SYNDICATED COLUMN: Are Millennials the Most Ageist Generation Ever?

Ever notice how those who complain about being victims are themselves at least as likely to be perpetrators of the same offense? Examples that come to mind for me include the United States and Israel, two countries that portray themselves as targets of terrorism while carrying out wars of aggression whose death tolls far exceed their own losses. You’ll no doubt think of your own examples.

We’re seeing this projection at work with Millennial ageism. The Millennial generation is the most ageist in memory, yet the online media outlets they dominate discuss a problem that, if it really exists, pales in comparison: ageism against Millennials. But, like American presidents’ assertions that the United States has to protect itself against the world when, if anything, it’s really the world that needs to protect itself against the United States, it’s a joke.

Millennials’ status as members of the biggest generation in history – numbering more than 83 million, they have officially beaten the Baby Boomers – ensures that they will have a lot of power over American politics and the workplace, especially as they get older.

Which, if current experience serves to predict the future, they will abuse.

As I have written, ageism – the old-fashioned kind, by the young against the old – is endemic to Silicon Valley, the highest profile business sector controlled by people in their 20s and low 30s. Moreover, it’s normative: everyone thinks it’s OK. So OK do they think it is that national business magazines even publish articles saying it’s “smart” not to hire older Americans because they’re “dumber.”

I call it the old-fashioned kind of ageism because young-picking-on-old discrimination hasn’t been a thing since the “youth culture” of the 1960s and 1970s. Back in their hippie days, Baby Boomers in their 20s were so mean to their elders that they even made a movie whose plot involved putting people over 30 into concentration camps. As they got older, Baby Boomers flipped the switch, deploying their power as employers to discriminate against Generation Xers. Now that the Boomers are finally fading into the demographic mists, their Millennial children are beginning to repeat that half-century-old pattern, marginalizing and refusing to hire Gen Xers.

Ah, the great psycho of life.

While thinking about and researching this essay, I turned my critical eye to myself and my Gen X contemporaries. When we were in our 20s, didn’t we look down on older people? When we got a chance to hire and fire, didn’t we discriminate against those we viewed as boring and out of touch?

Not really.

Sure, we had more in common with members of our own age cohort than those older than us. But we didn’t look down on older folks…though many of them made fun of us (if they noticed us at all) and would rather let a job go unfilled than hire us.

I remember, for example, working as a staff writer for P.O.V. magazine. Almost all of us were in our 20s and 30s — not because management rejected older writers, but because older writers already had jobs elsewhere. But when editor Randall Lane brought on legendary sportwriter-barfly Bert Sugar as a columnist, not only did no one hold his age against him – he was pushing 60 and looked closer to 80 – everyone thought it was cool to add him to the team. Not just because he was “old school,” which we all admired, or despite his age, but because we appreciated the value that comes with experience. He had stuff to teach us; we wanted to learn, and hoped that some of that glory might rub off on us.

Compare that to the unceremonious departure of Mark “Copyranter” Duffy, 53, from BuzzFeed. Dude was the smartest man in the office; they fired him for being old.

I’ve never been into her music, but the cruel reception of Millennial-dominated media outlets to Madonna’s insistence on continuing to use sex to market herself at age 56 has me admiring her spunk (and, actually, finding her physically hotter than she was back in the 1980s). Also, I have to contrast the viciousness to the way that we Gen Xers treated older pop and musical figures at the same age.

As a record reviewer in my late 20s and early 30s, I can’t recall a single instance of an older rock or pop musician or group being dissed simply because he or she was old. If you sucked, you sucked. If you were good, you were good. If anything, our default mode was to tend to respect anyone who had stuck around for a while. We didn’t exactly respect our elders — as Gen Xers, we didn’t respect anyone, not even ourselves – but we didn’t disrespect them either. For us, it made perfect sense that punk rockers like The Clash admired old glam guys like Ian Hunter of Mott the Hoople.

That “rather die before I get old” crap was from the 1960s, not us.

The tendency of Millennials to denigrate their Gen X and Boomer elders is probably hardwired into the demographic reality of belonging to a big, dominant generation. One of the ways you feel good about yourselves is by picking on smaller, weaker groups. No matter what I or anyone else writes, even if every Millennial in the world reads it, there’s virtually no chance it will reduce their ageist tendencies.

Still, it’s sad. I think about my former literary agent and friend Toni Mendez, who died 12 years ago —at work — at the age of 95. She was more vibrant and interesting and outrageous and intelligent than a thousand typical 25-year-olds combined, and I still miss her terribly. Those 30-year-old gatekeepers in Silicon Valley and elsewhere who think that everyone over 35 has nothing to contribute are screwing themselves too, and leaving money on the table.

(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and the cartoonist for The Los Angeles Times, is the author of the upcoming book “Snowden,” the first biography of NSA whistleblower Edward J. Snowden. It is in graphic novel form. You can subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)

COPYRIGHT 2015 TED RALL, DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

12 thoughts on “SYNDICATED COLUMN: Are Millennials the Most Ageist Generation Ever?

  1. This one surprised me a little. Ted’s usually got so much love for us millennials. Can’t say I understood it. People my age have no attention spans and no depth. Married to social media and smart phones.

    I remember from an early age being distressed whenever a family member disrespected my grandparents. A boomer or her millennial kid. Boomers don’t respect the elderly. Why would their millennial children?

    There are a few obvious connections here. People who hate tradition or are indifferent to history almost by definition then see no value in older people. And this of course entails almost everyone. I never went through that hating my elders phase. I always thought to myself that they had seen things I hadn’t and listened even when I thought a particular person hadn’t seen all that much. We also live in a time in which most are incessantly chasing the newest gadgets because new is always better. Old is outdated, useless. I’ve been bemused when I’ve noticed people fail to acknowledge what they believed or desired or did just a year ago for example.

    ‘Get with the times.’ ‘The past doesn’t matter.’ ‘The past is the past.’

    • I love the Millennials! But there’s no ignoring this ageist tendency, not just among tech gatekeepers, but the tolerance for ageism among others of the same age. There’s always been dislike of the olds in America, but this is more extreme than what we’ve seen in recent memory.

  2. This one surprised me a little. Ted’s usually got so much love for us millennials. Can’t say I understood it. People my age have no attention spans and no depth. Married to social media and smart phones.

    I remember from an early age being distressed whenever a family member disrespected my grandparents. A boomer or her millennial kid. Boomers don’t respect the elderly. Why would their millennial children?

    There are a few obvious connections here. People who hate tradition or are indifferent to history almost by definition then see no value in older people. And this of course entails almost everyone. I never went through that hating my elders phase. I always thought to myself that they had seen things I hadn’t and listened even when I thought a particular person hadn’t seen all that much. We also live in a time in which most are incessantly chasing the newest gadgets because new is always better. Old is outdated, useless.

  3. 1. Mr Rall is a Boomer who tries to pass as an Xer.

    2. When I was looking for an IT job in ’99, everyone said, ‘We only hire young people.’ I said I could see a bloodbath coming: as soon as their staff had to shave, with no guidance, there was sure to be a bloodbath. I have to assume I was right: I was NOT invited to witness the first shaves of the Xer staffed IT companies.

    3. The US has no laws that protect the weak, only laws that protect the strong. I am not physically attractive. My wife divorced me after five years and said I was insanely jealous and had gold medals from the NRA. The judge, following state guidelines, ordered me to pay 105% of my total income, with gaol if I did not pay the last penny (hard when you have to pay 5 more pennies than you have). He also ordered that, at 53, I must get no medications I could not pay for. So I went on the lam, and the US is trying to track me down, put me into gaol without any medications, and has agreed to let my brother-in-law videotape my death.

    3. But I’m just one unattractive man. Bush, jr destroyed Iraq, because Saddam was secular, and so was allowed to trade with Shi’a and Commies. Now Obama wants to make sure Iraq, Libya, Syria, and the Yemen are completely destroyed as states, so they can be fertile grounds for al-Qaeda (who have apologised to Saudia, and so are no longer a terrorist group, but are now an advocate for Freedom and Democracy–as long as it’s Sunni Islamists with none of the infidel Christians).

    • Any man who has been through the meat grinder that is the divorce industrial complex has my sympathy. You made the right choice–the only choice.

      Men don’t find out until too late that marriage has made them second class citizens. This is by design. Both the fact that it happens and that they don’t know in advance. Media: ‘Huh? Men being discriminated against? Who cares! Women being discriminated against is the story!’

      In ‘family law’ men have no rights and no redress. You doged the new debtors prison.

      http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2013-08-26/jail-becomes-home-for-husband-stuck-with-lifetime-alimony

      Hell, feminists believe men are the ‘oppressor’ class and therefore, CAN’T be victims.

      I won’t be getting married–in the US anyway. I’ll get married somewhere that values marriage with a woman who values it.

      ‘Til divorce-theft do we part!

      • Those who claim to care about human rights but don’t talk about this are not genuine.

    • Wikipedia gives Ted’s date of birth as August 26, 1963, making him either a Baby Boomer (standard definition: 1946-64) or a Gen Xer (Strauss and Howe definition: 1945-60). I don’t think that’s terribly important: it just means he’s not a Millennial, Gen Yer, Thirteener, or whatever we call the youngest adult generation.

      I keep hoping that in the words of Baby Boom heroes Steely Dan (and I’m definitely from the tail end of the Baby Boom), “the kid will live and learn/as he watches his bridges burn,” I’m not so sure they will. Too many of my generation have remained selfish in any number of ways.

  4. Let’s throw one more thing into this.

    The “millennial” approach. The millennials, at least the ones at the beginning of the Ponzi scheme, are selling a gimmick. How many Zuckerbergs can the system support? Seriously. That’s not even me on my usual tirade of hate against him. That’s just a question: how many Facebooks can there be? How many Twitters? What’s the saturation point for coders “innovating” the next “creative destruction”? How many willing tools to big business and police-state government can there be?

    The millennials are going to wake up one day to the same thing Bernie Madoff (and his victims) did. Eventually, there’s no way to keep the charade going. You can’t send the letter to 10 people because everyone’s already in the pyramid.

    • Absolutely, wealth is *not* a zero-sum game as the voodoo economists would have you believe.

      We’ve got to divide up the GDP, and that’s all there is. How we divide it up should be up to “us,” not those which benefit the most. Facebook & Microsoft are both anomalies, neither can happen again. It was a matter of being in the right place at the right time.

      Which isn’t to say that some OTHER technology won’t provide a similar opportunity. The guy who invents teleportation in his garage will get obscenely rich. But if he’s an engineer working for GE, then he’ll get the same salary as the guy who didn’t invent it – the GE VIPs will divide up the spoils.

  5. I’m a boomer, and I work in high tech. I got the distinction of being discriminated against by gens x, y & millennial. (Yes, gen x can discriminate with the best of them)

    When I started out, I respected those with more experience than I had. They could TEACH me stuff. Stuff they didn’t teach in college. (Stuff professors with no real experience didn’t know)

    I’d hoped to garner the same respect when I added “senior” to my badge. Didn’t happen that way. I’ve had smartasses straight out of school insisting they knew better than me, all while they were reinventing the mousetrap. Their versions invariably had 82 moving parts, weighed 40 pounds, and weren’t very good at catching mice – but they STILL insisted their approach was better.

    On the other side, you’ve got the managers who realize that kids straight out of college don’t have lives and families and are much more amenable to eighty hour weeks. They’re also cheaper than people with twenty years’ experience. Such a deal.

    This ugly trend is showcased by crappy Microsoft products. In the early days, young folks got rich and retired by thirty. Just when they’d learned enough to do their jobs well, they left & took their knowledge with them. There WERE no senior people. Today, M$ puts the senior people into crappy jobs – they don’t fire them, they still pay them the same, so no discrimination, right? If a good engineer suddenly finds himself in tech support and decides to leave, then that’s his decision – M$ is totally not to blame.

    Google’s making the same mistakes today. The Android operating system is an absolute mess inside, and every six months they come out with a new version. “Forget everything you thought you knew, we changed our minds about how that all works. Again.”

    PS – Gen X is now 60% of the workforce. Y’all just lost your best scapegoat, now the world’s problems belong to you. From everything I’ve heard, you’ve got all answers. Lemme know when you got it fixed.

    >;->

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