27 August 2019
One of my favorite memes is “Millennials are killing the [blank] industry.” Millennials are accused of destroying everything from tuna to laundry detergent to marriage and divorce. Articles tend to position these various “industries” as hard-working but helpless victims, ignored by heartless youngsters out to deliberately cripple the economy.
The truth is, of course, very different.
First, we live in a capitalist country with a free market. If a company sells a product and customers don’t buy that product, either the company adapts to the customers’ needs or it fails. Supply and demand, y’all. If young people don’t want tuna, then sell something else or die. (Personally, I love tuna, but that’s neither here nor there.)
Laundry detergent companies, for example, are not victims. Procter and Gamble is a giant corporation which sells Tide and Gain, the two highest-selling detergents on the American market. P&G is willing to vilify entire segments of its client demographic in order to… what? Urge other demographic segments to spitefully buy more laundry detergent in order to stick it to those cruel Millennials? This seems like a terrible business plan.
Second, generations are (to non-demographers) arbitrarily marked. Everyone is unfairly maligned. If you were born in 1996, you’re a Millennial; if you were born in 1997, you’re Generation Z. What a difference a single year makes.
(After disparaging Gen Z at length based on narrow and negative stereotypes, many of my fellow Scribe reporters were horrified to discover that they are, in fact, Gen Z themselves.)
Millennials are not feckless twenty-somethings anymore. Many are pushing forty. Baby Boomers are not middle-aged; they are in their sixties and seventies. Gen-X-ers are the middle-aged group now, worrying about their teenage kids and their aging parents. Every carefully curated idea we have about each generation is just plain outdated.
They are also often wrong from every angle. Millennials are not all lazy and entitled. They are also not all working three jobs and a side hustle.
My grandmother uses social media more than I do. My middle-schooler cousin doesn’t like cell phones.
Any stereotype of any generation is going to have literally millions of exceptions. It is all unfair and pointless.
My third point is that all this wrong-minded generational divisiveness ignores the reality: class warfare.
According to Dr. Robert Perucci’s “double diamond” class structure, the majority of the United States is working or lower class, and a large portion are in abject poverty. The wealthy one percent is real, and it is in their best interests to keep the lower classes (including the shrinking middle class) fighting amongst each other instead of fighting those with most of the country’s wealth.
Instead of roasting people who happen to be older or younger than you, roast terrible rich people. Instead of fostering discord, foster unification.
This is not a cheesy request for everyone to come together and get along. This is a call to stop wasting your energy. Start focusing on who holds the power. Who stands to benefit if we all despise each other? Go after them instead. Punch up.