Kids These Days Should Have It Too Easy
We all know the grumpy old man joke. “When I was your age, I walked to school barefoot, in the snow, uphill, both ways!” We would chuckle at our grandfathers or fathers as they told that goofy joke, playing up their suffering for a laugh.
I’m kinda worried that mentality has ruined a lot of discourse in our country. People are griping about everything being too easy. The younger generations are wussies, the older generations say. They’re soft, they have it too easy. They don’t have the same struggles as we had growing up.
I mean, yeah, of course I didn’t have the same struggles my parents did. They didn’t grow up with a box in their pocket that could access all of human knowledge.
Every new generation has it easier than past generations. That’s kind of how progress works. Technology moves forward, and each new generation works to eliminate some problem or another that plagued them in the past.
Unfortunately, we have reached a point where many people — particularly older people but not exclusively — feel like the premise that “kids these days have it too easy” is a dire situation that must be fixed. The problem is, fixing that “problem” means either preventing progress or actively making things harder.
There are strong active pushes against things like socialized healthcare, low-cost or government-subsidized higher education, and higher minimum wages. The younger generations feel like these things would improve their lives drastically and improve the quality of life for everyone. Unfortunately, many older people, who hold a lot more power in government, are against such things.
In the case of something like socialized healthcare, there is the common “socialism=communism” argument that permeates the argument, particularly among the Boomers, who had to deal with the Cold War growing up. What has been missed is that every other first-world power has some form of socialized medicine, and they’re almost all doing better than us in terms of the health of their citizens. They also don’t have to deal with things like medical bankruptcies.
Unfortunately, the system that the Boomers built — private health insurance, primarily through employment — has become increasingly burdensome and expensive. Many people hold multiple part-time jobs and can’t get insurance through any of them; coupled with a transition to a system where many workers make their living as freelancers or contract workers through apps like Uber, employer-sponsored health insurance is becoming less common.
As someone who works in a field where working freelance is much more lucrative, but who also has a chronic illness that depends on my access to insurance, I feel stuck. I need my employer’s health insurance to live and work, and while I might want to go freelance, I can’t depend on being able to access reliable insurance. While the Affordable Care Act offers a marketplace of (expensive) insurance options, I can’t rely on that because of the concentrated effort to repeal it or strike it down — led primarily by older conservatives.
The problem that underlies all of this is the notion that we need to suffer to build character, or work hard to “earn our keep,” or some other tripe like that. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in working hard at my job, but there is a disconnect about what “working hard” and “suffering for your work” mean between generations. Ultimately, younger people work hard and suffer, they just do it in ways that older generations don’t recognize.
All of this leads to a split in mindsets between two polar opposites. In one camp, there is the group that thinks “I had to suffer to be successful, so why shouldn’t they?” In the other camp, there is the group that thinks “I had to suffer to be successful, so I’m going to work to make sure that nobody else has to suffer in that way.”
As someone who works in the nonprofit field, I fall into the second camp. I don’t believe that future generations have to suffer the way I did. I don’t think suffering is an inherently good thing that builds character — it isn’t inherently bad either, but for the most part, suffering sucks and should be avoided.
Sure, there are plenty of people who used their suffering as motivation to become millionaires, but for every one of them, there are ten thousand who just suffer needlessly. I feel like our job as humans is to make a better world for future generations so they don’t have to suffer as we did.
So, when I hear someone gripe about how “kids these days have it too easy,” I think, well of course kids these days should have it too easy! That’s the point of progress.
There will always be problems and struggles that every new generation faces, and the older generations may or may not understand those struggles. But, as someone who now (sort of) belongs to an “older generation,” I plan on working as hard as I can to make sure that the generations that come after me don’t have to struggle as I did.
I don’t want younger people to have to worry about where their healthcare will come from. I don’t want them to worry about how to pay for school, or whether they’ll be able to pay their bills, or whether they can afford a house if they want one. I want them to not have to struggle to survive. I want them to thrive, and I want them to have an easier time of it than I did.
So yeah, kids these days should have it too easy. That’s the point of progress. As for anyone who disagrees, I don’t know how else to explain that you should care about other people.