I generally stay away from labeling generations. I know there has been a lot of talk about the Gen X, Millennial, and now the Gen Z. I prefer to look at them as aspiring young people who are intelligent, loving, and hard-working. The problem is that in our political system, no one wants to talk to them about their problems and what they think and believe. That is a very sad state of affairs.
The younger generations are facing problems that we did not face. I grew up in the sixties and I saw a country with lots of potential for me. I saw strong labor groups who spoke up for the workers. I saw companies that actually treated their employees like partners in business. I saw that if you worked hard, you would definitely have an opportunity to get a head. I saw minority and women’s rights being promoted. I saw a public education system that if you didn’t want to go to college, they taught a trade you could make a living with. I saw a bright future for me and my country.
Although for its time education was expensive, it was not something that would take 40 years to payoff your student loans. Plus, when you graduated from college, there were plenty of opportunities for employment in good paying jobs. That isn’t the case anymore. Education costs have exploded, student loans take 20-40 years to payoff, and good paying jobs for graduates are becoming less and less. Additionally, public education no longer offer “trade” schools anymore.
Now, I am not going to say that I know how these young people feel about things. Although I may be able to sympathize with them, I cannot empathize with them. I did not face the same problems as they do. As a matter of fact, my parents generation who grew up in the great depression, is the only living generation that can empathize with them. They grew up in similar times as these young people have.
It would also be easy to say that the younger generations could improve their plight if they became more active in politics. But, that is fantasy. Many people from my generation say that “we changed” things in this country. That is also a fantasy. Yes, we were very active in politics and social issues. But, did we really change anything? If you want to be honest, the answer is no!
Despite our activism, we actually didn’t change anything. Why? Because the older generations who controlled politics did not listen to us. They called us names. They put us down as “whiners”. They put labels on us like communists. They simply went about their business without listening to their own children.
Today is no different. The so-called millennial generation is getting the same treatment as we did and that is our fault. No one wants to really listen to them. No one wants to include them in discussions. No one wants to sit down with them and actually “speak” with them. It doesn’t matter if these young people are conservative or liberal. It doesn’t matter what their religious beliefs are. What matters is that they are our children and grandchildren. They are people who have the same dreams and desires that every generation before them had. They deserve to have their voice heard!
It has been said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over-and-over expecting different results. Not listening to, not including, not looking for new ideas from these young people is insanity! These people have grown up seeing the demise of labor. They have grown up seeing the demise of the middle-class. They have grown up seeing pay inequity rise. They graduate from college only to find the only jobs available are minimum wage positions. They look to a bleak future.
When they express their ideas, they are ridiculed. When express their beliefs, they are told they are crazy. When they worry about their future, they are called whiners. When they work their butts off for their company to make it successful, they are asked why aren’t they doing more? Is it any wonder they look at the dysfunctional political system and economic system and ask “why bother?”
When younger generations believe that they really matter to those in power, and see at least some of these politicians actually try to help them, not just give them lip-service, they will become more active in the process. But, as usual, the system dismisses them because they are young and “don’t know better”. States try to limit their ability to vote in elections. They are put down and told to “stop whining and get a job.” That is a pure waste of talent. It is time to stop patronizing the younger generations and start treating them as the equal partners that they are.
We will not dig ourselves out of this malaise until we start including their ideas and talent. They are not only our future, they offer us the ideas we need to make the future better for us and them and their children. We need to start listening to our children and grandchildren! It is time we stop telling them to “get off my lawn!”