I am Generation Y and proud of it.
We are a switched on, tech savvy, open minded, well travelled, ambitious, motivated educated bunch. In general.
However in many western societies, Gen Y has made their new social class: a class known as the ‘privileged poor’.
And it’s lame.
Rachel Hills writes: “Australia’s privileged poor: the growing portion of the middle (and upper-middle, and even occasionally upper) class who believe they are doing it tough despite being socially, economically and educationally privileged in every way.
The privileged poor can take a number of guises.
They might be a student who subsists on Centrelink payments and unpaid internships, but still has their rent, food and phone bills paid by mum and dad, Lena Dunham-style on Girls.
They might be a twentysomething graduate who earns less than their lawyer and banker friends, but who still has enough cash on hand to eat out, keep abreast of the latest technology, and zip home in a taxi when the train is tardy.
They might be a small-business owner taking in $120,000 a year, but who feels like they don’t have much left over to play with once the bills have been paid.
What they all have in common is that they are not actually “poor” – at least, not in the conventional sense of the word. In fact, by most people’s standards, they’re pretty well off. They just don’t feel like they are.”
The world that our parents grew up in was a very different one than ours. They were young in a time where cold war tensions still hung in the air, heard war stories first hand.
They were taught to re-use, recycle. They had tins of beans in the cupboard ‘just in case’. They saved things, like pieces of string, and wrapping paper and old clothes to use as rags.
But in the world I have grown up with, everything is immediate and disposable. It is a world where mobile phones last 24 months and clothes are considered old after three wears.
We are the generation who has wanted and waited for nothing; from information to material possessions – obtaining new things is simply part of a regular day.
We are the generation who gets drunk on cocktails at $17 a pop or Hendricks gin and tonics.
We are the generation who shops online, impulse buys as soon as we see things.
We are the generation who still live at home because we’re too broke to afford out lifestyles whilst also paying rent.
And I am not complaining. I think it rocks.
But, as a result, do we think we are entitled to everything?
From a very young age, Gen Y have been programmed to think that we can ‘have it all’.
To believe that we can have an awesome career, a perfect partner, beautiful babies, mind-blowing sex, plenty of money, a hot body, travel … the list goes on.
We have had constant positive reinforcement, praise and encouragement, the world so concerned with a loss of self-esteem, bullying and lack of confidence.
Nowadays, resilience is taught in the school curriculum, as opposed to just being a bi-product of life. Every kid gets a participation medal, a certificate, an academic award.
Society and the media often label Generation Y as narcissistic, self-centered, lazy and spoilt.
But how can we be expected to be different when we have been told, from a very young age, that we can have it all, and excess is all we’ve ever known?
And now we are adults. We are ‘growing up’. We are ‘moving out’ (some of us). And we are broke.
And herein lies the problem.
Because when middle class kids are classing themselves as ‘poor’, we lose sight of what poverty really looks like.
I can’t count the amount of times in the last few months where I have emphatically exclaimed ‘I have noooooo money!’ or ‘OMG I am so broke’.
Yeah. Bella. Not being able to get your nails done fortnightly or have weekly shopping expeditions does not make you broke. Especially when you can still pay your phone bill, buy coffee every day and go on overseas adventures.
There are 2 million people in Australia whose struggles aren’t the choice between paying your $80 a month smart phone bill or going for weekly brunch, but, as Rachel Hills beautifully expresses it ‘between turning on the heating during winter and having enough to eat.
Which brings us to the other side effect of our collective crying poor: it makes it easier to look past the struggles of those who are genuinely struggling. When you’re declaring social bankruptcy over drinking cleanskin wine instead of $17 cocktails, catching the night bus home instead of a taxi, or having to skip out on your friend’s destination wedding – indeed, when this becomes your vision of what “poverty” looks like – there is a little less room in your heart for those for whom poverty means having no choice at all.’