Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Fall Out Of the Generation Gap

Rinku Sen has a rather odd post on RaceWire. She* titles it "Dear Generation Disaffected:" which I guess includes me. She takes the anecdotal evidence of his intern, who said she couldn't find a place "to contribute." Sen then dives in to trying to figure out why this generation feels disaffected. But her post isn't very specific. Is she talking about all young people? Is she talking about young people of color? Or simply young men, like this intern? Is she talking about those seeking a career in nonprofits? It's unclear.

Thomas Friedman wrote the now-famous "Generation Q" column for the New York Times. Instead of trying to inspire a new generation to political action, he spent the entire column attacking us for lazing on the couch and plugging iPod buds into our ears. Baby Boomers and Gen Xers think because they don't see an exact replication of what they did when they were young, something must be drastically, desperately wrong.

Sen didn't stop to think that this generation isn't a monolithic group. Since she left out details about the intern, I can't speak for him, but I tend to doubt young activists, organizers, or budding young media stars that pepper our generation feel disaffected. As for the rest of us, it's not hard to figure out why some of us feel frustrated: we're facing unprecedented piles of student loans, a failing economy that makes many college grads wonder if they'll ever find a job, and opposition to a war that shows no signs of stopping. Indeed, it's hard to deny that things are bad. But then, things are bad for everyone.

Furthermore, Sen claims little responsibility for what she ascribes to be disaffection. In fact, she even says, "[My intern's] program requires a mentor, and I was it." It's an attitude of reluctance. In fact, until recently, progressives have been largely unwilling to pay much attention to young people. Thanks to "Generation Me" of which Sen is a part, young people have mostly gotten to where they are today without any real form of mentorship at any real level. This is a trend I've noticed in the generational divide among feminists. There are young women that are willing to take up the label and the cause, but instead of getting praise and mentorship from second-wave feminists, they are often attacked for their choice of lifestyle, profession, or even presidential candidate.

But the reality is that despite the debtloads, poor economy, and lack of mentorship, young people are doing good. I work for an organization called Campus Progress that works for this sole purpose -- to give resources to young people that want to work on making a difference. There are superdelegates that can't even drink legally yet, and young media stars like many of the people that I know here in D.C. We're hard at work making sure college loans ratchet down to affordability, getting other young people to vote in the upcoming election, and starting multi-billion dollar websites like Facebook.

So perhaps I should open a letter back up to those that are in the upper brackets of the generation groups. Instead of whining about how we don't do anything, why don't you open your eyes and give us a hand on what we're already working on?

Cross posted.

*I originally referred to Sen as a he. My sincere apologies for the error.

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