The Myth of the War Between the Millennials and the Baby Boomers

The Myth of the War Between the Millennials and the Baby Boomers

Young people in Aotearoa face enormous challenges. Much of the millennial generation cannot realistically dream of being able to afford to own a home, and are subjected to shockingly poor conditions in a rental system that has no proper regulatory framework. The labour market is dominated by temporary, part-time and low-waged jobs. Employment is only going to become more scarce as automation becomes cheaper than even the worst paid workers and we have to compete with machines for the means to a living. And catastrophic climate change, which will eventuate if no action is taken, will destroy living standards and threaten a total breakdown of society. Our generation and our children will bear the brunt of this rapidly approaching calamity.

It is tempting, on assessing the predicament millennials are in, to draw conclusions that lead to a narrative of intergenerational warfare. The temptation is to say that the baby boomers rigged the rules in their own favour and created an era of wealth and enrichment that would be unsustainable in the long term and would rob younger generations of opportunity and prosperity. This temptation must be resisted and this narrative rejected. The current harsh conditions that young people face are the result of political choices made by the representatives of businesspeople and landlords, who own this land and most of its contents. These people benefit themselves at the expense of a much bigger class of people — the vast majority who have to work to earn a living. The diverse working class of Aotearoa, young and old, of various genders, sexualities and ethnicities, whether Tangata Whenua or Tangata Tiriti, has been robbed of its wealth by our economic system, and the majority of millennials are now feeling the harsh effects.

The unemployment and inequality that exploded under the first wave of neoliberal governments resulted in people with previously stable jobs having no wealth or agency left, causing many to take their own lives in despair. That same blight is hitting our generation of workers now. We must stand alongside older generations in solidarity — as a class — and say that, young or old, the vast majority of New Zealanders are harmed by free market economics. Intergenerational warfare is, to use a suitably antiquated colloquialism, baloney!

The solution to the economic woes faced by various generations of New Zealanders is a new type of social- and values-based politics, to quote fellow millennial and author, Max Harris. Our current system treats people as consumers to be milked, and as workers to be exploited, to be paid as little as possible and charged as much rent as possible, in order to maximise the profits of the owners of land and industry. The only way to counter this is a political narrative and policy solutions based on the fundamental premise that human beings are inherently trustworthy, creative and deserving of rights and social security!

There is a bogus idea that somehow baby boomers are responsible for young people suffering precarious work and housing conditions, and growing up with an increasingly at-risk environment. But baby boomers have also suffered due to market economics. The argument needs to be seen for what it is: a distraction from the real systemic causes of inequality.

This article was originally written on behalf of the Young Greens of Aotearoa New Zealand and published in issue 54 of Te Awa, the Green Party magazine. It has been republished with the kind permission of the editor.

Elliot Crossan is a socialist writer and activist. At time of writing, he was Co-Convenor of the Young Greens.

1 May, 2017

Posted by Elliot Crossan in Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand, New Zealand politics, 0 comments