Updated on Tuesday, 5 October 2021 – 01:38
In ‘I can’t anymore. How the millennials became the burned-out generation ‘(Captain Swing), journalist Anne Helen Petersen dissects how burnout, precariousness and the feeling of no future have become normalized among 30-year-olds.
Anne Helen Petersen Digital nomads: my homeland is the computer The generation of the double crisis: an education that does not serve and the excesses received
Millennials entered the job market during the great recession of 2008 and today, when they are supposed to be raising a family and climbing at work, they are still stuck in the same place: with low wages, unable to save, faced with another global cataclysm, that of the pandemic, and in the face of an uncertain future that looks catastrophic due to global warming. But above all, millennials are exhausted, exhausted, tired of working like robots, internally suffocated by social media addiction and to the news cycle that never ends. “Since I can remember, I have not stopped working at any time,” he explains Anne Helen Petersen in I can’t anymore. How the millennials became the burned-out generation (Captain Swing).
“The biggest obstacle we face is that all of us who are burned out and exhausted wonder why it is happening to us and acquire a language to talk about it. Many of us have been educated to think that things are like that, period. The mere fact of beginning to use words like “precarious” or “burned” to describe how we have arrived at this situation is already a big step.“explains the writer, who rose to fame after writing an article about how burned she felt in BuzzFeed that went viral, reaching seven million readings.
For Petersen, part of the blame for what happens to us millennials is with the boomers, who are between 60 and 70 years old, and in the United States they are the largest and most influential generation that has ever existed. Today they are parents, grandparents, some of them are already retired and facing the process of growing up. In the 70s they were in the situation that millennials go through today: entering the world of work, discovering what it is to start a family … only that in their case everything worked out for them. Raised by parents who had suffered the hardships of World War II or the Great Depression, the boomers were pampered and accessed a robust and expanding economy. They grew up against the backdrop of the Vietnam protests in the background, which did not stop them from embracing the culture of self, Reaganism, and market-oriented thinking that has brought about major changes in the safety net of people and the economy.
“In 1950, a CEO earned approximately 20 times more than a normal employee; in 2013 he earned more than 204 times more”, summarizes Petersen. According to the Federal Reserve, at 35 baby boomers had 21% of the nation’s wealth. At the same age, Generation X was 8% and the millennials who will be 35 years old in 2023 will by then have only 5% of the wealth, despite being 22% of the population. Something has gone wrong. “The security that we were promised in adult life never seems to come,” Petersen explains. The tale of meritocracy and hard work has turned out to be false. And it is not that the social elevator has broken: it is that it has been reversed.
“In the case of the United States, it is evident that its safety network is less robust than that of any other developed country. Changing and strengthening that network to stop living with the fear of falling and sinking is the first thing. Networks have holes, repairing them is the first step towards a change. It can be done in many ways: creating new laws, protecting more the worker or by doing something as simple as updating the laws that regulate work today. We work in a very different way than 20 years ago“, reflects the writer.
Anne Helen Petersen’s essay focuses on the United States, where the gap between rich and poor has always been brutal. Until very recently, Europe he looked with some superiority at those inequality figures. But that too is over. We are not much better here: so far this century, in Spain the difference in wealth that exists between 65-year-olds and 35-year-olds has doubled, already resembling that which exists in the US, according to the Spain 2050 report. Currently, 65-year-olds hoard five times more wealth than 35-year-olds. All the indicators (the youth unemployment rate, precariousness, job dissatisfaction) point in the same direction: Spain lives in a “duality” that “is splitting our society in two”, according to the study carried out from Moncloa.
What are the consequences? Petersen points to a “radicalization” of the millennial generation, increasingly inclined towards less neoliberal positions in the face of its galloping precariousness. Joe Biden won the election by 51% of the vote, but in the 18-29 age bracket, that percentage was 61%, and within the Democratic Party, hardly anyone is aware that the voters of the future are closer to that. Bernie Sanders and Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez than the president. The Financial Times warned not too long ago a possible “revolt against the rich“and of the” radicalization of graduates. “Deutsche Bank has also warned in its reports that, by demographic logic, the youngest and most abused voters by the system will soon decide the elections and could “reverse” decades of economic policies towards more redistributive positions.
“We are immersed in a process of radicalization in slow motion, triggered by the widespread feeling that life is getting worse. There is a real contrast between ours and previous generations, where the feeling was completely opposite, “explains Petersen.” But this radicalization is taking place in two directions: on the one hand you have people realizing that work should not be the center of your life, that it cannot be that we have been trained to work as robots. And on the other side you have those who feel that the social order is collapsing, people who believe that immigrants are to blame for their job, their hold on society, has vanished. It is something that we are seeing in many parts of the world, “he reflects.” The question now is: how do we convince all those who are disenchanted that we must seek a true paradigm shift? There is no use trying to turn the clock back, rewind in time, and try to go back to a past 20 or 30 years ago. supposedly better than, actually, it was only better for those who were doing well then, “he adds.
Petersen’s essay is very clarifying because it mixes very illustrative macroeconomic analysis and statistics with intimate experiences that describe an entire generation: one of the most politicized that, however, feels disappointed by parties and institutions. Cultured and restless, although she spends more than the confessable hours scrolling on Instagram. We will continue to be just as exhausted and overexploited at 50, giving likes like zombies? And what about Generation Z?
“In the United States, the absence of solidarity has been the dominant ethnic in the last century, particularly among the middle class, precisely because it is the class that does not usually perceive itself as such, but as” normal “people. What remains to be seen it is What if that middle class continues to destabilize at the rate of the last 30 years. Return the feeling of class solidarity? Or do people focus on the well-being of their family? The collectivism-individualism debate is very complex. It is still too early to know how to react the millennial precarious after the covid. There is an essay by Robert Putnam, The Upswing, which predicts a boom in collective thinking. The potential for it to resurface exists, of course. The only thing that is clear to me is that we must the change is irresistible“proposed Petersen.
What will happen when the boomers pass away and the millennials inherit savings and properties? It is clear that not everyone will be so lucky, but in the United States alone it is estimated that in the next decade, they will inherit around 68 trillion dollars from their baby boomer relatives. If that prediction holds, they would be up to five times richer in 2030 than they are today. We’ll see what they vote then.
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