Home | About | Donate

What We Talk about When We Talk about Millennials


What We Talk about When We Talk about Millennials

Laurie Penny

has been eight years since the Great Recession, and the current economic crisis has become a permanent state of exception. Early this month, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation released a damning report on prospects for young adults around the world. The condensed version is that we don’t have many.


Great line and insight, Ms. Penny:

“Well, one young man living in his parents’ basement playing video games all day may be an indictment on his own life choices, but three million young men living in their parents’ basements are an indictment on society.”

Similar castigations are pushed onto the Black community. The dearth of inner city jobs and lousy schools destines many for the “underground” economy in order to survive. And then the Racist system goes to work lecturing these individuals on “their choices.”

Both of my daughters are millennials. One is a struggling single Mom, although she got a very good job 2 years ago that’s allowed her a nice place to live and a car.

The other majored in business (which never seems to lack in the way of job options) and has been making very good money since.

Apart from the financial options that close off the dreams of many from within this generation, if you really took in the big picture, you’d see that climate factors may present individuals of all ages with the terrifying rigors of basic survival… at which time, any of us who still have clean water, breathable air, food and shelter will feel RICH.



I think what this article describes is by design. People who are worried about surviving are more likely to be more obedient, back stab their piers and other things that are necessary for the few to govern the many. I recommend peaceful solidarity and boycotting all products except that which is necessary for survival. If you can, buy those products, like food, from local small farmers.


Penny’s analysis is the reason the Trump and Sanders campaigns have made it past first base.


Nice to see the article. I take exception to one point, though I think these observations ultimately serve the author’s ends and understanding. Young (or old) people who cannot find steady work, who cannot afford residences or needed medical care are not middle class. They may have been raised middle class.

This is an important detail. “Middle class” continues to mean people who are at least moderately enfranchised, who have been given tangible motivation to continue within a given system, even when it is applied to people who have not.

The young people that Ms Penny describes here have not. This is poverty, though it is not starvation and may not be a lifelong condition and in a few cases may even be partially voluntary. It is not being middle class, however an individual may self-identify or however an individual may have been raised.

It is worth pausing a moment to consider the gravity of this. Poverty may change how or whether people can love and marry, whether they can be present to raise the children that they have. I have linked to this here many times, but it’s educational. This is Richard Wilkinson discussing economic inequality and the epidemiology of relative poverty for 17 minutes at TED: http://www.ted.com/talks/richard_wilkinson?language=en

In brief, if you have enough in an absolute sense but are poorer than your neighbors and acquaintances, in such a way as to be disenfranchised and otherwise treated without respect, it will tend to kill you years early and hamper you with friends and lovers and children. I don’t have any copyright on the term middle-class, but I suspect that this is not the way most of us understand it.

Nope. Young people are generally poor. It’s good to know, so you know that when Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama or Il Donaldo talk about helping the middle class, they do not mean you. (They don’t mean me, either, for whatever that is worth). They mean people who will pay off student loans in ten years, have a 30-year mortgage somewhere in that time, buy lots of pointless consumer goods, and be overmedicated and shuffled off into hospice care ASAP when they quit work.


Most of the middle age Murkins who lost their family wage jobs and medical insurance in 2008 have either never found a job or are working for a fraction of what they were paid in 2008.By any metric they are also living in poverty. When Sanders and Trump talk about the middle class they are referring to middle class past and present.


Speaking as a working class man whose been shat on and regarded sniffily by the middle class since as far back as I can remember, all I can say is welcome to the socially unjust edifice you’ve been enjoying and propping up at the expense of those worse off than you for the last 200 years, like a protective buffer between the unwashed masses and the elites. As Dylan sneered ‘How does it feeeeeel?’


You all seem to be “living the dream”, much like my two Millennial sons. It’s my way of kidding them; one with a decent job (finally), a Masters and $80 fucking K in debt while his older brother struggles as well with an undergraduate degree and ‘only’ $30K of debt. And I really don’t know what to tell them. They already know American Exceptionalism left America about 30 years ago.

All I can say, you had better organize as a political force as you are the future drivers of our economy. Many of you have already learned to live with less - and that’s a good thing, believe it or not. You’ve past that test. You know you can do without. That can be a powerful political tool in a consumer-driven society. We all prefer wearing cashmere sweaters and as an organized political force you will at least have a chance. Otherwise, it won’t happen.

As a 72 yo old I can remember, and YES it did exist, a secure middle-class upbringing, in a family of five siblings in a nice neighborhood with mom at home and dad, who had to drop out of high school during the GD, supporting the family on one income. And yea, we went on vacations and three of us graduated with undergraduate degrees - with very little debt. And yes, being white made it easier.

You can have it all or the chance of it all but don’t take any prisoners and never ever be satisfied with the crumbs. Take on the 1% or be doomed to the crumbs. And yea I’m serious. It’s different now.