what is poor anyway?

So I posted an article I read that someone posted on Facebook. It was about how the Millennial Generation are the poorest when compared to other generations at that age. I read the article and it raises a few valid points — like how the Baby Boomers left the world in such a state that the Millennial Generation doesn’t want to play by their rules — but I felt that it was only one side of a fairly even argument.

Read the article here: The real reason young people are the poorest generation in 25 years (The Daily Dot)

From the article:

Millennials certainly are facing a financial crisis, but it’s not because of how they use their money, nor is it the result of how many Facebook quizzes they take or BuzzFeed listicles they read. It has much more to do with the financial legacy left to them by the boomers—and the refusal to acknowledge that this is a generation in dire need of better social support. — S. E. Smith (Daily Dot)

The article puts Millennials and Baby Boomers on the opposite ends of a debate that involves economics, history, sociology, the Internet, and our values systems as human beings. The article claims that Baby Boomers are to blame for not creating a better atmosphere for Millennials to succeed, that Millennials have to work harder in the conditions that were left to them by the previous generation and so they fall short of the Baby Boomer’s standards.

The article defends the Millennials from the criticism the younger generation is getting; being called entitled, and spoiled, and lazy.

In fact, the article says:

Workplace consultant Sherri Elliott-Yeary further believes: “Millennials are not willing to make work the central focus of their lives as Baby Boomers have.” Millennials are all too busy looking for fun to buckle down and work—which is why companies have to resort to juvenile features like slides and ball-pits to attract millennial workers, and why millennials flock to the Internet. Millennials believe in YOLO, FOMO, and #picsoritdidnthappen. — S. E. Smith (Daily Dot)

I posted the article because I thought it was another side to the story. I see, on my timeline on Facebook, all these In Defence of the Millennials type articles and how a lot of these articles are raising the premium for work-life balance and having fun in what they do and not taking things too seriously. I thought it was interesting to show another side of the defence which actively blames a particular generation and somehow puts emphasis on the conditions of the world which actually makes the Millennial generation and their outlook in life as a sort of rebellion.

I like, also, how the article managed to say something which I haven’t read anywhere else recently that talks about the current socio-economic conditions of the world and how it could affect the younger generation and their approach to life.

I thought that was an interesting aspect that I haven’t read anywhere else before.

Well, after I posted the link to the article on my Twitter, someone tweeted a response saying that “Baby Boomers are not to be blamed for the millennial’s failure. Millennials think they are entitled to everything without working for it.”

We sort of exchanged more points of view. I said I wasn’t completely agreeing with the article but at the same time, why is there such a focus on work anyway? Or at least, the concept of work, in the sense, of making a lot of money as a benchmark to success?

I agree that there are a lot of millennials who are lazy and who don’t know what it is like to put in the hours and start from the bottom and work their way up to the top. I know quite a bit of them who are that way; and in this day and age of the Internet when a good enough idea is all you need to become an instant “success,” the goal is no longer about the journey but the destination.

I don’t believe in that. But I was born in a different generation and raised by a different generation but I was also trained and educated to be aware of my current surroundings and to really look at how the world works and operates. The Internet really has changed everything and it has created so much shortcuts for people to achieve something that the older generation had to work extremely long and hard for. I don’t think one is better or right over the other, I just think that the world has changed and the rules of changed and to continue to apply the old ways of thinking in this strange, new world would be a big mistake.

From the article:

Everyone loves to hate on millennials. Patricia Sellers at Fortune writes: “While we Baby Boomers typically place high value on pay, benefits, stability and prestige, Gen Y cares most about fun, innovation, social responsibility, and time off.” — S.E. Smith (Daily Dot)

And what is wrong about fun, innovation, social responsibility, and time off? Really? What is poor anyway?

Fine. I understand the need to pay your bills and pay your taxes and to pay for food. I understand that you shouldn’t expect people to foot the bill when you want to eat or have a roof on your head. I believe in that. But why is money the only way one measures the difference between rich and poor?

If a person can work just enough to pay their bills, pay off their debts, keep a roof on their heads, eat, and have enough money to do with as they please, why can’t they? Do they have to own their own homes? Do they have to have expensive cars? Do they have to buy in the corporate bullshit of buying everything that is cool and new?

The article talks about these metrics about what “making it” is and what success entails but it is rooted in the problem that a college education from a good school is important or having to defend playground perks in the workplace as not a way of pandering to the whims of a younger generation that puts importance in having fun with what they do. I know quite a lot of people who are doing just fine with a college education from a not-so-famous school and I even know a lot of people who are doing great without even having ever gone to college. I know people who are debt free and surfing and visiting other countries more often than they are at work.

The questions that this issue brings out, and that I couldn’t argue over Twitter because of the 140-character limit is that work no longer has to be the central focus of people’s lives and some people have made fun work as the central focus of their lives. I think it is that shift in the working paradigm that needs to be redefined and explored because more and more people are starting to discover that stability does not necessarily indicate success or happiness.

And while it is practical and rational to want to achieve stability, there are people out there who will say they would rather be happy or successful but in their own terms.

No longer on anybody else’s terms and definitely not in the terms that was laid out before us by people who are long dead and gone.

I personally think that the people who are continuing this cycle of thought — that the world needs the people to be like machines and make our work the central focus of our lives — are the people who are at the top of the food chain and need us to continue following their demands to keep them rich and above everyone else.

Why can’t life and living be the central focus of our lives and work just be an aspect of that? So, if Millennials want to sit down in front of the computer and jump from one interest to the next and try to find the industry that best suits them and disregards the need to establish tenure or experience, then so be it. We will hire them anyway because we want their energy and their creativity and their ability to synch in to this strange, new world, and if we give them enough reason to stay, they’ll stay. And if they don’t, then they don’t.

And if we decide not to hire a Millennial because they don’t really inspire us to trust them or think of them as loyal, then that’s the consequences they have to pay.

The blame game, I think, is strangely not applicable here because we are working on an old system of thought that I feel no longer applies in this day and age.

It’s easy for me to say, of course, because I find myself right smack down in the middle of this. I have respect and admiration for the traditional values of hard work that I was raised in but I also have awe and amazement at the spunk, creativity, and determination of the values of the younger generation that came after. I take what I feel works best for me from either side and I try to navigate in this strange, new world.

And before the Millennials changed the playing field, I’ve already worked hard and paid my dues that I can live the ideal Millennial life — calling my own shots, setting my own schedule, working on my own terms — as a freelancer in a creative industry where there is more premium in who I am as a person and what I can bring to the table creatively, and not what I can offer in terms of hours spent in an office doing what I am told. It’s not an easy life, for sure, and there are lean days and then there are abundant days, but over-all, I’m happy.

I am my own person and I’m not afraid to work hard if I want something; but I don’t want much so I don’t have to be working all the time. I have a lot of time to do the things I want to do and I have found activities that makes my life more meaningful.

What is poor anyway?

I don’t have a lot of money. Lately, I’ve been living hand-to-mouth, with every pay check comes a moment of brief pride and satisfaction before I am off to the bank to pay bills or a debt. But at the end of the day, I’ve worked only as much time as I wanted to, and I spend time with my friends and doing the things that I love to do. I travel when I have saved enough and I have everything I need.

Sure, I don’t have the latest sneakers or a brand new car. I have a shitty phone and my laptop is starting to slow down on me and I can’t really afford to change either yet. But I get my seven hours of sleep at night and I get to write my poems when the urge hits me. I have the time to plan and dream. I have time to see my friends.

I don’t have a lot of money but I’m not poor. My standards for a successful life is not based on what I have or how much is in my bank account. And I think that’s what the article may not have addressed as it played the blame game on the socio-economic conditions that were left to the Millennials by the Baby Boomers.

But again, that’s just me.

Post Script (written May 5, 2015)

Please understand that when I use the word poor, I meant that in the context of how it was presented in the article. I am aware of the major differences between poor in a first world context and poor in a third world context and that all the issues I’ve raised are really very much a privileged stand-point of the issues presented.

I know that in third world countries where millions of people don’t even have these sort of choices, this whole blog entry and the points taken here are all moot and can be considered detached and uncaring about the true sort of poverty that millions of people around the world are suffering from.

But that’s not the intention of this piece and I don’t think it is the intention of the article in question. Social injustice of that level and that degree is better handled by better people who understand that crisis more in-depthly than I. I just wanted to talk about the issues regarding the blame game that I picked up from the article in question and within the context of Millennials and Baby Boomers, which does not have any real impact, I suppose, in severe cases of poverty that is happening around the world and causing so much suffering.

I’m saying this now because I just read a few articles today about the earthquake in Nepal, how over 25,000 public school teachers will lose their jobs if the K-12 system is implemented this year, and rampant crime rate is increasing, as well as status updates of people being robbed in their own homes, while my friend was still inside his house!

Again, I know that this piece has nothing to do with real poverty and that this seems like a privileged account of middle-class detachment from reality and is practically a non-issue for many people around the world who are suffering. But I attacked it on a sociology level and a pop culture level, which I can do, because it is something I feel more better equipped to tackle.

The real issues of severe poverty requires a hell of a lot more research on my part and it is something that I don’t feel well-equipped to handle, at this stage or level.

Just saying. Just to be clear.

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