This is an open letter to the older generations. The one’s who claim to know what’s best for us “entitled” millenials in the globalized, digitized 21st century late-capitalist economy. The letter is almost entirely influenced by this article: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jun/03/city-corporates-destroy-best-minds?CMP=share_btn_fb
It framed my perspective, and I do agree with most of his opinions.
Dear George Monbiot (and the rest of the older generation),
I do appreciate your opinion. I really do. In fact, I agree with just about everything you say more often than not. Absolutely, late capitalism is pernicious and destructive on so many levels. Its reach is unparalleled, and the way it captures each new generation, and coerces them into working like slaves is profound. But at some point, I would hope you realise your profound privilege. You too went to Oxford, which gives you a leg up on just about every other individual trying to self-maximize in this free market for labour.
This line is the main issue: “Students, rebel against these soul-suckers! Follow your dreams, however hard it may be, however uncertain success might seem.” Easy for you to say brother, you went to Oxford and chose to follow your dreams, namely being a writer and journalist, and because you went to Oxford you were presented with opportunities unavailable to the overarching majority of graduates. Not to say it’s a bad thing, in fact, congratulations on not totally selling out. But dude, it’s totally disingenuous to assume every recent graduate is as fortunate as you, or that every recent graduate went to Oxbridge or Ivy League schools.
Yeah, totally, you can point at a number of your classmates who went to Oxford, and chose to sell out and join The City, against their own best interests, while you didn’t. You chose not to. But you had the choice. It’s a little idealistic to assume everybody has that choice. I mean, at the end of the day, we all still have bills to pay. So say we follow our dreams, and those dreams don’t pay us enough to meet rent, then what do we do? We don’t all have wealthy parents too. It’s disingenuous and unfair to assume that every recent graduate is a trust-fund baby. You know.
And funny thing, this is a very common perspective for your generation. Born in the 1960s, reaped the rewards of the welfare state, and a local economy with the capacity to absorb and remunerate recent graduates with a salary. I, like many of my generation, don’t have a salary to fall back on. I work shifts, each shift pushing me closer and closer to reaching my monthly mandatory minimum to ensure I can pay rent and pay back my student loans. I remember a Bank of Canada exec saying something along the lines of: why don’t the millennials just work as unpaid interns. Experience is experience. They need to build their resumes, stop being so entitled and living in their parents’ basement. That’s the perspective I have issues with, and that’s the perspective bandied about by the older generations. Guys, it was tough in the 80s too, dontcha know? The recession was tough, but we worked hard, put our heads down, and now look at us, property, mortgages, retirement funds. You kids are just lazy and entitled. You think you deserve success without effort. You’re dependent on your parents. Now how is that fair? How many of us are actually dependent on our parents. How many of us have parents that can bail us out, or keep us afloat as we navigate the uncertainty of our 20s in a shit economy. Sure, some of us. But certainly not all of us. And that’s the central issue.
We have these men (sometimes women, but mostly just men. White men) in their ivory towers prognosticating, preaching and portending to both understand and have a solution for the ills of “the working person”. Monbiot comes from the liberal perspective, encouraging us to follow our dreams, and try to subvert neoliberal capitalism as much as we can. The Bank of Canada exec comes from the conservative perspective, encouraging us to literally enslave ourselves in the misguided hope of “building a resume” so that we’re perhaps more hirable in the future. Neither have left the ivory tower, and I would hazard a guess that neither has worked any shift work for longer than a summer. Sure, plenty of the upper crust have at least experienced shift work for a brief amount of time, but I’m quite confident that none have lived shift work for years, and understood the pressures of shift work, the anxiety involved every month. Living paycheck to paycheck. Hoping and praying we won’t get hurt, or sick, thus losing our livelihood.
The ivory tower will keep trying to tell us how to live, without actually understanding what life is truly like for most people.
Thanks for your perspective, George, it’s valuable, but it’s not gospel.