I am never quite sure which generation I belong to. Though I am mocked for calling myself a millennial (having been three at the start of the century), I have trouble feeling solidarity with my younger friends who never knew life without the smartphone. My peers and I find ourselves stuck between two demographics; not yet old enough to truly impact our world, but just old enough to know the terrifying direction it’s headed in.
Perhaps, then, we should call ourselves by a different name altogether — by the word so commonly used to describe us. We aren’t Generation Y, nor are we Millennials. We are neither the “Me” nor the “i” Generation. According to many of our elders, we are the Entitled Generation.
We grew up in the world of climate change, of Occupy Wall Street, and of the Arab Spring. In very real ways, these events shaped us. In fifth grade I watched my friends give a presentation on how arctic ice was melting and water levels were rising. In middle school, I saw millions of people rise up against oppressive institutions, both at home and abroad. Yet — contrary to the narrative of progress — in highschool, and now in college, I see these crises becoming only more dire.
In spite of huge unrest, upheaval, and near constant progress in science and technology, the horrifying trends of totalitarianism and economic inequity continue. With NerdWallet reporting that, in 2015, the average American owed more than $100,000 in debt, with the years-long Syrian Civil War becoming deadlier still by the day, and with NASA showing the loss of nearly 14,000 square miles of Arctic and Antarctic ice every year, it is not difficult to see how growing up through crisis after unresolved crisis has left us utterly unsatisfied with this world.
It’s somewhat funny, then, that the term “entitlement” is meant as a vitriolic insult. What we are being attacked for is our unwavering belief that we deserve a better world.
Yes, I believe that we are entitled to live free from the shackles of ever-increasing debts. Yes, I insist that we are entitled to a future where we can not only survive, but live happy and fulfilling lives. And yes, I will protest, and vote, and scream, and fight in the name of true change and progress. Not because we are entitled to more than those before us, but because were are entitled to the same unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness that they enjoyed. The time for our revolution has come.
It may have been given as a snide insult, or as an excuse to dismiss our anger with the status quo, but I see no shame in accepting the banner our detractors have so graciously offered us. It’s time America made way for the Entitled Generation.