A Millennial friend of mine whose empathetic perspective I admire and never tire of recently posted this:
“Hi, millennials! We don’t like being judged and having older generations throwing their crap at us. So idea: Let’s not do that to future younger generations. Break the cycle. Next idea: Stop blaming older generations for our current problems. Yeah, maybe they messed things up, but hey we’re gonna mess stuff up, too. And I know I certainly don’t want to be judged and blamed by future generations for the election of that monster we call Trump. Because you know that very well could be our legacy, right? RIGHT?”
As an (older) dad of a Gen Z eleven-year-old girl, having essentially skipped a generation, (god, I hope that “Z” classification doesn’t mean she’ll be the last generation on the planet!) I feel generational blame rather keenly. And so I offer my perspective to that of my friend, and for her friends.
Blames the one before,
And all of their frustrations
Come beating on your door.
-Mike & the Mechanics
Those that came of age in the 60’s and 70’s are the worst critics of those who came of age in the 00’s and 10’s, but their reasons may surprise you.
The ’60/’70 Gen, the children of the post-WWII generation were the “hippies and radicals” that would ruin society. Judged more by the length of their hair and their music than their race or economic background, they were not just criticized by their elder generation, they were reviled and even hated–blamed for the destruction of all that they and their parents worked for. It was far more than disapproval, it was war. And it was ugly. And think of the WWII Generation, they literally just saved the world and now these damn kids are going to ruin it!
Trump is most compared now to Nixon and for good reason. For Gen ’60/’70, they killed Kennedy (their Obama) and gave them Nixon. The parallels from then to now are truly astounding, and it looks for all the world that we haven’t gone anywhere.
Gen ’60/’70 fought, rebelled, and even died for their convictions for a free society and for open loving. They accomplished quite a lot (more than they give themselves credit for), but not all.
They imagined a future for their children; a bright, caring, peaceful, (hairy) and loving future. Those children are Gen ’00/’10, our Millennials. I want you to know that you, my millennial friends, are their golden children. The special ones who would live the beautiful lives that they dreamed for you. (Unfortunately, they told you that a little too often.)
When they blame you, it’s not because they see you as failures, it’s because they saw you as their hope, one they blithely embraced and never stopped to doubt. They look at you and say, “Why aren’t you living that life we wanted for you, what’s wrong with you?!”
You can’t be blamed for the life you have any more than they can be blamed for reaching too high for you. The world is a tough place.
When your elders criticize you, [minus the perennial assholes of every generation] it is not the criticism of hate and derision that they once endured. No, and you must realize this; it is the criticism reserved for those we love and cherish and want the best for. It isn’t right, but it’s human.
At the bottom of their anger and disappointment, is the fear that THEY have failed YOU.
Maybe the world still has Trumps and Nixons, maybe we still hate and kill each other. But, what I wish I could tell your critical elders is that they did NOT fail their golden children. Boomers, though they didn’t inherit the perfect world you promised to bring them, you did bring to the earth and rear a generation who believe in equality, who value peace, and who trust in love, just the way you hoped they would. You persevered, and so will they. Ease up.
I also harbor a hope that you, millennials, can reconsider your pre-contempt and distrust of your elders, who like you, took a naive shot at utopia and missed. You are SO MUCH more alike than not. I wish you could see yourselves from my eyes. Anyone who is really paying attention knows, you already have what is most important.
And when the time comes, take my friend’s advice and cut the Gen Z a break.