The generation gap between Millennials and Baby Boomers has real punch. When I was in my twenties, we baby boomers were asserting our will against the status quo. The war in Vietnam was a gigantic issue that divided baby boomers among ourselves, but also separated us from our parent’s generation – the greatest generation. We felt a generation gap. Now that I’m in my mid-sixties, as I look back, there was far less of a generation gap between myself and my parents then there is between me and my children – the mellennials.
We baby boomers had a comfortable world to grow into as adults. In the 1970s you could still get a pension when you took a job, finding a job was easy and buying a car and even a house was within reach without too much effort. Oh yeah, and if you wanted to send yourself to college, that was a realistic possibility. My childern and their cohort don’t have all those luxuries as they step into adult roles. It’s not that none of the millennials have those types of opportunities, some do; it’s that most millenials don’t.
The generation gap between baby boomers and the greatest generation was founded on a set of events that happened early on in the adult lives of baby boomers. After the Vietnam War was over, there was very little that drove baby boomers away from the status quo of our parent’s world. So, although we fancied ourselves as a rebellions and “out there” generation, in point of truth the wild and crazy first decade of adulthood for most baby boomers collapsed into conformity soon thereafter. Flower power, along with dancing in the streets, became a mocking reference point for the memories of that short, youthful interlude.
The millennials, on the other hand, have a more substantial basis for their gripes against the adult world they came of age in. There are far more social forces driving them together than seducing them apart as a cohort. In the string of generations there is occassionally a serious rift that drives cultural change and the millennials know they are experiencing that deep rift. Millennial bashing is more than just a set of complaints about the kids that have moved most recently into adulthood. Millennial bashing is as much about baby boomer guilt, for poisoning the well of prosparity, as it is about criticism of millennials’ habits and attitudes.
As we baby boomers begin to leave the game it’s difficult not to notice how things look far different and far more challenging than when we first took the field. The blame for that difference is at least partially ours. Low-paying jobs, huge college loans, far fewer professional opportunities and a far higher cost-of-living to either remain in the upper middle class, or else to first attain entrance, are all now social realities. These facts powerfully drive a wedge between baby boomers and millennials. And it is these social and economic circumstances that challenge and unify millennials as they seek different social methods for organizing their lives.