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Saturday, December 29, 2018

Millennials: 'entitled' or a modern-day Diogenes Lamp?

Millennials: 'entitled' or a modern-day Diogenes Lamp?

Often we see the 'more enlightened' older generations, you know Gen X and Baby Boomers, accusing millennials (Gen Y) and post-millennials (Gen Z) of thinking they're entitled ... entitled to jobs, clean environment, affordable housing ... you get the idea. Throughout this, I'll refer to millennials, but this is inclusive of post-millennials.

One of the things that the older generations bang on about as evidence of this, is that millennials grew up receiving participation awards rather than getting awards for actually achieving things. it should not be forgotten that it was the older generations who started the participation awards. After all, four year old millennials didn't start or ask for this. The older generations forget, or refuse to take responsibility for the way that they raised millennials.

This lack of taking responsibility is pretty typical of baby boomers and Gen X who merely partied on the back of the wealth that the west acquired following World War II. They partied like it was 1999 and frittered it away, creating an economy which pushed house prices out of reach of millennials, where permanent jobs are more and more difficult to find, and destroyed the environment, all in order for the older generations to selfishly exploit the markets, job-seekers and the environment for their own interests without regard for future generations. As the economy, job markets and environment go south, older generations do what they do best: find a scapegoat and blame them for it; in this case, millennials.

Is it fair to accuse millennials of feeling 'entitled' just because they want affordable housing, permanent jobs with career prospects, and an environment that will sustain future generations?

There are other issues which span generations, but which still get blamed on millennials. For instance, the expectation that people should be able to marry those who they are in love with ... regardless of gender. This is a battle that has been fought for years by previous generations, but hey, let's blame millennials. There are issues of gender and sexuality. Many conservatives seem to lack understanding of the difference between sexuality and gender. For centuries there have been people who identify as a gender that they were not apparently born with. There have been hermaphrodites, who these days are referred to as intersexual. There have been people who are born with sexuality or gender proclivities within LGBTIQ+. Yet, now that people are finally gaining the rights that have been demanded for centuries, it is the fault of millennials.

Then there's my personal favourite, when Christians accuse millennials of being entitled. Why Christians? Well ... if any group believes they're 'entitled' it is the church. Here we have a group who demand that they are entitled to freedom from taxation while also expecting to have political clout and the right to enforce their beliefs on others. It is not the fault of millennials, nor are millennials feeling 'entitled', to expect that they can have both freedom of religion and freedom from religion. The moment someone wants something that contradicts a church dogma, the church grabs its bag of entitlement and screams persecution. Ironically, this is usually because the church is being stopped from persecuting others. We saw this most dramatically during the marriage equality debate. The church carried on with incredible lies and demonisation, characterising LGBTIQ+ people as loving pedophilia and bestiality. Claims which were blatant lies and fear-mongering. What great churches we have when they would rather spread hate and fear than show love to people who want the same rights as everyone else: to marry. Interestingly, since Australia legalised marriage equality, the sky hasn't fallen in and people are not marrying their pets, children or the Sydney Harbour Bridge, as predicted by many Christians.

Picking on the younger generation is something that every older generation has done from the beginning of time. You can read more on that in Ranting Panda's Kids of Today article. However, two quotes stand out. The first one could be from any of the older generation's criticism of millennials, but is actually 6000 years old:

'We live in a decaying age. Young people no longer respect their parents. They are rude and impatient. They frequently inhabit taverns and have no self-control' - inscription on 6000 year old Egyptian tomb.

However, Logan Smith has summed up why the older generation must bag out millennials (and sadly, millennials will bag out future generations):

'The denunciation of the young is a necessary part of the hygiene of older people, and greatly assists in the circulation of their blood' Logan Pearsall Smith 1865-1946.

Millennials feel no more entitled than older generations do. Older people for instance, expect the government to give them all sorts of things, such as pensions, free health, free travel, and for younger people to respect them, to stand for them, to wait on them hand and foot. Many older people feel entitled to respect, but often don't give respect to others. When younger people work two or three jobs to pay for an exorbitant education (implemented mind you, by the older generation who could attend university for free), they are often abused by older people who think it is appropriate to treat people poorly if they work in retail or hospitality. How often do we see an older person abusing a sales assistant or a waiter for some trivial reason, for instance, because they had to wait an extra couple of minutes for service or because plastic bags have been banned (funnily enough by politicians who are from the older generation, but lets blame millennials).

Older people will say that back in their day they could crack racist and sexist jokes without anyone getting offended. Millennials are 'entitled' because they will often call out these racist and sexist 'jokes'. Is it that millennials are 'entitled' or is it that perhaps they are more enlightened and mature than the older generation in realising the hurt and harm these jokes cause to others.

An extension of this is the #MeToo movement and the ongoing allegations of historical sexual offences. Back in the day, women were expected to tolerate sexually aggressive behaviour by men, whether it was wolf-whistles or inappropriate groping, or worse. Donald Trump, currently US President and likely Putin's Manchurian Candidate, achieved the US presidency with the help of right-wing Christians, while boasting that he was able to just walk up to a woman and grab her on her pussy. One could be mistaken for thinking right-wing churches consider this to be their entitlement too as they were so willing to support Trump. But back to millennials, it wasn't just them that started the #MeToo movement, it was a reaction to a culture embraced by older generations, that had trivialised and normalised sexual assault.

It is this maturity and enlightenment that drives this so-called 'entitlement' of millennials. Perhaps baby boomers and Gen Xers should remember what they were like back in the day. Remember all the protests of the 1960s and 70s, in which they demanded peace, freedom and environmental protection. They marched to save the environment, end war, end racism, improve civil liberties, and gain gay and lesbian rights. They held strikes demanding fairer conditions and better pay. Baby boomers and Gen Xers were militant generations that demanded better things for the future. Now that millennials demand the same thing, they are being demonised by the very people who also wanted these things thirty or forty years ago. How short are people's memories?

Everyone has an entitlement to live life free of interference from others and to not interfere in other people's lives. What is unacceptable are actions that infringe on people's freedoms and human rights.

A story from ancient Greece tells of Diogenes of Sinope (also known as Diogenes the Cynic), a Greek philosopher (c400-325CE), who believed that no-one in society was honest or good because they were tethered to rules and conventions that encouraged dishonesty and a lack of responsibility. Diogenes went on a quest with his lamp, holding it up to the faces of Greek citizens as he sought an honest (or good) person. Additionally, there is a story that Alexander the Great approached Diogenes, telling him that he could have any gift he wanted. Diogenes allegedly told Alexander the Great that 'what you've taken away from me, you can never give'. Alexander was perplexed and asked him what he meant. Diogenes replied with, 'you're standing in my sun'.

Rather than condemning millennials for their expectations for civil liberties, equal rights, a decent life and concern for the future, we should praise them for being the Diogenes Lamp in a society where dishonesty, lack of empathy, selfishness and greed epitomised previous generations to the detriment of society and the future - not unlike the society Diogenes found himself in. It seems that conservative older people only want to conserve the worst elements of the society they grew up in; namely the war, racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, pollution and environmental degradation, while mocking goodness, empathy, human rights, environmental conservation and social justice - these things should be revered, not mocked. We do not build a better society by conserving hate and ignorance, we achieve it by promoting love and respect.

Holding up a lamp to the imperfections in society is not something that should be mocked, neither is expecting the rights that no-one should take away (as Diogenes pointed out to Alexander the Great), namely a sustainable environment, basic human rights and equality.

Millennials are not unfairly demanding 'entitlement', they are astutely calling out inequality and unfairness.