I’m tired of hearing older people blame younger ones

A riff off of that Simon Sinek video

So I just (finally!) watched this 15-minute Simon Sinek video on millennials [1], and what’s wrong with them.

Sinek [2] makes a number of great points in the video, which overall is a critique of millennials and how we are disconnecting from one another, and you really should watch it for yourself.

To be clear, I’m not sure I’m a standard millennial, since I realise the term applies largely to Americans. But I think everyone agrees the demographics, thanks to globalisation, aren’t much different in developed countries. Still, even in developing countries like my own Nigeria, young people (at least in the more urban areas) are, in thinking and world views, resembling their global counterparts more and more.

All this to say, many of us relate with what Sinek describes, not only as observers but from our own lived experiences.

My focus here is on something he says that I think is too easily forgotten by older people in conversations about young people.

Where older people get it wrong

Allow me to highlight the issue with an experience from my university days.

One of our lecturers (whose name I will obviously withhold), was in the habit of reminiscing about the past. As a lover of history, I’d have had nothing against it, myself, if he hadn’t also insisted on using it to bash the present.

Specifically, using it to bash those of us who lived in the present.

You can imagine my delight (call it schadenfreude if you will) on hearing him say the following one day:

In our time, we were taught by great men! Great men, I tell you!

I turned to my friend, sitting beside me and said:

“Well, it’s not like it’s our fault you’re all we’ve got!”

And therein lies my issue with how older people often criticise young people…

Young people came from somewhere, after all

Anyhow you look at it, young people are the result of the labours of older people. Yes, they have their choices to make, but can we deny that the way they approach those choices are rooted, in more ways than one, in values bequeathed by those before them?

Like Sinek points out at the beginning, many millennials are the result of “failed parenting strategies.” But if you see the way some people have put the video out, you’d think he was just saying to millennials, “You guys are idiots—get your act together!”

To be clear, I say all of this not just as a millennial myself (eighties), but one also as a longstanding teacher of younger millennials (nineties and early noughties). I’ve worked for over 10 years with teenagers. And over that time, I’ve seen again and again how people so easily blame these kids for getting things wrong, while not really offering them much help getting things right.

The point is not to let millennials off the hook. The point is to acknowledge this that we are part of whatever problems they have, and that we can also be part of whatever solutions they need.

Young people do not grow up in a vacuum

So, in the words of Thomas Paine:

Lead, follow, or get out of the way.


Footnotes

[1] Although Simon says (haha!) millennials are the age group born 1984 onward, this article from the Atlantic describes the range as 1982–2002. I’m more inclined to go with the article since they explain their reasoning, but we could just agree on roughly describing millennials as those born between the 80s and 2000 or so. Right? Sinek himself was born in 1973, by the way.

[2] This is random, but the name, Sinek, sounds very like “cynic,” which might be one way to describe his attitude toward millennials as expressed in this video.

[3] If you’re interested, here’s Sinek’s follow-up to the video (9 minutes) in which he emphasises the need for us to have empathy for the millenials.

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