To riff on a line from a famous ancient Roman play, I come here not to praise my generation, but I don’t come to bury it, either.
I suppose I come to defend it.
It seems like it’s the fun thing to do bash my generation, we of “Generation Y,” whatever that’s supposed to mean.
We’re lazy. We’re addicted to our smartphones. We’re not polite. We’re greedy. We think we know it all.
And it has me thinking that, you know, maybe bashing the latest up-and-coming generation is just the thing to do. After all, a couple of weeks ago, I came across this beautiful Mike Royko column from 1989 (yes, in a real book, because Generation Y does still read real books):
“Most of those at Woodstock were somewhere between their late teens and early 30s, the majority in their early 20s.
“No offense meant, but that generation was the most self-centered, self-indulgent, demanding, pampered, ungrateful generation in this country’s history.
“They were the children of people who grew up knowing hard times in the Great Depression. And many knew even harder times when they fought World War II.
“But for their efforts, these parents were told: ‘Look at what a terrible world you brought us into. All you think about are material things.’
“Of course, these crass material things made them the best fed, best clothed, best housed, best educated and least appreciative generation in history.”
Sound familiar? Boy, does Chicago miss—and need—a Mike Royko these days. How enlightened—if not entertained—would he keep us covering never-ending budget problems and so many other depressing issues?
My generation receives plenty of criticism these days, but last time I checked, some of us Generation Y-ers were doing some pretty important stuff around Chicago, if not right here in the neighborhood. A certain restaurant/brewery on Western Avenue has become quite popular since it opened in 2013. The owner? He’s my age (read: young 30s), give or take a year.
Some of our new principals, teachers and coaches who are making positive things happen at local high schools and elementary schools are also Generation Y.
We all spend a little too much time on our phones—but is it really that different than, say, 10, 20, 30 years ago when everyone stared at newspapers during their commute instead of their phones? Or when couples read magazines or books in bed?
If we’re on Facebook too much, what about the plethora of Baby Boomer members I see posting all the time?
Yes, my generation has its fair share of shortcomings. We don’t know what it’s like to go through a World War or Vietnam, but many of us were in our late teens when 9/11 occurred—and how many Generation Y members volunteered to go off to war then, even when they didn’t have to through a draft?
We’re the generation that was young adults when the Supreme Court passed the Equality Act, because to a lot of us, love is love.
We’re also the generation that could be short-changed when it comes time to collect Social Security in 30 years. And that will only come 50 years after many of us tried to find our first jobs out of college during the economic crash of 2008, something we didn’t cause.
A 2014 report wasn’t all dire regarding Social Security, but it wasn’t that great, either.
“Social Security will be around in some form, but there is either going to be higher Social Security taxes or a reduction in benefits, or probably combination of both,” said Mark VandeVelde, a financial advisor at Hefty Wealth Partners. “Everyone knows the story that Social Security is set to exhaust its reserves in 2033, but what a lot of people don’t realize is it doesn’t mean the end of the program.”
But, we’ll manage. Life is pretty darn good, and we realize that. With a couple clicks on our phone, we can talk to loved ones around the world. Many of us are new parents, and we cherish our kids. We also cherish our parents, who aren’t as, ah, young and spry as they used to be but rarely lack for wisdom.
We’re also getting a little older, and our 40s get closer. But as we prepare for that next stage of adulthood, we’ll take pride in something else:
Looking in the mirror when it’s time to fix society’s problems—and not being so quick to criticize Generation Z, whatever that’s supposed to mean.