On Millennial Ageism: Were Gen Xers Ever This Bad?

ageism millennial generation ageism

Baby boomers were so mean to their elders that some in the 1960s even made a movie about sending people over 30 to concentration camps. Millennials are worse.

aNewDomain ted-rall-on-rachel-dolezal— Back in their hippie days, Baby Boomers in their 20s were so mean to their elders that they even made a movie that involved sending anyone over 30 into concentration camps. And as they got older, Boomers flipped the switch, deploying their power as employers to discriminate against Generation Xers, which is my generation.

Now that the Boomers are finally fading into the demographic mists, it’s clear that their grown Millennial children are beginning to repeat that half-century-old pattern. And they seem hell bent on marginalizing and even refusing to hire Gen Xers.

Ah, the great psycho of life.

Millennials are the most ageist generation in memory. That’s scary because, at 83 million individuals, the Millennial generation easily surpasses the size of the mega Boomer generation.

This ensures Millennials will have a lot of power over American politics and the workplace, especially as they get older.

But if current experience is any predictor, Millennials will totally abuse it.Wild in the streets millennial ageism

Don’t hire anyone over 30? What?

As I’ve written, ageism — the old-fashioned kind, discrimation by the young against the old — is endemic to Silicon Valley, the highest profile business sector controlled by people in their 20s and low 30s.

Worse, it’s normative: Everyone thinks it’s okay. People think it is so okay to do this that national business magazines even publish articles saying it’s “smart” not to hire older Americans because they’re “dumber.”

In other words, and this is truer and truer especially in the tech biz, the worst of these Millennials are active. And they won’t hire anyone over 30.

Were Gen Xers ever this bad to Boomers?

generation x time cover millennial ageismWhile thinking about and researching this essay, I turned my critical eye to myself and my Gen X contemporaries, born between 1961 and 1981. When we were in our 20s, didn’t we look down on older people?

When we Gen Xers finally got a chance to hire and fire, didn’t we discriminate against those we viewed as boring and out of touch?

No, we didn’t. Not really.

Sure, we had more in common with members of our own age cohort than those older than us. But we didn’t look down on older folks … though many of them made fun of us (if they noticed us at all) and would rather let a job go unfilled than hire us.

I remember, for example, working as a staff writer for P.O.V.magazine. Almost all of us were in our 20s and 30s — not because management rejected older writers, but because older writers already found jobs elsewhere.

But when editor Randall Lane brought on legendary sportswriter-barfly Bert Sugar (pictured at right) as a columnist, no one held his age against him.

Even though he was pushing 60 and looked closer to 80, no one disparaged him because he was old.millennial ageism Bert Sugar

Actually, we all thought it was cool to add him to the team.

This wasn’t just because he was “old school,” which we all admired, and it wasn’t that we accepted him despite his age. It was because we appreciated the value that came with his long experience. He had stuff to teach us. We wanted to learn, and we hoped that some of that glory might rub off on us.

BuzzFeed, Madonna and the smartest guy in the office …

millennial ageism Mark Duffy BuzzfeedAnd there’s the BuzzFeed.

It was awful to watch the unceremonious departure of Mark “Copyranter” Duffy, 53, from BuzzFeed.

Dude was the smartest man in the office. And they fired him for being old.

I’ve never been into her music, but the cruel reception of Millennial-dominated media outlets to Madonna’s insistence on continuing to use sex to market herself at age 56 has me admiring her spunk.

I actually find her physically hotter now than she was back in the 1980s.

Also, I have to contrast the viciousness Madonna gets at the hands of the Millennials to the way that we Gen Xers treated older pop and musical figures at the same age.millennial ageism madonna

As a record reviewer in my late 20s and early 30s, I can’t recall a single instance of an older rock or pop musician or group that got dissed simply because he or she was old.

toni mendez millennial ageingIf you sucked, you sucked. And if you were good, you were good.

If anything, the Gen Xer default mode was to tend to respect anyone who had stuck around for a while. We didn’t exactly respect our elders — as Gen Xers, we don’t respect anyone, not even ourselves – but we didn’t disrespect them either. For us, it made perfect sense that punk rockers like The Clash admired old glam guys like Mott the Hoople’s Ian Hunter.

Kurt Cobain gen x generation x millennial ageismAnd that “I hope I die before I get old” crap was from the 1960s. Not from us.

This tendency of Millennials to denigrate their Gen X and Boomer elders is probably hardwired into the demographic reality of belonging to a big, dominant generation. Makes sense. One way to feel good about yourself is to pick on someone who is smaller and weaker.

And no matter what I write or anyone else writes, even if every Millennial in the world reads it and gets it, there’s no chance it will reduce their ageist tendencies. Millennial ageism looks like it’s here to stay.

For aNewDomain, I’m Ted Rall.

Watch the trailer of the 1968 movie about sixties hipsters throwing people over 30 into concentration camps here.
Wild in the Streets trailer: Night of the Trailers YouTube channel

Image of Mark Duffy: Digiday.com, All Rights Reserved.

Madonna at 55: Heavy.com, All Rights Reserved.

Time Magazine “You Called Us Slackers” Gen X cover: via TheJuryExpert.com, All Rights Reserved.

Toni Mendez caricature by Milton Caniff: via Reuben.org, All Rights Reserved.

Gen X poster boy, the late musician Kurt Cobain: Examiner.com, All Rights Reserved.

Ted Rall, syndicated writer and the cartoonist for The Los Angeles Times, is the author of the upcoming book “Snowden,” the first biography of NSA whistleblower Edward J. Snowden.

 

 

About the author

Ted Rall

Based in New York, Ted Rall is aNewDomain's chief commentator and a nationally syndicated editorial cartoonist. A Pulitzer nominee, Rall's latest book is the NYT bestselling book, Trump: A Graphic Biography.
Support his work and see his toons first at his site on Petreon. Follow him on Twitter @tedrall

4 Comments

  • “Back in their hippie days, Baby Boomers in their 20s were so mean to their elders that they even made a movie that involved sending anyone over 30 into concentration camps. And as they got older, Boomers flipped the switch, deploying their power as employers to discriminate against Generation Xers, which is my generation.”

    Ah, yes, Wild in the Streets. A movie made by young, long-haired Vietnam dropout Barry Shear, who was in his 40s at the time. A movie that cast youngsters getting the vote not as a victory, but as a moral tragedy. A movie that ends with a 10 year old leading the push for his own personal revolution against the crusty old people of late adolescence. A riotous moral panic piece by the elders if there ever was one, about how, if the children ever got their way, they’d come at the past generation with straight razors.

    I wonder why this appeals to Mr. Rall. And no, Mr. Rall, I’m not against you because you belonged to Generation X. Your generation did some good things, took some bold stands, and managed to kick against the bastards. I’m against you because you’re a self-righteous douchecanoe.

  • Amazing, you’re trying to cast millenials as ageist and all you’re basing that on this their age. Get some self-awareness.

  • The short answer is YES. It’s obvious and it’s everywhere and I am a 50 yr. old Gen. X female and professional, who always listened to and respected what my elders had to teach me. Even if I strongly disagreed, I had the common sense to listen and learn what I could.