Born into a bizarro world controlled by baby boomers who have comprehensively shafted us, it’s a credit to our resilience and adaptability that we’ve managed to get this far at all
Last week two of my friends, a couple in their twenties, had a baby together. A planned baby -- they’re married and mortgaged, reasonably financially secure, and able to provide the sort of stable family environment that has been our cultural gold standard for decades.
In the same week, the Australian Bureau of Statistics released its Housing Finance data for August, showing continuing rises in property investment and a concomitant fall in the value of owner-occupied properties. Loan approval for first home buyers has hit its “lowest level since records began”.
This data makes my fertile friends look like the demographic equivalent of a two-headed unicorn. For most people our age, participation in the job-marriage-mortgage-kids pathway is a virtual impossibility. We live with our parents or in sharehouses. Our jobs are often crappy, if we’re lucky enough to have one rather than being on the dole or having our work exploited for nothing by dodgy internship merchants. Home ownership will happen not when we’ve worked hard and saved a deposit, but when our parents’ generation, who make up 25% of the population but control over half our total wealth, retire or die.
This is where Generation Y is, as a cohort. Various government policies over the past decades have structurally prohibited most of us from attaining the lifestyle and material security that our parents associated with success and peace of mind. Adding insult to injury, we have to deal with what feels like the entire country blaming us for our misfortune. You know the drill: we’re uncultured, narcissistic, entitled babies who lack the soft skills necessary to take our place as functioning adults.
No wonder a quarter of young people are struggling with mental illness. Born into a bizarro world controlled by baby boomers who have comprehensively shafted us, it’s a credit to our resilience and adaptability that we’ve managed to get this far at all.
This is millennial normality. We’ve been dealt a terrible hand, but because we don’t know any different many of us just chug along day by day. On top if it, the education minister says youth unemployment is nothing to worry about, and the government wants to starve us for six months for the crime of not being able to get a job. Someone pass me my phone, I have to send the real estate agent a picture of the flooded bathroom in my overpriced sharehovel so they fix it before Monday and I don’t smell bad at my Centrelink appointment.
Our high rates of anxiety, depression and stress are a natural result of these structural factors, but because our conception of mental illness is so individualised we’ve been unable to translate it into political will. Of course we need better mental health services, but we know that unemployment isstrongly associated with mental illness. Generation Y didn’t go crazy in a vacuum, and treating the results without addressing the causes is a short-term solution at best. How can we relax when our future is so uncertain?
Millennials need to get angry, and we need to do it now. We can’t afford to be polite, and we can’t afford to wait in the wings until the boomers’ retirement stampede creates room for us to move into positions of power. The emergence of advocacy organisations like Interns Australia is a step in the right direction, but we must do more. We are set to inherit a toxic social and political scene, and we’ve got to start brainstorming ways to fix it. Generation Y is the intergenerational clean-up crew charged with rebuilding the wreckage, and condemning the failed ideologies that produced this state of affairs requires us to open our eyes and raise our consciousness.
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