When Hipsters Went To Work

I’m sick and tired of people shitting on my generation. I’m a Millennial. I’m up at 4:53 in the morning. I’d normally be working on my novel, Farisa’s Crossing, by this time– currently, I’m writing this. That’s not a story that ever gets told. According to the trope dictionary, we’re lazy, shiftless, and jobless. This is the gist of the (well-made, I’ll admit) Youtube video, “Sponsor a Millennial“.

Let’s level on this topic. Yes, there are a few insufferable hipsters who run around eating avocado brioche and doing stupid shit “for the [Insta]gram [post]”. No question. You’re going to find an insufferable 1 percent within any generation. At the upper end of the socioeconomic spectrum, you’ll find a disproportionate number of parentally-funded legacy kids with no work ethic. This isn’t new. It goes back millennia.

What has changed? In general, the Millennials got fucked. Yes, fucked. If you look at the top 1 percent of our generation, then you wouldn’t think so, because indeed there are pampered brats among us. Even if you compare the 99th percentile of our generation to that of the Boomers, then you might see disparity and it’s not in our favor, but you wouldn’t shed a tear. If you compare the 50th percentiles… don’t even get me started. If you really think that the median Millennial is sitting in a cafe munching avocado toast at 11:00 on a Tuesday morning on his parents’ dime, you’re nuts. The median Millennial is the one cleaning up the table for $10 an hour.

Everything bad that can be said about Millennials, the first post-apocalyptic generation in the U.S., can be turned around on the Boomers. Let’s take the hipster “gluten free” fetishism. Yes, it smacks of disability appropriation, which I’m generally not a fan of– you’re not “OMG soooo bipolar” because you lost your car keys. People without celiac disease have no reason not to eat gluten, but what’s the harm in this? As far as I can tell, this gluten-free craze makes life easier for people with legitimate celiac disease, who cannot eat gluten without getting very sick, and need gluten-free products. Okay, maybe you don’t like when healthy 30-year-olds claim to be “gluten-free” based on a fad, but as I said, there’s little harm in that. On the other hand, their Boomer counterparts in the Bay Area fucking kill kids by not vaccinating them. What’s worse, fake celiac or real measles?

We have Spotify Premium and kombucha; they got to buy houses in California for $80,000 that now cost $2 million, and don’t even have to pay proper taxes. I know, it’s weird. All that land that no one can afford unless they already have overpriced land… we must still deduce that it must have once been affordable, because it’s owned by someone. Crazy, right?

Really, who are the entitled assholes here?

Let’s talk about the lazy hipsters, though. They certainly exist, right? There are wealthy shirkers in every generation. Here’s the difference. In our generation, they sit in cafes and eat brioche and call themselves “artists” but don’t really have the work ethic necessary to make actual art. Yeah, I find them annoying, too. They’re apathetic and hedonistic, and they’re not even any good at the hedonism part. What about their shirker counterparts, in the Baby Boomer generation? They went to work. They had corporate jobs.

See, a Boomer could be tripping balls at Woodstock in 1969 and be a CEO’s protege in 1970 and a CEO himself in 1981. They could meander into their 30s and 40s and get their shit together in a week and have executive jobs. Meanwhile, a Millennial who doesn’t have a prestigious internship in his freshman summer in college is fucked for life. How is that fair?

Here’s what corporate life looked like for white-collar Boomers, back in the era of the three-martini lunch. You showed up at 9:45 in the morning, 10:00 if there was traffic. You worked till lunch. Your boss was your friend and he took you out for steak on the corporate account. You’d try not to drink too much, because your boss actually mentored you (he was upwardly mobile, too) and those sessions were usually in the early afternoon. If you were still actually working at 3:30, you were a real go-getter. If you were working at 6:00, executives talked about you in glowing terms and you’d be running the company one day. If you went to work and actually worked, you’d rise up the ladder, no problem. Doing any work at all was pretty much optional. You could hide in your office and do nothing for years on end. It would be noticed; you would be held accountable: you’d make Senior Vice President at 40 instead of 35. Gasp! What would happen if your friends in the Hamptons found out that you were still a VP (no S) at 38? Your kids might have to go to Princeton instead of Harvard, if you didn’t clean that up. That was Boomer corporate life.

In the Boomers’ era, you could actually live that snoozy, brunch-eating life and climb the corporate ladder. You didn’t have to choose.

One could argue that I’m being unfair. The portrait above ignores black Boomers, it ignores Boomers who died in Vietnam, it ignores working-class Boomers, it ignores immigrant Boomers, and it ignores the Boomers today who never grabbed a spot on the corporate jet and are now dying of opioid addiction in West Virginia. Fair. I don’t actually think that all Boomers are entitled assholes who had it easy, because that’s not true. My parents: great people, happened to be Boomers. You can’t paint a whole generation with one brush. That life was only available to the top 15%. Still, you’ve got to compare like against like, and if you think that bottom-85% Millennials today are sitting around in Portland drinking artisanal coffee on parental funds, then you’re a fucking idiot. What are they actually doing? Bagging your groceries, until computer programmers like me figure out a way to automate that job into oblivion, too. (Sorry! Hey, most programmers would rather be curing cancer too, but most programming jobs are just helping businessmen unemploy people.) If you compare like against like, the Boomers had it better and the Millennials got fucked.

To be honest about it, I’d rather have idle rich than any other kind of rich in the world. I think we should encourage idleness in the wealthy; as a mechanism of rotating out legacy and rotating in quality, peaceful aristocratic decline is better than violent overthrow. Let’s be honest: in the corporate world, connections trump knowledge, work ethic, talent and especially integrity (which might be a fetter). Corporate America isn’t a meritocracy; it exists to ratify an existing hereditary hierarchy. If those insufferable decliningly rich hipsters actually had the attention span necessary to sit down and work, they’d push us all down one more peg. I can ignore Instagram. Force those shitty brats to work, and they’ll become bosses. Trust me; that isn’t good for anyone.

On this topic, I should get back to work myself. Putting the “Fuck Off, World” headphones back on in 3… 2… 1….

12 thoughts on “When Hipsters Went To Work

  1. Duh Media needs its Mythologies and Omnes Omnes Generationes is ever one of the most automystical. Baby Boomers as ’46 to ’64 is probably one of the worst, lumping classes and cohorts together that had nothing to do with each other and never will.

    • In particular there is a significant division about birth year 1950, those older are in many ways still part of the Silent Generation, raised in the expectation of going to work, keep your nose clean, have a decent life, while those younger, not so much

  2. The irony is that you probably belong to the top 15% and work hard. You would become a rich boss if you want. But, my impression is that you need to belong to the top 1% to actually live an aristocratic life. The bottom 99% would have to actually work.

  3. The wealthy boomers. Those who didn’t buy houses are facing exile from Bay Area at retirement. Now, my Social Security looks to make me in 70th percentile in a small town outside California, but it’s still galling to look forward to.

    As to millenials, they make up most of our Armed Forces, for example, and the servers and baristas, the 20 hour a week call in for your shift at 7 AM retail workers. The spoiled brat children of rich people are a tiny froth on this cauldron of misery.

  4. Michael, you’re confusing the upper middle class suburban Boomers for the entire age cohort.

    There most definitely were people who breezed in at 9:45 and magically leapt from smoldering disaster to smoldering disaster, with constantly increasing titles and pay.

    But plenty of us worked, got fired, scrambled for next job, never quite enough to buy a house and not facing a very good retirement.

    Worst off are the non-upper-class kids who went to Woodstock, got screwed up, and have had the most marginal economic lives since.

  5. Hey, even in our lifetimes it got more difficult. I find myself working harder and harder for less and less. Back when I barely knew what I was doing, I used to have a part-time consulting business that supplied 20k a year in extra income. Today? Twice as much experience, can actually do real work, patent, publications, degrees from the top universities, and if I asked for as much as I used to I’d be laughed out of the room. If Millennials look like slackers, why? When they do get jobs, and look up the ladder, who do they see? Yes-men who are not very bright, not very hard-working, and have very little integrity. Society everywhere tells us that hard work doesn’t matter, and it makes very little difference in your path of success.

    • “If Millennials look like slackers, why? When they do get jobs, and look up the ladder, who do they see? Yes-men who are not very bright, not very hard-working, and have very little integrity. Society everywhere tells us that hard work doesn’t matter, and it makes very little difference in your path of success.”

      This is quite on point.

      Boomers (and I’m really only talking about the richest 10-15%) threw a fit when they realized that they’d have to go to work. That’s what most of the ’60s hippie movement was about. The anti-war protesters and civil rights marchers were dedicated, effective and quite hard working themselves; but the “fun”/hippie/stupid aspect of the ’60s was Boomers saying “Fuck Work”, knowing they’d get back in to the bourgeois middle class.

      Millennial slackers actually own their apathy.

      • The poorer kids who were drawn into Hippie-ism had their lives ruined, at least economically, since they couldn’t just get a haircut, buy a couple of suits and dress shoes, and get upper middle class jobs when “it was time”.

  6. When boomers boomed, that was during the period of 1950 to 1970. The trend reversed in the early 70s, but as any trend, it was a steady decline that accelerated in the 90s when Clintons took over.
    50s to 1970, it was a so called Green Revolution period. Back then, the banks were still…well, just banks, grey buildings that were pretty anonymous in everybody’s mind. A sort of marginal entities. You need a loan, you go to the bank that appreciate your business. That was the job of banks back then, usual banking things.
    Who and how promoted banks to what they are now?
    What was happening in Carter’s administration and later in Reagan’s ?
    What king of reconfiguration in the economy happened in the 70s?

    The answer: overnight, he sound economy of 50s to 70s was transformed into an oligarchic system that started an ongoing war on the middle class that spanned Boomers, X-ers, Y-ers, Milleniums – all generations ever since.
    Let us not forget that as 70s started, Boomers were only 20 something kids practically. For all practical purposes, they neither smell nor ate those onions, the Deep State did. This is all well described in Chomsy’s seminal work “Requiem for the Americal Dream”.

    The first task of the newly inaugurated oligarchic system was to reduce democracy on the platform that hippies and protests and Woodstocks etc., had to be contained on an urgent basis. Reduction of democracy and gradual marginalization of the population were the main goals of these neoliberal policies.
    There were two general phases in US post-war socio-economic history. The first phase was sometimes called regulated capitalism with embedded liberalism of late 50s and 60s, a very high growth period, an egalitarian growth. There were some moves toward social justice in the sixties, substantial increase in democratic participation, people became really engaged in the public arena.
    All of this had various effects. One effect was reduction – the falling rate of profit, which was critical; second effect was people becoming too engaged in public affair. This is what Samuel Huntington called an “excess of democracy” – two very important publications came out in the early seventies both directed to this. They’re interesting because they were opposite ends of the political spectrum, but they basically came to the same conclusion with somewhat different rhetorical styles. One was the Powell memoranda 1930 pal memorandum written by a corporate lawyer working with tobacco corporation, who later became Supreme Court justice under Nixon.
    He wrote a memorandum, which was supposed to be confidential, but it leaked to the US Chamber of Commerce business group. In which he, the rhetoric is quite fascinating, expressed the view of (not uncommon among those who really own the world, that their control is being very slightly diminished) and in the manner of the spoiled three-year-old who doesn’t get a piece of candy. That means the world’s coming to an end so you really have to read the rhetoric to appreciate it’s the attack on the American free enterprise system. He said the business world is under severe attack led by Ralph Nader and Herbert Markham universities right. And that they, as the trustees of the universities, should not let these these kids run wild. That we can constrain the media, after all we have the power. And he called for mobilization of the business world to defend ourselves.
    Then you go to the other end of the spectrum, basically Carter administration liberalism, in fact Trilateral commission that’s industrial democracies in Europe, Japan and the United States, basically liberal internationalists and they had a publication called The Crisis of Democracy. And the crisis of democracy was that there’s too much democracy in the 1960s, too many people who are usually passive and apathetic now started becoming engaged in the political arena pressing for the demands and so on (sometimes called special interests meaning young people, old people, farmers, workers, in other words everybody except the corporate sector, which was not mentioned there). So now people have to return to being passive and apathetic. The mentioned American reporter Sam Huntington, with some nostalgia, referred to the period when, as he put it, was able to run the country with a cooperation of a few Wall Street lawyers and executives.the young you talk.
    They actually created architectural plans for colleges in a way that large demonstrations would not be possible, and initiated use of student debt for debt peonage. This is how it all began. It was more or less an articulation of the liberal elite consensus on these issues and for that reason it’s quite interesting. The phrase indoctrination of the young actually is their phrase. They said the institutions responsible for the indoctrination of the young are failing their duty. Kind of like the nostalgic comment on Truman being able to run the country with a few corporate lawyers. I.e. students should not think. They don’t put it this way, but that is what it means: they shouldn’t be free to inquire, to think, to challenge, just the kind of things that in a decent educational system young people would be encouraged to do, but it’s dangerous because they’re questioning too many eternal verities including that there has to be elite domination.

    To summarize:

    Deep State, by introducing neoliberal policies, destroyed so called regulated capitalism (which functioned sufficiently well in 1950-1970 period).
    It was a domino effect that continues to increase ever since. Millenians and others are just collateral damage of Trilateral Commission policies. World Bank, IMF, etc., did not bring any good not only to US, but nowhere else. The Green Revolution, instead of solving the hunger problem, increased the hunger problem. And so on.

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