There are some things that are safe to assume in life: the sun will rise in the east, the sky is blue, and every generation thinks that the 'kids these days' are just not quite as great as they were.
On some level, I understand the desire to consider yourself a member of the last great American generation. And stereotypes about younger people can seem harmless at first glance. Everyone's heard the jokes about lazy, avocado-toast eating Millennials who buy $5 lattes and ruin industries as varied as diamonds and beer. Gen-Z has had less time to develop a culture, but jokes about TikTok using 'snowflakes' are becoming more widespread.
But the persistent stereotype of 'lazy' young people is markedly more harmful, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic leaves the younger generations even less secure than we were before.
Millennials and Gen-Z are twice as likely as Baby Boomers to say that COVID has wrecked them financially. For some Millennials, this has come only a dozen years after 2008's Great Recession upended their career trajectories for the first time. As a sophomore in college and a member of Gen-Z, the economic ramifications of COVID have had a similarly concerning effect for me. Friends of mine are re-considering majors and plans for graduate school, scared that there simply won't be jobs when we graduate. Many of the people I know who graduated in 2020 have had to move back in with parents or scramble to apply to graduate school as job opportunities simply evaporated. They've run out of options.
If 2008 is anything to go by, the recovery from this economic situation is going to be difficult. And it will likely hit young people the hardest. At a time like this, what's needed is cooperation and problem-solving. Not blaming the financial hardships of millions on their own supposed laziness instead of the obvious systemic issues in their way.
Millennials are more educated than any generation before them, and there's no reason to believe that older Gen-Zers will be any different. And yet they are drowning under student loan debt, are more likely to live with their parents, and less likely to start families. This simply cannot be written off to individual laziness.
What it can be ascribed to are large systemic failings. Education is extraordinarily expensive. Starting salaries are low. And when the economy is crashing every ten years it's even more difficult to get financially stable to begin with.
The same generations calling young people lazy helped shape the systems that have made it more difficult to get ahead. It would be more productive to fix those problems instead of perpetuating a mindset that blames individuals for outcomes shaped by the collective.