An Open Letter From A Millennial To Society: Stop Blaming Us For Everything

by Aaron Kaufman

We get it.

You’ve collectively anointed us the dumbest, laziest, most entitled, narcissistic, cocky and most coddled generation that ever did live.

For quite some time now, we’ve absorbed a steady stream of insults from all you fear-mongers who alert the world to ready itself for the collapse of society that’s sure to unfold once we assume the reins.

Every generation has taken to the practice of admonishing the generation that follows, but you’ve made it a venerable art.

In many ways, it’s a rite of passage. Remuneration for the aspersions you had to endure from your parents and grandparents. Now you’ve reached an age where it’s your turn to throw some stones. But where past generations threw pebbles, you throw boulders.

Like when TIME described us as the "Me Me Me Generation," suggesting that we not only “lack the kind of empathy that allows (us) to feel concerned for others, but (we) even have trouble intellectually understanding others’ points of view.”

Oh, we understand you, and believe me, we’re concerned. In fact, we understand quite well why you’ve chosen to target us as your top scapegoat in an effort to skirt responsibility for the mess you’ve created.

So we’ll trade you some barbs. Perhaps we do carry an air of arrogance, but we will not sit silent while you delude yourself into believing that we represent all that is wrong with society.

Reality Check

Do we bemoan our struggle to succeed? Of course, but it’s not because we expect everything to be handed to us on a silver platter, as you’ve suggested time and time again.

Rather, we lament the fact that we are forced to enter into the sluggish economy that you Baby Boomers created. An economy that fails to offer the same opportunities and avenues to success that you so relished when you were coming of age.

Instead, you choose to castigate us for our collective despair, calling it entitlement. We aren’t asking for any special considerations. We simply wish you had held up your end of the social contract.

It was your generation who popularized the practice of outsourcing, increasing domestic competition and reducing the number of available jobs. It was your generation who borrowed irresponsibly from the banks that you empowered, leading to the collapse of the housing and financial markets in 2008.

It is your generation who is looking for anyone else to blame for the reasons that you’re unable to hire us.

Recall how I said that you’re throwing boulders? You’re doing it from a glass house.

Our Struggle

Please try to understand the conditions we’re forced to contend with.

The average student currently carries more than $24,000 in student loan debt, with more than 60 percent of college students (12 million in total) borrowing annually to help cover the cost of education. Nationally, this borrowing trend has driven total outstanding student loan debt upwards of $1 trillion.

Even if we’re lucky enough to find part-time work to supplement tuition and other expenses, it isn’t enough to cover the total cost. Last year, the average cost of tuition, boarding and textbooks totaled more than $18,000. Private colleges’ average costs soared to nearly $42,000. When you adjust for inflation, those totals are up 38 and 24 percent respectively over the past decade.

Carrying all that debt from the college degrees you require of us, we try to break into a job market that’s rife with candidates but short on available openings. So, we take an unpaid internship. Then another. Then we apply for an open full-time position and you tell us that the position requires five years of experience. Tell me, where are we supposed to get that experience?

While overall unemployment inched down to 6.6 percent in January, jobless rates for college graduates between the ages of 20 and 24 stayed stagnant at eight percent last year. When we are lucky enough to find a job in a market that lost 7.9 million of them in 2008, we must bite our tongues and be content with earning historically low salaries.

Guess we’ll have to work even longer and harder to pay back those student loans.

We would suck it up and accept this new reality if you weren’t so damn eager to kick us while we’re down. When corporate execs line up with excuses for why they don’t want to hire us, they mask the real reason for their hesitancy: It’s profitable not to.

Last year, Fortune 500 companies earned a record $824 billion, up 16.4 percent over 2010 earnings and blowing past the previous earnings record of $785 billion in 2006. Rather than reincorporate the jobs lost in the recession, these companies have found it advantageous to force their remaining workforce to work harder for less.

Don’t Bite the Hand That Will Eventually Feed You

It is my sincere hope that we can move past this quarreling between the Baby Boomers and Millennials. If we can’t, the elder generation stands to suffer more than we do in the long run.

After all, it is that generation that is creeping ever closer to retirement. It is that generation that will inevitably turn to us to care for them in old age, just as their parents did.

But we’ll be forced to look out for ourselves when entitlements like Social Security and Medicare dry up. Remember how you failed to figure out a way to ensure that we were protected by the same social safety nets you’ll soon rely on to survive?

That selfish act might merit another. When we’re in control of the economy, don’t be surprised if we favor leaving you Boomers high and dry while throwing all the blame your way, just as you did us.

Photo credit: Theo Gosselin