Thursday, January 20, 2005

Time To Be Obnoxious

For some reason, I subscribe to Time magazine. In their January 24th issue, Time featured a cover story on twentysomethings (that's us) who apparently refuse to grow up. The article is here. My response, which will never get printed because it's way too long, is posted here.

Dear editor,

In my 23 years, I have never read a “journalistic” article that missed the point as severely as your January 24th piece “Grow Up? Not So Fast.” Your writer, Lev Grossman, seems to believe that America’s twentysomethings are irresponsible for not finding good jobs and settling down. This comes from a member of the generation that outsourced or downsized all the well-paying jobs, replaced the union system with the Wal-Mart system, and turned the concept of job security into some quaint ephemeral ideal. Not to mention his is the generation that is more concerned with Social Security’s solvency than with the epidemic of youth poverty and that his is the generation that has caused college tuitions to skyrocket, burying us under mountains of student loans. And while Mr. Grossman alluded to the economic reasons for staying at home and not starting families, he still believes that irresponsibility is at the center of our actions.

The younger generation is, for the most part, left with low-paying jobs well into their twenties. Those of us with stable family backgrounds face the following decision: live at home for free and save up what money we can, or let our low salaries and high costs of living drive us into destitution. It seems to me that staying at home and saving up is the responsible choice. And we marry and have children later because we want to wait to start a family until we can afford it. How irresponsible of us.

But lest we still believe that the younger generations are “irresponsible,” let us take a look at the actions of the so-called “responsible” generations that preceded us:

- Under the leadership of presidents from the World War II generation and the Baby Boomer generation, our government has run up a national debt of $5 trillion and counting. Such spending habits have severely jeopardized our economic solvency. How responsible.
- Members of the World War II and Baby Boomer generations married early – and ended fifty percent of those marriages in divorce. How responsible.
- Older generations spend on frivolous luxury goods instead of saving; the national savings rate is currently the lowest it has been since the Depression, and the average credit card debt per family is $7,000. Apparently, older generations opted to buy that third shiny new SUV and pay for it later instead of saving some money for future expenses such as, say, helping their kids out after they leave college. To the Boomers, it’s more important to show up the neighbors than to be financially secure. How responsible.

Responsibility is living within your means. Responsibility is saving money for tomorrow’s possible disasters. Responsibility is buying a house when you find a steady job, no matter how long it takes. Responsibility is raising children once you can afford it. Responsibility is buying something when you have the money instead of using the credit card. Responsibility is planning for the future while enjoying the present. We know what responsibility is. If Boomers want to see what irresponsibility is, they need not look past their mirrors.

Jeff Woodhead
Cary, NC


Anonymous said...

Wow. That was a maddening article. Good response. I think it'd be intersting to have the author of that article debate the author of this one:


Anonymous said...

Actually, I find both articles a little misguided in the sweeping, generalized terms used to describe an entire generation. Certainly, there are trends, such as more multiculturalism. Certainly, our generation has been shaped by tragedies like 9/11 and Columbine. But we aren't all the same.

Are ALL Boomers formerly rebellious, idealistic youths who are now uncomfortable being the authority? Are ALL WWII Generation people rigidly set in their ways, but proud of a hard day's work? Are ALL Gen-Xers Ethan Hawke from Reality Bites (sp?)?

Aren't both George W. Bush and Hilary Clinton from the same generation?

I know there are trends and these articles are merely giving their takes on such trends (or perhaps misrepresenting such trends), but I'm still annoyed when they say "The Millennial Generation thinks X."

Oh, and go ahead and send your letter, Jeff. Maybe they'll edit it down. Or send a shortened version of your letter.

- Ben

Anonymous said...

Actually, after reading it again, I have much the same complaint about your letter. That said, I think you could tweak the 2nd paragraph with elements of the first (i.e. introductory stuff about him calling our generation irresponsible and the difficulty of getting jobs) and you'd have a killer short letter. Especially with the ending "How irresponsible of us."

- Ben

Mike said...

The thing that makes me maddest about this article is that I can't read the whole thing without subscribing. The bastards. Oh well.

I see hints of where the article is going from the few paragraphs I can read, and although I mostly agree with Jeff's response letter, I also have to agree with Ben that it is as guilty as the article of generalizing. Not that this is a problem. Fight fire with fire as they say.

The question I want to ask this Grossman fellow is "what is it like playing backup QB for the Chicago Bears?" Oh wait, wrong Grossman. Seriously, what I want to know is why these twixt years are a bad thing. As a generation, ours has greater cultural and social opportunities than any prior. We have had more chances to interact with people from a variety of backgrounds and more leeway to explore various paths along which our lives may progress. Would it not be irresponsible to squander such opportunity to attempt to build a better future for ourselves, and for the world?

To Grossman, I quote Aerosmith: "life is a journey, not a destination." Marriage, career, family, all those are wonderful things, but they are not the end-all, be-all of human existence. Basically, for a driver on the road of life, they are just passengers to be picked up along the way. And so what if we're still a few exits away? We're driving slowly and trying to enjoy the view. Plus we're afraid of getting pulled over for speeding by anal cops who target our generation. And with apologies for the bad analogy, I'm out.