In typical fashion Brendan O’Neill has taken it upon himself to once again prick the bubble of Generation Y moaners. This time in relation to their gripes with the Baby Boomers and all their ‘wealth’…
To see how entrenched historical amnesia has become, consider this remark made by a member of Generation Y, those born between 1980 and the mid-1990s, in theGuardian this week: ‘My parents’ generation [the Baby Boomers] was luckier… they were able to go straight from university and move to London and afford their own flat.’
Excuse me? Whose parents went to university? Mine didn’t. I can’t think of a single kid at the Catholic comp I attended in the 1980s and early 1990s whose parents ever darkened the door of a university. As to that earlier generation, the Baby Boomers, buying flats in London — what are you talking about? I remember being surrounded by renters when I was a kid. You’d hear snatches of conversation about cobbling the rent together, keeping the council off your back, etc. Where is this generation, these Boomers, who all went to Uni before waltzing into a secure job and slapping down a few grand on a mortgage man’s desk and saying: ‘Gimme that apartment’?
It doesn’t exist. It is pure myth. And it’s a pernicious myth. There are many ugly things about the new generational politics, or what some refer to as the ‘generational jihad’ of Generation Y in particular, many of whom now devote great energy to slamming those born between 1946 and 1964, the Boomers, whom they accuse of having had such plush, resource-sucking lives that there is now no money left for the new generation to buy homes or be happy. But perhaps the ugliest thing is its mythmaking, its promotion of the utterly false idea that an entire generation, the Boomers, had it good.
He is quite correct that the Baby Boomers didn’t have it easy. Many were born when rationing was still in place — it ended in 1954 after my mother was born.
He does miss one minor point though, the value of graduates has fallen dramatically. As he points out the number of graduates entering the market place has increased from 5% of 18 year olds to 43%. In addition the cost of education has increased massively, almost infinitely for the individual paying. Now we can argue over the rights and wrongs of this and the impact of globalisation. However some may feel rightly aggrieved that they are encouraged into something that results in little value and a lot of debt. That though is probably a subject for another time…
Generally many Millennials have little to complain about. On almost every scale life has improved since the 1950s, and many Baby Boomers had it far worse. To provide another anecdotal example, my mother grew up on a council estate in Blackburn in the 1950s. She dragged herself up through grammar school, to Leeds university and then went off to France to study further.
On her return she met my father. A man who came from a broken home in the south of England. While a highly intelligent man, he reads Le Monde every day, it took him some time to find his place in life. He met my mother while working as a painter and decorator at a university when she was training to become a teacher.
Money was tight for the first 15-20 years of their relationship. The first house they bought was a tiny, gutted, terraced house in a small town in Hertfordshire. My dad at the time was about 30 and my mother slightly older, so not dissimilar to the buying age today.
My father then spent nearly 10 years rebuilding and extending the house and my sister and I had to share the same bedroom for many years. Eventually we did move to a bigger, nicer place when my Dad’s career in construction began to progress.
If you meet me today you would think I come across as very middle class — I do, I’m not ashamed of that. This though is not a result of money but because both my parents are capable, hard working and intelligent people who encouraged me to make the best of myself. Despite one or two difficulties in life I simply can’t claim that my parents have had an easier life than my sister or I. In so many respects mine has been far, far easier. As a 31 year old I probably earn double what my parents combined income was at the same age. This has taken a decade of hard work, but still I am very lucky.
Yes the Baby Boomers benefited from a massive boom in house prices and it is difficult for me to buy a property in London… However they had to get through a period when interest rates were at 15% — just imagine that… I live and grew up in a far richer, advanced and pleasant country than they did, and life is generally good. Even when you compare the poor of today vs the poor of yesteryear.
There is though one crime that the Baby Boomers did commit and we Millennials can and should be justifiably angry about. The only problem is that it looks like we Millennials will continue to commit the very same crime.
The crime of course is that the National Debt now stands at over £1.5 trillion; the annual deficit at over £70 billion; and the state now spends over £700 billion per annum. In addition Government spending has increased every year for at least the last 15 and there hasn’t been any significant decrease in the last 50, possibly longer. One must seriously question therefore whether austerity really exists.
So if the Baby Boomers committed a single crime it is that they have built, or let politicians build, a huge, bloated, interfering state that spends far too much and is borrowing from future generations to fund itself. This will of course cause significant harm to future generations when this debt needs to be paid off or it simply explodes. Some may even go so far as to say that this nannying state has played a significant part in moulding and creating what Brendan calls ‘Generation Whinge’.
The really sad point here though is that instead of attempting to resolve this issue the Generation Y moaners look like they will demand it continues, or even increases.
So maybe Brendan wasn’t harsh enough, we Millennials are not only spoilt, moaners, we’re also greedy and stupid…