We love calling this generation of young people ‘entitled’. It’s the go to insult from baby boomers and Generation X when they dismiss millennials – a generation they perceive as privileged and self-involved. When it comes to repatriating the serious issues now affecting the future of the young, using the word ‘entitled’ allows us to distance ourselves from any sort of blame or responsibility. It distances us from admitting we could have done better.
We were the tenants from hell. While other generations trod lightly, we partied like there was no tomorrow. And guess what? There may not be! God will not be giving us our bond back. We’re even planning to go into space to fuck up other planets! We do not like to be held accountable. It was not our fault. We didn’t do it. This broken world was not ours to fix. We didn’t fuck it… well, maybe a little. Maybe we had shares in BHP. Maybe we bought clothing made by children in sweatshops in the developing world. Maybe we used airplanes like taxis. Maybe we just coasted on the path of least resistance, instead of veering off onto paths less travelled.
It was too hard. We were too busy. We were having fun. It’s such a shame. We really could have been spectacular. We really should have done a lot better than this. With all those brilliant minds, this is where we have arrived. On a rock, in space, that is running out of time. If our generation had a report card it would read ‘Great potential, but easily distracted.’ We got distracted. That’s the real problem. Oh yes, we sang about change, and peace. We marched, we tied ourselves to trees, but then we went home, had a family, started watching Sex in the City, and forgot. Too many shiny baubles to reach for.
So yes, I think it is our fault. Because if not us, then who? Who exactly is responsible? Don’t we vote? Aren’t we able to divest? To change direction? That obnoxious bumper sticker: We’re blowing the kid’s inheritance isn’t funny. It’s true. It’s not just on the back of an expensive RV, we’ve stuck it on the planet. Perhaps the entitled generation isn’t the millennials at all, it’s us. According to the economic and health stats, we’ve had it better than any other generation. We’ve had access to free education, we have travelled the world, we’ve bought and sold properties, we really lived it up through the 80s ffs; the decade of cocaine, big hair and legwarmers. We had our cake and we ate it too. Then we ate our kids’ cake, and our grandkids’. No wonder we all have diabetes.
They say that this coronavirus only impacts the immune compromised and the elderly. But I’d suggest that it will have a much longer lasting and serious impact on the mental health of our young. Sure, other generations have faced war, and poverty and illness. But this generation faces the actual end of days. The latest climate science says that in the next five years there is a 20 per cent chance there will be at least a 1.5 per cent increase in temperature. A two degree celcius increase is the accepted limit of temperature growth. Anything after that is potentially catastrophic. And if climate change wasn’t enough, with the global implications of a pandemic, our kids are facing a serious doomsday malady.
The world seems a bit hopeless right now. For those who were going travelling, or doing their HSC, or doing their first year at uni, or leaving home for the first time – it’s all come to a grinding halt. How do you plan your future when it doesn’t feel like the world has one?
So, yes, this generation is entitled. They are entitled to a future. Entitled to a planet that hasn’t been quarried, squandered, polluted, deforested and fucked over by us. They’re entitled to expect us to actually do something about it. We are still the captains of industry, we are still the world leaders. They are entitled to the change we still need to create.
We could start by planting a billion trees.