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Mandy Nolan’s Soapbox: The Entitled Generation

We had our cake and we ate it too. Then we ate our kids’ cake, and our grandkids’.

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.


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29 responses to “Mandy Nolan’s Soapbox: The Entitled Generation”

  1. Yeah! The kids understand what’s going on
    with The Great Artesian Basin. They are
    growing up with Santos & dreaming crook
    dreams of a an early World’s End. Climate
    Change was allowed by parents along
    with Governments who wouldn’t listen. A
    ‘pandemic’ to boot as well. The entitled
    word is inaccurate.

  2. Liz L says:

    Mandy I love your work but I hate these discussions that make sweeping comparative generalisations about generations. It’s been my observation that there is good, bad, acceptable and unacceptable behaviour, privilege and disadvantage within any categorisation of people.

    I have fought my whole life against all the obvious forms of bigotry and discrimination: sexism, racism, homophobia, ableism. As a retired teacher, I have always been proud of the reforms to school curricula and pedagogy that have measurably enhanced the academic achievements of girls and their participation rates in STEM. This didn’t happen by accident but from the grass roots agitation for change that often exposed advocates to the ridicule and hostility of colleagues. I’m glad that for contemporary women combining work and parenthood is seen as a right – it’s what women in the 70’s fought for, for ourselves and those to come.

    For a time my role was Diversity Officer within the Victorian Department of Education assisting schools in my region in understanding the implications of the Victorian Equal Opportunity Act and developing strategies for its active advancement. It is probably because of this background that I find myself totally dismayed to be suddenly a pariah and the subject of a newly acceptable but very frightening form of bigotry – ageism.

    Suddenly my generation is responsible for leaving the planet on the brink of catastrophe. I certainly agree it is, but this is a process that started with the industrial revolution and has ultimately been driven by the rich and powerful. The only influence for the ordinary citizenry has been the adage, ‘Act locally, think globally’. There have been plenty of my generation who have been conscientiously reducing, reusing and recycling since the 70’s. To think globally what can be done but to support, and agitate within, the right political parties, which likewise many of us must have done since the ‘70’s. By and large we didn’t disengage from politics – we enrolled to vote and still largely constitute the dwindling numbers who make up party memberships.

    Our other crime has been home ownership at a time when housing affordability is out of the reach of so many younger people. Most of us are deeply disturbed about this, wanting every opportunity for younger generations including our children and grandchildren. But would millennials prefer that we hadn’t taken mortgages to ensure some housing security for our futures to find ourselves now in poverty, even homelessness? Without home ownership we, in our disproportionate numbers, would now be even greater burdens. That housing stock would not be sitting there for the young to buy but would have been snapped up by an even greater, damaging concentration of wealth. There is at least something to pass on more equitably and somewhere our offspring are always welcomed back in crises or just for convenience.

    Many also saved, bought public share floats and built their super but we were constantly warned in our working lives that there were far too many of us and we’d cripple the welfare system if we didn’t. Self sufficiency was promoted as the biggest favour we could do society.

    On the flip side there are many baby boomers with little personal wealth – those who largely predated the advent of super while women over 50 make up the fastest growing group of the homeless. Employer super contributions were not mandated until 1992 and for many there was little spare to squirrel away.

    I haven’t lived a blameless life. It’s been comfortable and privileged but simple and hey we live in a first world country! I have flown fewer miles in my lifetime than I would say most people do in their gap year. I’ve had a tertiary education but like many boomers it commenced before Gough abolished fees in 1974 and I always thought that the hard work of teaching was providing opportunities for our most valuable asset – future generations.

    Like all bigotry, ageism is not a suitable subject for jokes and profiling and, like all bigotry, there is a very real danger of sliding into dangerous territory. The thought of further ageing and dependency on generations that have been encouraged to resent, even hate us, is frankly terrifying.

  3. Phillip Frazer says:

    Mandy’s right that the bus is racing toward the cliff, the shit is a centimetre from the fan, and so on…
    ButI offer a different analysis of the counter-culture — all those new ways of living that we of the post-WW2 generation launched and nurtured, between the hits of sex drugs and rock n roll. Our crusades succeeded in making a lot crucial changes: most notably for equal rights for women and people whose ancestry is not mainly Euro, and the huge change in our awareness of how environments work, and how we belong inside nature not in charge of it. The big failure of our generation is that we didn’t finish the job — fixing the planet and chucking the patriarchy and its capitalist creed in the bin of history. So, with a little help from our kids and their kids, let’s get it done. We have an hour or so to turn this Titanic around, so, all hands on deck!

  4. Blue says:

    So much doom and gloom, and feelings of self-loathing just for being born at a particular time and place. Mandy, it’s not your fault you were born white, in a first-world country, in better times than these. Self-flagellation might ease your feelings of guilt, but do you really need to feel guilty in the first place?
    Anyway, the younger generations will have their revenge on us sooner or later. If the Boomer-Remover virus doesn’t get us, the Grim Reaper will find another way!

  5. Vicki Honey says:

    Too True Mandy. I am afraid there are still too many out there who just don’t care.
    I’ll just keep planting trees and trying to convince people they don’t need that “thing” and its not hard to carry your own basket or a load of cloth bags to the supermarket or better still don’t go to the supermarket buy direct from your local farmer.

  6. Phillip Frazer says:

    Mandy’s right that the bus is racing toward the cliff, the shit is a centimetre from the fan, and so on…
    But I offer a different analysis of the counter-culture — all those new ways of living that we of the post-WW2 generation launched and nurtured, between the hits of sex drugs and rock n roll. Our crusades succeeded in making a lot crucial changes: most notably for equal rights for women and people whose ancestry is not mainly Euro, and the huge change in our awareness of how environments work, and how we belong inside nature not in charge of it. The big failure of our generation is that we didn’t finish the job — fixing the planet and chucking the patriarchy and its capitalist creed in the bin of history. With a little help from our kids and their kids we all can get it done. We have an hour or so to turn this Titanic around, so, all hands on deck!

  7. absolutely Stephanie !

    Gen Y are more informed via technology platform and are not going to ‘buy out’ those who rode the gravy train &served themselves and want 1 mil for a crap house. Shame on you for continuing to suck the life force out of those most vulnerable& leaving the mess for the younger generation. Look out greedy wankers.

    young people are realising the complete con of Superannuation ( run by desk bound robots with their hand in the kitty& super has dropped severely 4 times in the last few decades (Its our bloody money and even then default options include us in Total disability insurance which as it turns out you have to be classified as vegetable to be approved for payout ). T

    The working week is dictated by KPI’s, who are governed by stale individuals who have only lasted in their job through belligerence. Yes the biggest dickheads win and the smart one’s get the hell out of the bubble. In case you didn’t know the bubble has burst.

    Notice how many local ’employers’ are desperate for Staff on the Northern Rivers. The staff turnover is high because people resent being treated like s4!t and being constantly pressured, for what $20 per hour, why bother. I have personally worked for some ‘high end place’s’ in Byron, let me tell you it is a demeaning and demoralising experience. often it is the younger people ‘churned and Burned’ The tide is turning against the those who were in a no lose position.

    Young ones go forth and tell every one to shove it where the sun don’t shine!

  8. Ken says:

    Yeeeah !
    If I didn’t know better, Mandy, I would be wondering if you weren’t teetering on the brink of serious social comment. Maybe the lock-down is having a more profound effect on those, I suspect , of partaking of more than their fair-share of excesses, burning the candle at both ends ,while wondering if it is possible to light the middle as well.
    I, myself, must confess to supporting the efforts of those sweatshops ( generally only after their cycle through op-shops ) however, don’t forget the masses who came, refugees from the sick cities of the seventies, and who renounced consumerism,and still managed some resistance to the wholesale destruction, which has always been the keystone of government policy. After forty years of constant
    put-downs and ridicule these same ‘gum-booters ‘and ‘ hippies’ ,still remain and represent a viable, living example of how a less destructive life was possible.
    It seems now that a lot of possibilities have been squandered and while Gina Rhinestone and her ilk are having a fabulous time and for a while it was seriously considered possible to balance ‘the bottom line’.
    Now all bets are off and devil take the hindmost, the weak and frail and of course the kiddies.
    Cheers, G”)

  9. I agree, Liz. At 75 – & working with
    the younger students – my age &
    knowledge sits well with them. If
    anything, it would be the ones
    born & raised around the mid
    1960s who believe ‘entitled’
    is their catch-cry.

  10. AF says:

    Liz L
    So we’ll said. I think you covered just about everything including the fact that the generations of women and some men before were the ones who fought so hard for equality so that later generations of women could and do reap the benefits. AND goodness me can even have strong opinions

  11. tuatha says:

    I like the reference to “plant a billion trees“and assume that some readers will remember who promised that in the 1988 election – Mr Whatever I Can Take Richo, laughingly Hawke’s Minister for the Environment, a man who had never knowingly even touched a tree.
    He also referred to Labor voters disenchanted with the destruction of their conditions & tenure by the Accord “where else can they go?“.
    The HawKeating class traitor government began the neolib project that the Rodent would never have dared introduce and enthusiastically extended for 11 years (was it really only a decade? felt a lot longer).
    Mandy is correct – we can vote but, ooh, look over there, something shiny!

  12. How many planets across the vastness of the Cosmos have gone through what the Earth is experiencing? And what of them? Did they make it through?

    The first seven dimensions: location, extension, plane, volume, time, consciousness, love, unity….

    The COVID Pandemic is mostly a hoax. But many beautiful new things will evolve out of it, because of it.

    Recognize “disaster capitalism” when you see it; indict it, throw yourself into the cogs and stop it.

    Breathe. Be kind. Build local resiliency.

  13. Geoffrey says:

    Ah, so you too have believed the ageist blame game propogated by main stream media. Meanwhile Corporate culture and Neoliberalism, the real causes of the hyper consumerism that’s destroying the plant, breath a sigh of relief as individuals beat themselves up with guilt

  14. Geoffrey says:

    This sounds like the ageist line the main street press have been pushing for a long time now. Meanwhile the Corporate Culture and Neoliberal leaders, that created the hyper consumer culture that is destroying the planet, breath another sigh of relief as individuals beat themselves up with guilt.

  15. AF says:

    Liz L
    Your reply to Mandy was beautifully written and so honest.
    I agree with everything you have said. You even mentioned the previous generations of women who fought so hard for equality so that future generations can and do have the opportunities which they now enjoy and to which I never see any recognition. It’s as though they believe younger generations did it all themselves. Thank you.

  16. Geoffrey says:

    Thanks Liz L, you said it much more clearly and accurately than I did.
    I agree with everything you said. I will add that most of the great worldwide movements fighting for equality, conservation and green living have been instigated and supported by Baby Boomers. Will Ageism be another ‘ism’ that we now have to fight against?

  17. Ken says:

    Well tuatha,
    Has sure nailed the sickening demise of the Labor Party , that could not survived the “dismissal” of an elected government by foreign powers, while Australians were being distracted by ‘bread and circuses’.
    I can only assume that you are drawing an analogy to what Mandy and Liz have touched on , that while burning bras, abandoning children to commercial baby-farms and Ritalin in order to pursue their ‘ right’ to everything they were convinced to want and need , they have taken their eye off the main game.
    Women have been sold the lie that affluence is the panacea to the destruction of the planet, caused by handing over the morals of our endeavours to the economy of greed. It does seem the majority of those dependent on that grossly inequitable ponzi scheme called ‘superannuation’ are unaware and unconcerned about the means and effects, their pursuit of greater economic returns has had on the destruction of their children’s future, not to mention the poverty inflicted upon the rest of the World.
    Not my definition of ” Self sufficiency ” Cheers G”)

  18. Liz L says:

    Thank you, AR and I fully acknowledge that much to which I refer started before the 70’s – for instance any belief that feminism started in the 60s is not informed by history. I refer to this decade as it marked the start of my adult life and agency. Environmental awareness also started well before.

    I’m glad to see some oldies defending themselves here as I think that many have been bludgeoned into thinking the best way to atone for their sins, or maintain their credibility, is to join in the general flagellation that is now so widely accepted and unquestioned. Much to my horror it seems largely the new agenda of the left!!

    My son loves to stir me with observations we’re fair game as we can stand up for ourselves being privileged and empowered and hardly a minority – ‘there are bloody millions of you’. Some truth here but like the assumptions, myths and injustices based on gender, I’m not going to take it on the chin!

  19. Liz L says:

    Ken, it may come as a surprise to you that women who seek to work outside a domestic context do so for a variety of reasons that go beyond seeking the baubles of consumerism. Are you similarly accusing men of the same deluded superficiality?

    Pointing out these motivations, as well as the pitfalls for anyone of surrendering themselves to a life of economic dependency and powerlessness, is so well established now as to be too obvious and boring to detail here. As would addressing your offensive views on child care. I would just ask you to consider though if you really expect that, with the range of brilliant accomplishments that women now achieve in every area of endeavour, that they would all find fulfilment in a full-time occupation of washing undies and darning socks. They have been pushing back against such suffocation for hundreds of years.

    I take your point that superannuation investments can be in areas destructive to the planet but there is an increasing move towards ethical investment policies and we can all work to further this and use investment for positive ends. What I was obviously talking about was the constant message that when the baby boomers hit pension age (well and truly here) our numbers, disproportionate to the likely workforce, would make age welfare unsustainable. But please tell me your definition of self sufficiency when you are either no longer able to work or no one will give you a job.

  20. Di says:

    Mandy your sweeping generalisations i find lazy and annoying. As a woman who fought for the environment, animals, whales etc etc the rights of women (when we called ourselves the women’s movement) and fought for and end to nuclear testing starting when i was a schoolgirl in the sixties you give people like me in my generation little credit.
    I didn’t get super until 1992 so do the math and you’ll know i didn’t end up with much when I gave up time to raise two kids 7 years apart. Did i mention that uni went to Uni full time in my 40’s primarily so i could get paid properly for what i was doing and then it took me two years to pay off my HECS?
    Whatever my circumstances throughout my life I’ve lived simply and mindfully and haven’t been a part of the consumer culture .
    Really stop! Stop blaming and start acknowledging the diversity you are speaking about. There are many like myself. Men and women. Time for a reality check.

  21. AF says:

    Di
    Good on you for speaking out also! Mandy’s tiny little concession to the now older generation in her “ageist rant” was “sure other generations have suffered war, poverty and illness”!! I’m just aghast and thinking maybe the editors should have a good look at Mandy’s columns before print or maybe consider very strongly whether “ageist bigotry” is what they want their newspaper to partake in.
    Again thank you

  22. Born in 1945 & with 1 daughter… I worked my backside off.
    The husband was kept by me – lazy ‘B’ – so I left. One 1/2
    of my family were well to do – the other certainly not. I’ve
    had a busy life. Self employed & NO Super… ever. Yes,
    I’m a feminist & an environment defender… a peace
    activist & a ‘no nuclear power’ die-hard. Conservationists
    back in the early 1970s weren’t popular people. Women’s
    Liberation was looked down on. A ‘reality check’ – I’ve got
    one in my back pocket. The term ‘winners are grinners’
    simply annoys me. Equality in life is greater than it sounds.

  23. Ken says:

    Oh Liz, of course it is obvious there are myriad reasons that men and women are covinced to sell their minds and bodies ( as you are no doubt aware that happens to be the definition of prostitution ) this however commits them to “surrendering themselves to a life of economic dependency and powerlessness,” to the highest bidder.
    A great con is when you bend anothers will to achieving your goal, a truely great con is when you convince them that it was their idea. I have no intention of devaluing the millions of truely ‘liberated’ women and their accomplishments over the eons, I merely question the hordes who jumped on the band-wagon in the seventies,decades after the real womens movement, in order to pursue trivial pursuits mainly due to peer pressure, while ignoring their obligations to their families and their self determination.
    IF ” no longer able to work or no one will give you a job” then do what you are able to heal the damage done.
    Cheers, G”)

  24. Liz L says:

    Ken, there are of course many things amiss with the capitalist system in which we live – that’s not to say all commerce and honest endeavour is destructive either. Ya gotta live! We can work to change the excesses of the society in which we find ourselves but our options are constrained and limited. You can no doubt ‘drop out’ but personally I’d find a life of tending tomatoes and weaving cloth so dull I think I’d rather shuffle off.

    This is all very reminiscent to me of my first contact with SOME of those ‘hippies’ you describe as ‘refugees from the sick cities’ who were too pure and enlightened to sully their hands working in the wage slavery of capitalism but were quite happy for others do it so the ‘system’ could provide the means for them to build a lifestyle around indefinite unemployment benefits. It wasn’t the gumboots that were the problem but the smug self-righteous arrogance. I love Allegro Gone Troppo’s line to female refugees from the city, from their composition, ‘You Can’t Find a Man in the Bay’ : 🎶 You’ll find you’ve swapped your city bankers for a lot of hippy wankers 🎵. Says it all really!

  25. Ginga says:

    You know I’m 57… one thing I’ve noticed is our generation can’t own anything.
    Yes tenants! Yes our generation & the previous one.
    You get no long winded justifications from me.

    Do better.. live better. Every single day…
    & yes good.. glad to see my seed planting of understanding has begun to fruit.

    Truth might be hard to accept. You have to know where you’re at, be willing to honour it before you can change it..

    So while we are floating away on coal boulders, close your eyes & remember. Tune into & feel what this planet felt like to you as a child. How you chased the birds on the beach that were peaceful before you arrived in their habitat… how that tree that you broke branches off to use as swords is a living being… & then imagine where the self entitlement came from when we chewed on slaughtered cow that was someone’s tiny child, humans call veal.. I lived near an abattoir for 18months… I get ptsd whenever I see a cow truck on the highway…little tiny baby eyes looking out the back of the truck in front of me on the way into town. Ours is the era of self entitlement. It is those that recognise with humility that we didn’t know because those are the families we came into.. the generation of kids on the tail end of the depression.

    It’s a gift to live here. When you know better we do better.. or you can whine, whinge & complain.. be part of the solution.

    It’s a gift & a privilege to have home on this uniquely diverse planet as one species in 1billion in the seen & unseen worlds.
    Live in gratitude & love.
    Get with the program & be part of the solution.

    Well done Mandy Tenant… we love you

  26. Liz L says:

    Thanks Ginga, some great words here. Sorry about the long-winded justification – I am verbose – but I reread several times and couldn’t find what I wanted to cut because you see I get so incensed by people who think, clichés, catch cries, disdain and name calling are all that is needed to illustrate the merits of a position. ‘Get beyond the waffle and give some substance – examples, reasoning, evidence! ‘ I find myself screaming. Unfortunately that takes tedious detail.

    However I wasn’t aiming to give a homily about the virtuousness of my life nor particularly a justification of it. My main beef is against bigotry – the type bred from stereotyping, assumptions and mythology. The bigotry that has created a new ‘truism’ that a group representing millions of people consists entirely of super rich parasites who have had it easy forever, don’t give a stuff about anyone else and have been hell bent on destroying the planet their whole lives.

    I get it, increasing numbers of us are really becoming a bit of a nuisance now – past our usefulness – and these narratives are handy to justify any convenient solutions to the problems we pose. There’s even the handy ‘boomer remover’ myth (scientifically discredited) but favoured by the corporate agenda for their own ends.

    Sumner Locke Elliott’s ‘Going’ is not the only creative rendering of a dystopian future where the inconvenient oversupply of the aged are quietly done away with at age 65. ‘Soylent Green’ introduces the pragmatic idea of turning them into wafers to feed an overpopulated world. I’m nor yet quite that paranoid yet but I think any form of bigotry, and the creation of demons, is a slippery slope and I’ll always call it out where I see it – without apology – to foster a society that has values worth passing on to the young.

    I’d suggest my generation is no better or no worse than any other. We all just have to deal with where history placed us and do our best.

  27. Liz L says:

    Thank you Rob Marshall, for illustrating my point so aptly!

  28. Laura T says:

    hi, I really enjoyed this discussion. I am working on a chapter on ageism in climate crisis debate and Liz L comments provided further insights on the way people perceive this divisive rhetoric which put a lot of pressure on older generations. Liz L, I would be happy to connect!

  29. Liz L says:

    Hi Laura – happy to help if I can. How do you suggest?

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