As we welcome the new freshmen to Wesleyan, I hope that each class gets to enjoy that optimistic feeling that comes with the start of a new year at a place like Wes. At Wes, we get to take a break from the doubters and naysayers, the people who tell us that we don’t know enough about the real world, are too engrossed in technology and just generally don’t respect convention. We are allowed to forget for a moment that a lot of the world thinks that we don’t have the work ethic or the practical skills to make it beyond life in the bubble.
This kind of worldview occasionally gets a face. Its latest one is Ruben Navarrette Jr., a columnist for CNN’s website. Mr. Navarette penned an article (which may be found in the CNN online archives) that bemoans our generation’s readiness for the present job market and the wider world. He describes us as generally lazy, entitled, and possessing of a Facebook—fueled narcissism. We believe, according to him, that work is for other people and that the world should just hand us our dream job on a platter. We care about politics in a fuzzy-headed “kumbaya” way but often don’t actually vote. We think we are the center of everything and that our employers, professors, and parents should cater to what we want.
Reading this made me angry, firstly because of the blatant hypocrisy of this position. Mr. Navarette is, of course, perfectly entitled to his opinion, but he acts as if his generation – and those preceding it – has a monopoly on responsibility. Under his generation’s stewardship, the United States has gone from a budget surplus to a budget deficit, started two wars and paid for them with money we did not have, drained the trust funds of every entitlement program, and continued a series of divisive social debates that have little place in solving our country’s problems. If you ask me, it should be our generation that is upset with his, since we will be paying back the fiscal and social tab that they have run up.
More importantly, Mr. Navarette fails to see how our generation’s ways of approaching the world has led to enormous good, much of it long overdue. Mr. Navarette writes that we are opinionated and don’t accept any perspective as the absolute right or wrong answer. As frustrating as this might be for future employers (or professors for that matter), such an outlook is the reason why, as Mr. Navarette grudgingly admits, our generation is more tolerant of difference than those before us. The belief that all are entitled to their opinions and choices, that there is no absolute right or wrong way to live, is why our generation is leading the way on issues such as gay marriage and racial and cultural tolerance. We might not all agree, but we don’t mind others having different views and don’t judge them so harshly for it. Now, I’m not saying that our generation is never critical or overly judgmental; the exclamations that flew between my friends and I during the recent republican debate are evidence enough of that. However, while we may question others intelligence or the grounding of their ideas in facts, we never impugned their basic morality or patriotism.
Additionally, the technology-fueled impatience that he writes about may well be what’s driving the upheavals in our politics. Whereas older Americans might be inclined to placidly wait for things to get better, we have become accustomed to immediate action. Furthermore, I completely reject the assertion that our generation doesn’t want to do the hard work necessary to get ahead. I am sure all of us could furnish a dozen anecdotes that would contradict his picture of us as lazy and willing to live off of our parents. It is demonstrably false. I, for one, have a friend who is paying for college with money that he earned working menial jobs in high school. I know people who have traveled abroad to do hard work for a multitude of organizations and causes including Shining Hope For Communities (SHOFCO), an organization which certainly took a lot of work to get off the ground.
As we begin another year here at Wesleyan and welcome an exceptionally large freshman class, I urge everyone (especially the freshmen) to not let people, whether older or your age, tell you what you are. Don’t let anyone tell you that you’re lazy or don’t have what it takes. Prove them wrong. And if they underestimate you, bury them.
Blinderman is a member of the class of 2014.