Blaming it on millennials

Updated: Feb 08, 2020, 07:29 IST | Lindsay Pereira | Mumbai

Leaving the world in better shape than we found it was once the norm. It sometimes feels as if we have abandoned that idea

Representation picture
Representation picture

Lindsay PereiraWhen in doubt, find someone to take the flak. The government of India has whittled this troubling habit down to fine art and systematically managed to find scapegoats in unlikely places for its failures of policy. It was millennials, a while ago, who were supposedly responsible for why automobile sales were down. That comment did generate derision online, obviously, but also petered out quickly, presumably because millennials have now begun to accept that they will constantly be blamed for all kinds of things.

The catchphrase 'OK Boomer' is particularly telling, given that it came into being as a response to what millennials the world over will recognise as familiar criticism. Apparently, an older man was to blame, for claiming — with no proof whatsoever — that millennials didn't want to grow up and were stuck with utopian ideals that didn't prepare them for adulthood.

This casual dismissal of an entire generation of human beings is as old as time itself, given how our parents once felt the same way about us. Those that come after us are routinely looked at as more fortunate, benefiting from the hard work we put in, saved from struggles that society imposed upon us, pampered in cocoons created by us for their welfare. For possibly the first time in history though, it doesn't seem as if we are leaving the world in better shape than we found it in, and our children are being forced to pay the price.

CNN recently published a report on how millennials (born between 1981 and 1996) are worse off than their parents for the first time in American history. There were a number of reasons cited for this, from when that economy collapsed to how older generations had access to an upward shift in job status, making it harder for their children to surpass parental accomplishments. In the 1930s, 70 per cent of Americans did better than their parents. By the late 1980s, 44 per cent were reportedly in jobs with higher socioeconomic status than their parents. 92 per cent of those born in 1940 earned more than their parents by the time they reached 30; only half of those born in 1984 did.

It would be interesting to look at statistics for how India's millennials fare, even though the nature of these studies relies more on the extrapolation of data than it ought to. It is in keeping with the nature of all surveys in our country, where representation isn't always easy, and few are often called upon to speak for the many. And yet, it doesn't take much research to figure out that it's harder than ever to be young in today's India. It's hard to argue with facts unless one belongs to the government of India, which is also why it is so disconcerting to see Indians of a certain age speak disparagingly of younger people as entitled and lazy.

Some studies say that the top-ranking ambition for millennials is to make an impact on society rather than focus on traditional stuff like home-ownership and higher salaries. Other studies say the exact opposite, claiming that millennials want to own property, secure government jobs, travel overseas and find a work-life balance. Still, others say that the impact of movies on this group is 50 per cent higher. What no one can place a finger on is why they are to be blamed for circumstances they had nothing to do with.

I have worked with people far younger than myself for years and watched them struggle to make ends meet in a city that is more expensive than it ever has been. Everything that millions of older Indians took for granted — eating out, owning property, job security, pensions, retirement funds, annual holidays — has started to feel less certain, simply because we underestimated the capacity for human greed.

Find me a young person who can speak confidently of owning an apartment in Bombay today. Find me a graduate who can hope for a permanent job as opposed to a contract position that allows an organisation to dispense with certain benefits. Find me someone who has worked for a decade and has enough stashed away for a rainy day in the event of a start-up shutting shop.

We have failed millennials. We ignored our environment, did nothing in the face of corporate greed, and watched as successive governments destroyed our economy while distracting us with religion. The least we can do is stop blaming them for a mess that was never of their own making.

When he isn't ranting about all things Mumbai, Lindsay Pereira can be almost sweet. He tweets @lindsaypereira Send your feedback to mailbag@mid-day.com

The views expressed in this column are the individual's and don't represent those of the paper

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