There are memes about it. There are Vine videos discussing it. There are constant debates on Twitter and other forms of social media as well on it. The “it” being the so-called ongoing feud between Baby Boomers, (those born between 1946-1964), and the Millennials (those born between 1981-2000). With unemployment a serious issue, student debt a continuing problem, and the fact that Millennials will be the first generation to be less well off than their parents were before them, these bleak circumstances have spurred a debate of just who is responsible.
Studies have been conducted on both sides. One scathing study in particular on Millennials was highlighted in the now infamous 2013 TIME article titled, “Millennials: The Me Me Me Generation.” This article gave facts and figures that painted Millennials as narcissistic, social media obsessed, and undeservingly entitled. Many Millennials struck back against that article, and the study it highlighted, the best way they knew how – through the Internet.
The prevailing thought amongst many Millennials is that it was the decisions and votes cast by the Baby Boomers that have put them in the state of economic limbo that many find themselves in today. Hundreds of memes, tweets, and videos later, and it would seem the debate is still not settled. Is there a true “problem” generation? What has made it so that these two generations are at each others’ throats when it comes to looking at the current state of the world? There is most likely a more logical answer than pointing fingers, but one must first address what is framing the debate.
It would seem that the main concern is who is doing better financially. Who has a brighter future and/or present, and lastly, who is the generation footing the bill for it. If you ask some Baby Boomers it would seem that they feel they worked and earned their retirement, and that Millennials are simply too entitled to truly put in the work. If you ask some Millennials they’d answer that Baby Boomers are the real entitled ones, and that even with a college education, many Millennials will be spending the remainder of their lives in debt. One infamous tweet on Twitter replied to an article title of, “Why Are Millennials Still Living With Their Parents?” with “because the Baby Boomers destroyed the economy through deregulation and replaced all labor laws with a pic of Reagan.”
But perhaps Baby-Boomers and Millennials shouldn’t be as much at odds as the media, and other interested parties, would want everyone to believe. The growing average age of retirement is now 61 years old. Two decades ago it was 57. According to Gallup’s Economy and Personal Finance survey the average age in which most workers plan to retire will continue to rise. According to the survey, the average non-retired American now plans to retire at 66, up from 60 in 1995. This is due to the fact that many workers simply can’t afford to live off of Social Security alone. This contradicts the myth that some Millennials might believe, that Baby Boomers get to retire and collect their pensions, spending time on golf courses in their late 50s while the rest of us slave away trying to pay off our student debt.
In all reality, Baby Boomers and Millennials will be working side by side with each other for some time to come. This means that working class members of both generations face the same economic hardships and challenges.
That Fight for 15 isn’t just for the recent college grad. That attack on health care isn’t just aimed at those who might be older and thus fighting more ailments than their younger counterparts. Millennials and Baby Boomers have a lot of common struggles, and there is a need to face it together.
When these generations argue over which one of them is the real “culprit” they miss out on the actual culprit in the situation. In reality we live under a system that works hard to pit workers against each other on a daily basis, based on a number of factors, in order to continue to exploit them as much as possible. Two of the main ways it seeks to divide is through race and gender, but another is age. Getting caught up on which generation is truly “in touch” or “out of touch” distracts from joining together to protect current rights on the job, and gaining further ground for better working conditions for all.
So, sure, we may never truly see eye to eye on the importance of Facebook or the Kardashians. Or whether it should be called tweeting or “Twitter’ing.” Or which generation is truly the most narcissistic. But it can be agreed upon that both generations believe in the right to livable wages, and a chance for life that isn’t steeped in debt and poverty. The only way to get that is through solidarity. We can discuss the importance of the Kardashians at a later date . . . or . . . you know . . . never.