Why are Generation X left out of the stupid boomer vs millennials blame fest?

Property prices are rising by $10,000 a month, figures from QV show.

Property prices are rising by $10,000 a month, figures from QV show.

OPINION: There's a war raging in some of the more provocatively insulting news outlets on the age-old question of whether today's young people a) have it too good, or b) don't know they're born.

The latest justification appears to hinge on the sensible-sounding contention that the reason that millennials are being locked out of the property market has nothing to do with housing prices wildly outstripping average income growth in the past two decades and everything to do with young people's profligate fondness for avocado toast.

And this is because there's nothing that people born in the aftermath of WWII love more than declaring that things used to be so much better while also insisting that no one did it tougher than they did, with their thriving job market, free tertiary education, and full complement of living Beatles.

Baby boomers, the argument typically goes, didn't indulge in all the fripperies of today's smartphone-addicted youth when they bought their first properties on the outskirts of the city back in the '60s and '70s, and what's more they had to contend with predatory interest rates that make today's credit card sharks look positively generous. 

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Ah, the millennials respond, but housing was far cheaper, deposits were much smaller, jobs were more secure, wages were rising rather than flatlining, and those "outer suburbs" were a hell of a lot less outer back then than the ones now available to today's first home buyer.

And sure, it'd be easy and accurate to point out that the greatest expense which today's young people waste all their housing money upon is housing – specifically, the ever-increasing cost of rent. That being said, there's almost certainly someone waiting on hold to complain to a sympathetic talkback DJ that if today's 20-somethings weren't so gosh-darn squeamish about living in abandoned cars then maybe they'd be able to accumulate a deposit (in approximately seven years, as long as prices don't rise in that period). 

But there's one group who have been forgotten in this boomer vs millennials debate: why is no one angrily blaming Generation X?

We Gen Xers are in our 40s and 50s now and should surely be simultaneously mocking retirees as out-of-touch fuddy-duddies and also complaining about how young people suck in comparison to ourselves at that age. Yet our proud, whiny voices are being cruelly silenced. 

And it's not like we didn't have proper conflicts with baby boomers either. Who could forget 1992's bitter You Don't Understand Me Or My Music war, as X-Gens worldwide refused to turn off that Nirvana rubbish and put on something with a nice tune instead?

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And have we forgotten the ongoing It's My Bedroom And I'll Have It Like I Want skirmishes of 1984-89? There are still Blu-tack stains on suburban walls standing in poignant memorial to Cure posters long since taken down by parents that didn't care for that Robert Smith fellow and his wonky lipstick. Where, culturally, is our parade?

Instead we are forgotten, caught between our parents' generation angrily shaking their fists at the natural passage of time, and the digital natives in our offices who know how Snapchat works.

But it's Gen X that's most likely to be the first to hit retirement with no assets just in time for the government to decide that pensions are a wasteful luxury and that all that lifting-heavy tax we paid is irrelevant if we're just going to start selfishly leaning in our twilight years. Worse still, when we start raging about a government whose social policies are seemingly inspired by Janet Jackson's defiant smash hit 'What Have You Done For Me Lately?', they'll add insult to injury by not even getting the reference. 

But for the time being, the battle over the national wealth will be framed as a war between the greedy old and the selfish young, and you can see why this has certain appeal for political parties and media behemoths that fiercely protect the status of their exceedingly beneficial quo.

As long as we all argue over which generation is to blame for ruining everything we're not going "hang on a second, our real enemy isn't each other but a financial system which has been deliberately gamed to turn a basic human necessary into a casino rigged for the personal profit of parasitic property developers and the bloodsucking political classes which feed off them in turn, so we should band together and march on parliament with flaming pitchforks."

But if such a realisation would mean an end to clickbait op-eds about how the stupid young people supposedly prioritise brunch over their own financial well being – well, who'd want to swap that for something as worthless as actual progress? 

After all, you people don't understand us, or our music.

Andrew P Street is the author of The Curious Story of Malcolm Turnbull: the Incredible Shrinking Man in the Top Hat which is out bow - and the new Double Disillusionists podcast with Dom Knight, Andrew P Street and special guest Maddie Palmer is up at Soundcloud and iTunes

 - Sydney Morning Herald


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