Kids These Days

I was born on the cusp of Generation XY, and while actors and musicians are the only people my age who have so-far managed to reach the high standard of “famous people” on wikipedia, there are a number of more infamous candidates left off that list.

In the early 1990s, the Generation before us were rebels without a cause:

They have trouble making decisions. They would rather hike in the Himalayas than climb a corporate ladder. They have few heroes, no anthems, no style to call their own. They crave entertainment, but their attention span is as short as one zap of a TV dial. They hate yuppies, hippies and druggies. They postpone marriage because they dread divorce. They sneer at Range Rovers, Rolexes and red suspenders. What they hold dear are family life, local activism, national parks, penny loafers and mountain bikes.
Time Magazine, July 16, 1990

The article goes on to describe the GenXers in words that apply equally to GenY:

…so far they are an unsung generation, hardly recognized as a social force or even noticed much at all…By and large, the 18-to-29 group scornfully rejects the habits and values of the baby boomers, viewing that group as self-centered, fickle and impractical. While the baby boomers had a placid childhood in the 1950s, which helped inspire them to start their revolution, today’s twentysomething generation grew up in a time of drugs, divorce and economic strain. . .They feel influenced and changed by the social problems they see as their inheritance: racial strife, homelessness, AIDS, fractured families and federal deficits.

Well, GenX finally got noticed, and it seems to me that GenY’s tactics for attention involve the celebutants like Paris Hilton, Britney Spears, and Lindsay Lohan flashing their yoo-hoos to the paparazzi after diligent drug use, sex tapes, stints in luxury rehab, collecting and then ditching exotic pets, Vegas weddings, and illegitimate children.

The other tactic my generation seems to have adopted is dropping the listlessness of GenX and picking up assault rifles. My generation has produced more than a handful of people who have made headlines for killing.

I’d venture that more than 50% of the bad news on TV these days is about people my age killing other people. The 13 “muscle” hijackers of 9/11 were all 20 to 28 years old, I was 20 at the time. The military response in Afghanistan and Iraq likewise involved masses of young adults my age fighting against terrorists, insurgents, islamo-fascists, Republican Guard, who are also my age. Half of the Chechen militant terrorists who killed 334 people in a school in Beslan were my age. Michael Vick is my age and he fights and kills dogs. The vast majority of inner-city/gang crime is perpetrated by people my age on other people my age. The warlords and trigger-men of the slaughter in places like Darfur The list goes on, and on, and on.

And it’s not just crime, studies report that Generation Y employees in the workplace are anti-social, demanding, self-centered, narcissistic, and filled with entitlement.

Is there something different or special about my age group? No. Sorry. And if you think so, you’re too old to trust, part of the establishment, the man who is keeping us down, and a craggy dinosaur who should fulfill their “duty to die” to borrow some lingo you might understand.

The old fogies who are pointing their fingers at us and hollering “kids these days” can’t seem to remember their youthful indiscretions, mostly because of all the drugs they did. They might not have Alzheimer’s yet, but they do have a big case of sometimers.

Back in the 1960s and ’70s, it was universal wisdom that the kids of that era suffered from too much coddling. Vice President Spiro Agnew blamed student unrest and other problems on “spoiled brats who never had a good spanking.” Best-selling author Norman Vincent Peale, author of “The Power of Positive Thinking,” complained about youngsters whose parents felt a duty to “satisfy their every desire.”

It’s a hoot to hear modern kids described as self-indulgent by the generation that created its own culture out of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. Talk about a sense of entitlement: When the baby boomers came along, they (we) got the voting age lowered for their benefit. They also demanded that the drinking age be lowered, and it was — only to be raised once they were safely into adulthood. Narcissism? Not for nothing were boomers dubbed the “Me Generation.”

Most of the grousing is just what every new crop of kids hears from its elders, who forget that when they were young, they were equally infuriating. People who came of age during the Great Depression and World War II are known as the “Greatest Generation,” but their parents didn’t call them that when they were going through puberty. “Bye Bye Birdie,” the musical that asked the question, “What’s the matter with kids these days?” debuted during the Eisenhower administration.

The young people we accuse of being hopelessly self-satisfied are the same ones who have been told they had to score high on the SAT, get straight A’s and cure cancer just to get into a decent college. Far from being hothouse flowers who wilt under pressure, they’ve coped with high expectations and intense competition.

This year, Harvard accepted only 9 percent of undergraduate applicants, the lowest figure in its history, down from 18 percent in 1983. The same trend is evident at other selective schools. You would think the epidemic of narcissism would translate into selfish, destructive conduct. But on most counts, today’s youngsters comport themselves more responsibly than Mom and Dad did at their age.

Steve Chapman, National Ledger – May 20, 2007

The sentiment that kids are f’ing it all up is not new, nor novel, nor is it ever really true. Fifteen to Thirty somethings always get the blame, it’s part of being widely active yet not have control of established institutions like the media, banks, schools, and means of publishing. The older, slower, and crankier people still linger on in control of those centers of criticism.

Despite it’s dubious origin the following quote just about sums it up:

The Earth is degenerating these days. Bribery and corruption abound. Children no longer mind their parents, every man wants to write a book, and it is evident that the end of the world is fast approaching.

– Assyrian Stone Tablet, c.2800BC

Well gosh, isn’t it amazing that every time a new book comes out that preaches the end of the world, it just so happens to be close enough for people to get worried about it and buy the book, but far enough out so that the book and threat is long forgotten once the end date comes and goes without notice?

P.S. You might notice that I left off the two most infamous GenY killers: Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. Well, in light of the recent Church slayings in Colorado, I decided to cover them in a new post and discuss how the response to the Church slayings was different–and more effective–than the response to Columbine.

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About Christopher

Christopher Landauer is a fifth generation Colorado native and second generation Border Collie enthusiast. Border Collies have been the Landauer family dogs since the 1960s and Christopher got his first one as a toddler. He began his own modest breeding program with the purchase of Dublin and Celeste in 2006 and currently shares his home with their children Mercury and Gemma as well. His interest in genetics began in AP Chemistry and AP Biology and was honed at Stanford University.