Generations are defined by their birth dates and by that definition the term Millennials does not include the latest ‘Z’ generation (https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/01/17/where-millennials-end-and-generation-z-begins/). Nevertheless, for easier exposition, I will use the term Millennials to include both generations.
There is always a conflict between generations about the challenges that have been faced and are currently being faced by different generations. In my mind, the greatest current conflict is that the older generation feels that the current generation is ‘entitled’, whilst the young generation feels that the older generation had it easier.
I will be addressing the first issue, because the second issue is in many ways irrelevant. Even if one accepts that the rebuilding of Western economies after WWII was a period of tremendous economic growth, the human effort and sacrifice associated with it was also tremendous. And that sacrifice commands respect from the younger generation, rather than entitlements from society, or an arrogant attitude as being promoted by some websites(https://www.fuckbeinghumble.com).
2. Millennials and their entitled attitude
The Millennials attitude of entitlement has been long discussed and some authors referred to it as the ‘Me me me Generation’ (https://time.com/247/millennials-the-me-me-me-generation/).
Rather than covering the extensive academic literature on this matter, let me give you some every day examples of this entitled attitude of youngsters.
First, it prevails at an early age, when students as young as 12 and 13 question their teachers about basic issues of grammar when they learn a foreign language, just because rules of that language do not follow the rules of their mother tongue. Second, a sixteen-year-old Swedish girl feels entitled to aggressively and abusively lecture politicians and business leaders about their attitude to climate, and lay out a road map for them how to solve this perceived problem. Third, when recent graduates from high school put pressure on their parents to let them celebrate their graduation abroad at great cost to the parents. Forth, when some Millennials spend all their money on travel and eating out in restaurants rather than saving(https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/insights/topics/talent/deloitte-millennial-survey.html). Fifth, when Millennials decide to get married abroad at great cost and subsequently complain how hard it is to buy their own home. They should remember resources are limited. And finally, when young people choose not to move out of their parents’ home, so they can continue with the level of consumption they feel they are entitled to as children. They should remember their parent’s resources are limited (remember the movie ‘https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Failure to Launch’).
The interesting question is, where is this attitude coming from?
3. The psychology of entitlement
Dr J Adams clearly defines entitlement as” Entitlement is an enduring personality trait, characterized by the belief that one deserves preferences and resources that others do not’ (https://www.psychologytoday.com/sg/blog/between-the-lines/201801/what-we-mean-when-we-talk-about-entitlement). The academic literature on the psychology of entitlement is vast (see the followings for example; Vhttps://psycnet.apa.org/record/2016-37455-001, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/8437291_Psychological_Entitlement_Interpersonal_Consequences_and_Validation_of_a_Self-Report_Measure, https://www.inc.com/ryan-jenkins/this-is-why-millennials-are-entitled.html), but it seems that there are some common-sense drivers of self-entitlement, which are consistent with the academic literature.
First, a possible cause of self-entitlement of the Millennials is due to parenting of the Baby Boomer generation. Baby Boomers having a modest upbringing by their parent’s post war, wanted to give everything to the Millennials. Second, societal changes both in terms of how to discipline children and how to make everybody a ‘winner’ regardless of their level of achievements at schools may have led the Millennials to a sense of self entitlement. Third, social platforms enable the emergence of social influencers as role models. Many of these influencers have very little talent but abundance of narcissism. The internet enables them to amass great wealth to themselves and act as role models to some Millennials. Similarly, reality TV stars, who have very little to offer beyond their self-centred narcissism, have become role models. All these may lead Millennials to believe that, they are entitled to special treatment.
But the question is but whom?
4.0 Millennials, the world does not owe you anything, you have to earn your own stripes
Of course, a number of Millennials have earned their own stripes. Just think about the number of internet entrepreneurs who are millionaires if not billionaires. They did it the hard way, they did not inherit their wealth, but they worked extremely long hours for years and years and hardly earning a living. They must be celebrated.
But the rest of the self-entitled Millennials there are some hard facts they should remember. First, remember that when you think that the government owes you a better education, better health care or any other social benefits, governments get their resources through taxing you and your fellow citizens not from money trees. Hence society and governments do not have anything or owe anything beyond what you yourself produce and government takes away from you through taxes.
Second, salaries may not have gone up in real terms a lot (https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/08/07/for-most-us-workers-real-wages-have-barely-budged-for-decades), but things have got much cheaper due to cheap Asian labour costs. Further, technological improvements to household duties and outsourcing of many household duties such as cleaning, ironing, washing, takeaways instead of cooking has enabled households to have double income with both parents working.
Third, do not forget about adjusting historical prices for inflation. Something may have cost just a few pennies 20-30 years ago but nominal wages were also significantly lower at that time. For example, you cannot compare property prices of today with those of thirty years ago without adjusting them for inflation. Furthermore, children often do not even share bathrooms any more, let alone bedrooms. Hundred dollars was a small fortunate just a few decades back. Fourth, you may feel as entitled as you like but there are many people in poorer countries, who would be happy to earn their stripes in Western societies and take your place without complaining or feeling entitled.
Finally, remember what JFK said in his inauguration speech on the 20/1/1961 “ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country” (https://www.jfklibrary.org/learn/education/teachers/curricular-resources/elementary-school-curricular-resources/ask-not-what-your-country-can-do-for-you). This was true sixty years ago and still is true today.
So, Millennials, the resources available to you are generated from the wealth your generation creates for society.
5. Key takeaways
Many Millennials feel a sense of entitlement.
Parenting, changes in disciplining and educating Millennials potentially contributed to their self-entitled attitude.
Influencers on social media and reality stars entitled, narcissistic attitude may also contribute to Millennials self-entitled attitude.
Nevertheless, Millennials have to earn their stripes in society, like all other generations have done before them, as long as they cannot grow money on trees.