon which her confident and somewhat arrogant assertions are made.
"There will always be another job waiting for me"... really? I grew up in the booming fifties and sixties... jobs were plentiful and America was going somewhere. But the generation that held most of those jobs while I was growing up were themselves shaped by the Great Depression and WWII. They had come of age during the Roaring Twenties when jobs were plentiful and another set of "millennials" pretty much believed and expressed just what this woman writes. They thought that way right up to 1929 and then they stopped thinking that way entirely.
How many of those walking the bread lines would have demanded the kind of consideration this woman expresses?
The problem I see lies not with these Millennials but with the self-admitted expectations that their parents inculcated in them. "They told me I didn't have to settle for "good enough." Does she not see that the current economic house of cards that defines our social order at this time can come down on our heads at any moment? Does she not understand that the interlocking global economy removes her from immediate control of her destiny and, even worse, from the absolute certainty that she will be able to provide for her kids in it?
World War II was the last domino to fall in the chain of events growing out of the stock market crash in 1929. Adolf Hitler's rise to power was only possible during the chaos in Germany caused by banks in the US calling in their international loans in a desperate attempt to remain solvent themselves. Wars are always fought for economic reasons at some level and mayhem is the social cancer that often accompanies desperate fights for survival.
God willing, the Millennials may never have to unlearn the pleasant fairy tales their parents put in their brains. God willing they may never have to watch their mother work at whatever job she could get to put food on the table. God willing they may not have to urgently teach their own children that you never give up a job unless a better one is already in hand, because having a job is a privilege and not a right... and employers have their own job to do and that may mean that they cannot give you everything you want.
God willing, perhaps the warm and fuzzy era will continue yet a while longer.
But I fear, sooner or later, a future generation will have to learn lessons that previous generations had to learn with great difficulty.