Millennial victimhood

posted by Jeff | Monday, February 22, 2016, 7:34 PM | comments: 0

There has been some Internet buzz about a 25-year-old woman who apparently worked for Yelp and was fired after posting a long rant about not being able to pay her bills on her Yelp salary. I don't imagine that anyone would be surprised that she was fired. What's more interesting than her boo-hoo's is the response in various discussions on the Internets, especially in more age-diverse circles.

Let me first say that I don't entirely buy-in to the millennial stereotype of perpetual victimhood. I know a fair amount of 20-somethings who are hard-working, responsible grownups, changing the world. I realize that there may be some selection bias, as I'm probably not likely to encounter many people who fit the stereotype. But I still tend to reject the stereotype because it frankly sounds a lot like the one applied to my generation. Now we build electric cars, launch rockets that land, and we make the software that runs your life. So suck it, history. You got it wrong in the 90's. We're kickass.

In fact, I would suggest that victimhood is a pretty wide practice at this point across every generation. The political scene right now would certainly imply that. One side believes you're being screwed by Mexicans and Muslims, the other side believes you're being screwed by investment bankers. In fact, if you want to make a connection, I'd say that these 20-somethings who have parents approaching or in their 50's, now wanting to be victims, laid the ground work for any kind of millennial entitlement or poor expectations. Maybe I'm assigning blame, but perhaps they're the generation ultimately responsible for this phenomenon.

My generation was clearly not the last one to be sold a future that said college was the ticket to prosperity, but the messaging at the time at least implied that it would be a lot of work. I think shortly thereafter, the work part may have faded into the background. I imagine most people with a degree probably did do OK back then.

There is a lot of talk about a "living wage," which is not constructive at all because it's a loaded term. It means something different in every locale. It sounds like this Talia person makes around $23k a year, which is not enough to live in the San Francisco area. If that was the best I could do, I would make it my mission to move elsewhere. If a customer service gig is what you want, they can be found anywhere. Why stay? Clearly Yelp believes it can get away with paying that, and this woman validates that belief.

I'm obviously biased by my own experience. I lived very comfortably and took nice vacations in my post-college years on what amounts to $36k in today's dollars, which works out to about $17/hour. That's while my first wife was in grad school, and working part-time at $8/hr. Certainly our average wage was closer to $12. I imagine that if were both that age today, married, and living in Cleveland, we could make it work and be comfortable. Location made a difference, but not attempting to live rich made a big difference too.

I guess I'm not sure what to do with financial victimhood. Yes, there are many aspects of "the system" that put people at a disadvantage. I get that, and it's a legitimate problem that has to be addressed. I'm unconvinced that the scope of the problem is what some make it out to be, however. There is this broad spectrum of people ranging from those who feel beyond repressed and those who suck it up and make change where they can. I'm more likely to consider the opinions of the latter group than the former.


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