Volume 9, Issue 10
I have a bee in my bonnet. Actually, most days I have many bees in my bonnet. But this bee is a particularly loud and obnoxious one. It is on my television at night and in my newspapers in the morning, it is something we’ve probably all had to deal with from time to time. This bee, is the Baby Boomers.
I’ve been thinking about Baby Boomers for what some might consider an unhealthily long time. Mostly due to the fact that I’m entering the stage of applying for jobs outside of the glorious world of hospitality. As I sit across the table from yet another Baby Boomer looking at me with their silently judging eyes and asking the usual gamut of interview questions, it takes the total sum of my willpower not to manhandle their freshly ironed collar, get my face right up close and ask them some questions.
‘Oh yes Baby Boomer Bob/Bobette, I totally agree that volunteering has been a wonderful addition to my formal education. But tell me, how many unpaid jobs did you juggle whilst doing your degree? Oh I see, were they not as necessary for you as you were finishing university at a time of some of Australia’s lowest youth unemployment rates? And was that on top of the paid job you needed to do to cover increasing rent and living expenses? And Bob/Bobette, when you did start earning a proper wage, exactly how much of that went to paying off your degree? Would you say having that little extra helped or hindered your entrance into the housing market?’
You see, recently an ABC Four Corners episode was aired on the current housing crisis where a bunch of Baby Boomers explained to me that the fact that the idea of ever owning a house makes me laugh maniacally for many hours is actually my own fault. They tell me that TV that I scavenged off the side of the street is holding me back, those clothes I buy from Savers is leeching my house fund and my bike repairs are keeping me from achieving what they managed by the grace of only their hard work and sacrifices. This argument happily and deftly manoeuvres around the question of exactly how much they sacrificed for their white picket fence. In the mid 70s the average house price in Sydney was approximately 5 times the average wage so I’m not arguing that they didn’t work hard to get their slice of suburbia. What I am saying that with those same prices now being 13 times the average wage we, as a generation, may need to make some larger sacrifices. Like a kidney. Or our first born child.
Before we get swept up in my incredibly one-sided opinion (read: rant) and start throwing around words like ‘ageist’, let me say that I have Baby Boomer friends. My parents are Baby Boomers and yes I know, not all Baby Boomers.
The thing that I’m protesting here is the oft-repeated complaint that the younger generations ‘aren’t willing to do the work’, that we are the age of entitlement, expecting things to ‘just happen’. In a recent example, a bunch of Baby Boomers in a big green room (mostly male but that’s a whole other 6 bees’ worth of opinions) told me I have to learn to ‘live within my means’ for the good of the country. I can only assume by this they meant stop going to university, move out of my rental and never get sick. I understand this was probably not directed solely at the younger generations but it comes on the back of hundreds of similar complaints that I am tired of hearing.
I am sick and tired of being put down because of my age. I am sick of constantly feeling that I am barely keeping my head above water during semester as I struggle to decide what in my life has to give in order to take on a new volunteer position that may or may not lead to me getting a paid position somewhere, and then being told I don’t understand what an honest day’s work means. I am sick of the anxiety that curls in my stomach when I think of the future, yes my personal future but also that of our community. And I am most definitely sick of being told that my generation refuses to take responsibility for our actions (Oh hello there Pot, may I introduce you to Kettle? cough climate change cough) or, my personal favourite: that we have a problem with authority.
To that last one I say good. We SHOULD have a problem with this authority. In a time where ‘the youth’ have to constantly fight to have our voices heard we are weighed down by the label ‘apathetic’. While we struggle to find jobs in an increasingly competitive market we’re mocked as ‘bludgers’. We are socialised into a community that tells us we are only as good as our image and then we are saddled with ‘narcissistic’. We grow up with the knowledge that our tax (after HECS of course) will go to supporting an ageing population who currently tags us as ‘selfish’.
Now, I’m not advocating that we all run out and tell a Baby Boomer what we think of ‘their generation’. I know I for one, will continue to try and come up with the pithiest and most impressive answers to those baby boomer interview questions whilst silencing my incredibly stylish and impractical bee bonnet of rage. What I am advocating is that we never stop questioning the power structures in our society. That we take a moment to be proud of our generation. Proud of what we have achieved and proud of everything we will achieve. If only for today we should say ‘ I am a product of my time but I will not be defined by my time. I will be defined by my actions and my choices.’ And I just hope like hell that those choices won’t screw over the next generation.
So here’s looking at you Millenials, you bubble-wrapped, participation award-winning, philandering layabouts.
Abby Cone is a second-year JD student
The rest of this week's issue:
More articles like this: