Millennials Are Killing Mortality

I’d like to share a revelation that I’ve had, during my time here.

It came in the midst of another Millennial vs Boomer squabble, when someone pointed out that, despite what they might claim, Gen X came of age during a time when a university education was still both affordable and a ticket to a solid middle-class existence, despite what they might now claim.

This was framed as another, “Millennials are killing everything except avocado toast” thing that are going to be the listicles of 2020. I can’t wait to see what we’re going to kill next, but, at the current rate, Death herself will be on the generational shit-list before the 2024 primaries. This particular article was framed as saying that we don’t have the same, “Get rich quick” priorities as previous generations, which is what is required for a self-sustaining patriarchal oligarchy to sustain itself. I have a little bit of insight into this one, having made the flip from, “Your work should have meaning” to, “Work should, realistically, only be one-third of your time, and is not a complete summary of who you are.” Case in point, Michael Crichton, who had an MD and started his career as an internist, which is where he developed a revolutionary resuscitation technique for bringing extinct species back from the dead. Or the noted art dealer and philanthropist, Vincent van Gogh (this is true — he did start professional life as an art dealer).

Work does not define you. It serves the economic necessity of providing you the sort of economic independence and stability to pursue other activities in your (hopefully two-thirds) free time. When I was a child, in the 16th century, we understood that banditry, piracy, and sacking the Aztec Empire were extremely profitable, immoral acts, but that allowed the Spanish to make enough money to make Sir Francis Drake’s grand-children insanely rich.

I’m not going to excuse any of that behavior, but, in today’s societal context, those buccaneers would’ve wanted a post-graduate degree, and previous experience with raping and pillaging.

In short, almost no one in my generation is dumb enough to think we’re going to get rich building orphanages, and most of us are only too eager to sell our souls. Baby Boomers just aren’t interested in paying us for them. No, no one thinks they’re too good to be a janitor or plumber. No one can afford to do those jobs, any more.

The problem with a plutocracy — as Henry Ford noted — is that it relies on concentrated wealth and aggressively locks out anyone who can’t afford the buy-in price. Which means that Zuckerberg will — eventually — have to figure out how to do some basic plumbing. Or, y’know; pay the traditional working middle-class enough to afford to be middle-class.

These moronic arguments should not be seen as some sort of statements of generational warfare. Instead, let’s try, “The wealthy are killing the middle class, then complaining when we can’t afford their products.”

Written by

Science journalist, cancer survivor, biomedical consultant, the “Wednesday Addams of travel writers.”

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