I've changed my mind (a little) about how we discuss generations.
First, let me illustrate my longstanding gripe.
"I am probably the biggest fan of the millennials you'll ever meet," retired Navy Admiral
I can't stand that kind of talk.
Imagine that I said, "I am probably the biggest critic of millennials you'll ever meet. Fans talk about millennials being brave and courageous. Well, I'm quick to say that you've never seen them mooching beer money in a 7-Eleven parking lot."
This might instantly strike you as unfair -- and it is! That's the point.
There are some 83 million millennials, defined as Americans born between 1981 and 1996. It's difficult to generalize about a group of people this large. Within the ranks of millennials there are pro-life
I would leap at the opportunity to buy beer for the millennials who raided
In other words, characteristics can be generalized, but character is formed by individual deeds. There is no transitive property to glory or blame. A hero in one generation isn't less heroic because of the misdeeds of someone else his age. Generational pride is the cheapest form of identity politics.
On the other hand, it's true that you can make some useful generalizations about various generations. There are roughly as many millennials in America as there are Germans in
Millennials entered the workforce in large numbers around the time of the financial crisis of 2007-2008 and the deep recession that followed it. That, along with policies in areas such as housing and education pushed by allegedly self-interested baby boomers, had dire consequences for a large swath of young people. Entering the labor market during a severe downturn puts a drag on lifetime earnings. Saddling yourself with college loan debt can too.
Sternberg's argument that millennials -- whether they fought in
But Sternberg's attempt to blame the boomers for the millennials' travails strikes me as the wrong kind of generational stereotyping. And I say that as a Gen Xer for whom bashing baby boomers is a birthright.
I have no doubt that some of the policy missteps Sternberg lays at the feet of the boomers can be attributed to certain generational attitudes. (They were the damn hippies, after all.) But many of those attitudes were inherited from the "Greatest Generation" or earlier.
More to the point, the policies the boomers implemented were hotly debated among boomers themselves, and virtually none of them expressly argued from a desire to self-deal for their own generation at the expense of others. Just as there are millennial socialists and millennial anarcho-capitalists, there are boomers in those categories as well. If we're going to assign blame -- and why not? -- it's more helpful to put it on those who were wrong rather than indicting an entire generation of some 75 million people.
If it's wrong to demonize millennials, it's probably wrong to demonize the boomers, too.
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