The Independent reported today that the Millennial generation had become a “Peter Pan generation.”
I’m sure that if you’re struggling to make ends meet today, it’s a charming narrative. The story runs something like this: restless generation obstructed from manifest destiny through a mixture of ruthless government policy and generational greed.
The narrative convinces us there’s a latent potential waiting to be unleashed if only we can break the hegemonic domination of the olds.
It offers hope that if only we clear a few roadblocks, our current dire fortunes would improve. It’s disingenuous tripe designed to peddle fear and sell newspapers.
Take a look at the fortunes of the boomers and Gen X, who have supposedly committed this grand larceny. Sure, they own property, even if it is on a homogenous Barratt Homes estate. And they have a hermetic seal over the higher echelons of business life. They run the banks and the law firms; they’ve got the directorships and the final salary pensions.
But are they happy? From inside their lavish two bedroom semi, they lament and fear the arrival of immigrant couples into the area, or a new property development down the road. It’s a boorish, banal and vapid existence revolving around the One Show, Eastenders and visits to the local pub. It’s a fundamentally dull existence alleviated only by occasional visits to Waitrose to pick up Penne Pasta and Profiteroles.
It’s no wonder the Millennial generation is unable or unwilling to grow up – Boomers have blundered into a lifeless abyss. For all of the boomers working lives, the rigid logic has been that success was to “get on” – to establish oneself on the housing ladder, for a secure job and keen mind. Is this really what we want?
If we had the choice, wouldn’t we be setting our sights higher? I’ve been working for five years now – enough to get out of Uni and past the “Getting Started” period. I’ve got a stable existence: a flat looking out over East London, a job, an active social life. But for extended periods, my apartment lies fallow, and I’m often troubled that I’m not making enough of my life.
Once upon a time, I would have thought that was the government’s fault. Or older people’s fault. Or the chaos of the recession. But actually, it’s up to us to make something of our lives and find fulfillment. The example of the Boomers has shown us that corporate drudgery might be a dead end on that score.
If nothing else, I want a body of work that I could be proud to have produced. I want to find a way that my life as meaning. It’s not an easily tractable problem, but I’m convinced that the solution doesn’t come from amalgamating generational loathing and victimology with our ambition.
Intrepid Millennials, we can do better than that.