Social Question

Pandora's avatar

Have young people always been so selfish but I'm just noticing it more now?

Asked by Pandora (23363 points ) December 21st, 2011

Once upon a time I was young and broke. I rented a trailer to live in and lived on eggs, bread and milk for at least 2 months because that was all we could afford. We only used gas for hot water to bathe and to cook. The biggest purchase we did was buy a tv set and make small payments of 30 a month for two years. We just got local channels so we didn’t have cable. We didn’t even want kids at the time because we knew we could barely survive on what we were making.
Most of my friends where in the same shape and many as myself didn’t want to have children or pets because of finances. All of us waited till we were a little better situated. Or at least able to feed an extra mouth. Now, everytime I turn around there is another young relative who is barely making it and wanting children and pets.
Its one thing to get pregnant and keep it. That is really a personal thing and sometimes pregnancies happen even when you are really careful. But nobody goes, “Oops, a dog I cannot afford landed on my lap”. I seen this play out over and over and it never ends up great for the dog. Animal planet has a ton of shows of dogs that end up abused and straved because the owner wanted a dog but thought that food and health care would fall from the sky.
Are they selfish or unrealistic?

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39 Answers

Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar

As a member of Gen X, I wonder a lot lately if the baby boomers are aware of how selfish they appear to younger generations.

I am always shocked at the way they vote to protect themselves and still anticipate I, my cohort, and those in gen y, will take care of them as they age.

chyna's avatar

@Imadethisupwithnoforethought What? Baby boomers are selfish? Really? I think they are the least selfish generation. They grew up with nothing, but didn’t even realize they were poor.

Pandora's avatar

Generation x is between 61–81
Generation y is after 1982
Baby boomers are the ones born before 1960

Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar

“Income inequality in the United States, which had decreased slowly after World War II until 1970, began to increase in the 1970s until reaching a peak in 2006. It declined a little in 2007”

Wikipedia

Top Marginal tax rate, 1969, 70%
Top Marginal tax rate, 2011 35%

Blackberry's avatar

I think you’re just noticing some occurrences around you. We have no idea what the other millions of young people are doing.

babybadger's avatar

The young people around me such are extremely selfish when compared to you when you were young. But that’s a miniscule portion of the world’s young people. It all depends where you are.
Exactly, @blackberry

Pandora's avatar

I’m generation x and I don’t see how baby boomers where selfish. Maybe during the 60s but then they grew up.
@Blackberry True, I took that into consideration but I remember growing up in a poor neighborhood and many of my neighbors where pet less because they could barely afford the kids they had. Not one of my friends had a dog.Some had hamsters of a fish or a bird. But dogs are costly. My cousin got a dog but it wasn’t allowed till she could get a job to afford for its care.
I bring this up because I hear plenty of people complain about not being able to find a job and always being broke and yet they have no qualms adopting a pet.
I’m just having a hard time wrapping my head around this kind of thinking.

I will add that I don’t see their faults as their own. I believe many from generation x have spoiled generation y.

Aethelflaed's avatar

I get that every generation views all other generations as worse, as selfish (yes, there is definitely some evidence of baby boomer’s selfishness, don’t even try that. Or do try it, but know that there’s definitely another side there). But having children and pets, aka bringing new life into this world and caring for other life, is possibly the worst example of people’s selfishness, because it also seems incredibly selfless to care for someone else even when it’s hard and means you personally have to go with even less. Yes, children and pets tend to bring joy into people’s life, but it’s not like that’s a one-way street; children and pets get quite a bit out of that arrangement as well.

Also, my parents (who are Boomers, and not right on the edge of Boomers and X, either) waited until they were better off financially to have children (they don’t like pets, regardless of money). However, within my classmates and peers through school, my parents were always almost the oldest parents by several years, so I’m not really sure it’s safe to say that Boomers on the whole waited to have kids.

Qingu's avatar

“The young people of today think of nothing but themselves. They have no reverence for parents or old age. They are impatient of all restraint. They talk as if they alone knew everything and what passes for wisdom with us is foolishness with them. As for girls, they are forward, immodest and unwomanly in speech, behaviour and dress.”
—Plato

babybadger's avatar

Plato died a looooooong time ago. Also, sexist much?
All meant respectively of course :)

Aethelflaed's avatar

@babybadger I think that Plato dies a long time ago was @Qingu‘s point – young people are pretty much always viewed as selfish, disrespectful, improper know-it-alls.

babybadger's avatar

Ahhh. Thanks for that. I interpreted it completely differently. Ooops!

Qingu's avatar

Or to put it another way, old people always perceive young people as selfish, disrespectful, improper know-it-alls. :)

babybadger's avatar

There ya go. Now I feel less alienated. This is just as how young people always seem to perceive old people as smelling like mothballs. haha. :)

JLeslie's avatar

I would say most people under the age of 30 are pretty unaware of how good they have it in America. They take things for granted, and think they should have everything material a 40+ year old has. Mostly I am talking about the middle class I guess. It’s not just the young people, their parents also think young people should be able to afford to live the way an average middle class adult does. Why? When I moved out of the house my living standard went down from my parents. I had to share a townhouse, my car was getting really old, I couldn’t afford to travel anywhere I wanted, etc. Overall where I lived was very nice, but I could not have lived by myself in that nice townhouse, and I could not call long distance every day, forget about having a smartphone and internet (which are basically before my time). That’s part of it, is shat people think are basics are more expensive than the basics we had. But, even saying that I only just bought myself a smartphone several months ago, and I think maybe I should ot have spent the money, upfront or monthly. Everyone said once I had one I would wonder what I did without it, but I gotta say, I could still be living without it.

Meanwhile, it is worth mentioning that every person has what they think is basic expenses. Some people have always had, and will always have a pet, and so for them that expense is like food and rent. Same with people who think drinking beer every night is completely normal and expected. I usually drink water. Forget about having a beer at a restaurant. It’s a fortune. But, to them, a normal expense. I always say everyone spends their money in their own way. My husband has been known to darn his socks, and a month later buy a Porsche. Go figure.

Aside from material things, if you are just talking attitude, I like the quote from Plato @Qingu posted.

rooeytoo's avatar

It seems to me the young of today want everything to be given to them. I don’t necessarily think that constitutes selfish, just egocentric. My generation (x) and those before were prepared to work for an advanced education, to provide their own medical care, buy their own house and car. Today all is expected to be provided by the government.

@Imadethisupwithnoforethought – just for the record, I would have to live to be about 120 before I collect all that I have paid into Social Security. So I am not looking to you to take care of me, I just want returned what I have invested. I don’t want it to be used to pay your tuition to college or pay for some other person to sit home when they could be gainfully employed, perhaps not in their dream job, but at something to get off the welfare role. I want it coming back to me in monthly installments. Thanks anyhow!

Response moderated (Personal Attack)
Bellatrix's avatar

I don’t think they are. If we are talking generally, I think they just have a different focus.

I don’t really think they are so different to me when I was that age. I am sure my parents and adults around me thought I was self centred and often irresponsible. I wasn’t. I also don’t think young people are the only ones who take on pets irresponsibly. There are plenty of older people who do that. I also don’t think young people now are any more likely to get pregnant without forethought than people were when I was young.

Some, not all, do seem to want more and want it quicker, but I suspect that’s partly because they are being influenced by advertisers and finance organisations staffed by individuals who are older and should be wiser than they are but are greedy for the profit they can earn. I get credit offers all the time in the mail. I don’t think they are coming from the youth of society.

I look at my own daughters and they are very responsible. They want to get into the housing market but can’t afford it. They haven’t got any ridiculous debt. They both had old cars until they were earning an income that allowed them to buy new cars. I can’t think of any of their friends who are irresponsible or selfish either.

No. People are people. My experience is that young people today are no worse than other generations and if the chips were down, and we needed them to, they would pull up okay.

saracore's avatar

Everyone is selfish, not just the young.

For example, you bought a computer & internet service instead of using that extra money to help starving children.

Response moderated
Aethelflaed's avatar

I’m always surprised when Boomers want to trash the younger generations, seeing as how it’s so easy for the younger generations to point out that it was largely Boomers who managed to crash the global economy. You’d think most Boomers would be hoping for less stereotyping about generations right now, not more.

Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar

@rooeytoo I don’t think people want to attack the boomers, on the contrary, you are our parents.

Some of us just have the sense that your parents saved the world from evil, then came home and built roads and sent men to the moon and rebuilt Europe and worked hard to make sure you all had good lives.

And you are still saying “I want my own money to come back to me.”

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

I think it’s human nature to be selfish.
I also think that every generation has a complaint about the next generation. I think that society evolves and always has and always will.

Qingu's avatar

@rooeytoo, the idea that you’ve somehow “earned” your money in a vacuum, apart from society, and without any significant luck or privilege that “those who could be working and paying into their own SS accounts” might lack. The moral indignation you feel at the possibility that a relatively small fraction of the spending money you got from your job might not one day be available for you to spend as you please.

As for “attacking you for your opinion,” don’t pull that canard after attacking an entire generation in broad strokes for being lazy compared to yours.

Pandora's avatar

Ok, well this took a turn. LOL
@Bellatrix You have made an excellent point. Commercialism does seem to play a major role that I have overlooked. We do now live in a society or instant gratification. Patience is a dirty word in todays society. Banks and stores love to advertise that there is no need to wait for anything. Get things now and pay later.
I do know of some very responsible young adults. Two which are mine as well. But I’m still puzzled if the problem is just being unrealistic or selfish. I suppose it can be just a mixture of both.
@Aethelflaed You’ve got a point about the boomers. But you are probably talking about the top 10% who trashed the economy and we all voted for some of them at some point (gen. X and Y). One particular boomer called Bush left a bag of poop at our doorstep and lit it on fire.
Now the country is burnt and smells like crap.

rooeytoo's avatar

@Qingu – You said it, I “earned” the money, paid it in via social security taxes which are defined by Wikipedia as “In the United States, Social Security refers to the federal Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) program” and you are telling me I am selfish for wanting to collect what I paid for that exact purpose. Other taxes collected from my earnings contribute to other aspects of society, i.e. free education for all, welfare payments, etc.

There is a difference between making a comment about a generation in general and one individual.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@rooeytoo There is a difference between making a comment about a generation in general and one individual, but I think we might disagree about which one is more offensive.

Linda_Owl's avatar

You know, I am a “baby boomer” & I am really tired of hearing us referred to as being selfish. Most of us worked all of our lives & we paid the taxes. I got my first full-time job when I was 14 yrs old (passing as 16, they did not check as closely then). I worked for 51 years & I paid all of the taxes. As a matter of fact, the basis for the technological advances that let to landing on the moon & to computers, & the cell phone technology that everyone enjoys, were made by the “baby boomers”. The Soc.Sec. benefits are Earned Income NOT Entitlements. I am now retired & I worry every single month if the Republicans will somehow stop the Soc.Sec. program & leave us with no income what so ever. However, I do not think of the younger generation as being selfish. I know too many of them are doing the best they can in a difficult situation. I have 6 grandsons & I am very proud of all of them because they genuinely care about people. If you read very much on the internet, then you know that a lot of youngsters are making great strides in helping others with education & inventions. So please do not go around referring to Senior Citizens/baby boomers as being selfish. We accomplished a great deal in our lifetime & the younger generation has benefited greatly from the technology we created. It is not our fault that Congress has mismanaged the Soc.Sec. program.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@Linda_Owl I really don’t think Baby Boomers are selfish, at least any more than the entire rest of humanity. However, I am sick to death of Boomers saying how they are clearly and undeniably selfless, while these “kids today” are just so selfish. My point was that Boomers do not have some moral superiority when it comes to selfishness, and if we’re going down the road of trashing the younger generations in vast over-generalizations, then perhaps some examples of how Boomers are just as selfish as everyone else might be in order to gain perspective.

JLeslie's avatar

@Aethelflaed Maybe it is just that young people have so much in the way of material things. Partly because the things were invented. There was no such thing as a personal computer or cell phone when I was very young. I am 43 and I just missed having tp use computers in college, I had a type writer and was still allowed to hand some papers in handwritten. I think maybe what older people see in young people is they take so much for granted.

Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar

@JLeslie people under thirty owe 15 trillion and have barely had the opportunity to vote.

I wonder what their tax rates will be, or what material possessions they will be able to buy for their children?

Aethelflaed's avatar

@JLeslie The younger generation has more material things, and new inventions, but I don’t really know that it equals taking things for granted more. Boomers take for granted things that their parents and grandparents didn’t have. And the idea of taking things for granted… I get it, it’s just sort of flawed, it seems to say “don’t you realize that this isn’t a fact of life, that this could be gone at any moment!?!”, and while that’s often technically true, it doesn’t mean that, for the time being, the existence and ubiquity of that thing is the reality. Yes, computers are new, and yes, they might not be around in a few years, but is anyone actually saying that it’s in any way likely that they will disappear soon, or that people shouldn’t try to make sure they’re on top of technology and give themselves any advantage they can? Or cars – something Boomers have always had, and their parents did not; should they not be planning to use cars and assume that they will be taking a car instead of a horse and carriage because technically cars are not a fact of life, but are a fact of today’s modern age? Someone who isn’t that into technology might seem humble to Boomers, but to an employer, that person’s an unattractive hire. I think Boomers often also think many of today’s material goods cost more than they actually do, so it seems like younger people spend more money on material goods than they really do. The falling prices of technology mean that a product that had an outrageous price tag when released a few years ago might now not be any more expensive than a coat at Target this year. Or like how iPhones, if gotten brand new from the Apple store, cost $500 bucks and an expensive plan, but on the other hand, if an iPhone is a bit older and being sold used, it costs $40 for the phone and $50 for a data plan and then is actually cheaper than a landline or many cellphone plans (talk+text) with dumbphones. And just because Boomers weren’t raised with those things doesn’t mean they haven’t grown accustomed to them now, and wouldn’t throw just as much of a hissy fit if they were to disappear from their life.

JLeslie's avatar

@Imadethisupwithnoforethought Well then, maybe their parents should pay, and the government should look at spending less. What is spent already, the debt must be paid. Pay it now, and future generations won’t have to. The wars, that debt must be paid. The TARP, part of that has already been paid back, it was a loan, and some parts of it I also completely disagree with the spending, both under Bush and Obama.

JLeslie's avatar

@Aethelflaed It depends on the extreme, and if the person can afford it. Once a young jelly on here said she did not understand why people on the Q think poor people on public assistance shouldn’t have nice things. We were talking laptops and smart phones and some other items I can’t remember. Now, what do you think about that statement?

Also in my first response way above I accuse people up into ages 35 or so as spending on credit and being selfish. Probably that number should be a little higher. I can’t think of many 60+ people I would describe that way. There are some in every generations, its more about the percentages I guess.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@JLeslie I think it was one person (and thus not representative regardless of what perspective I have on it), and has waaaayyyy more to do with class conflicts than generational gaps.

Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar

@JLeslie agreed. I am usually even tempered on these items, but I have no patience hearing the baby boomers call younger generations selfish.

JLeslie's avatar

@Aethelflaed I don’t think it is just one person, and I have to agree it has more to do with class issues.

GracieT's avatar

I’n a Gen Xer that was born in 1970. People my age aren’t truly Gen X, but we aren’t truly baby boomers, either. We’re lumped in w/ baby boomers, but we won’t really benefit from Social Security when we age, either. I’ve heard of us belonging to a group spoken of as forgotten. We paid into Social Security, but probably won’t see any of it either. Many of us grew up in families impacted by divorce, which is one of the reasons we are more likely to stay single, and many of us were latch-key kids also. We may be percieved as selfish, but much of what has been available to previous generations won’t be available to us. I think that may be the start of why Gen X is viewed as selfish.

JLeslie's avatar

@GracieT I have never heard of 1970 being lumped in with baby boomers. I am 1968 and I don’t feel like I am baby boomer. About the latchkey kids, I really wonder if our generation had more latchkey than our parents, it probably depends what part of the US. My dad was a latchkey kid, born 1946. The 1950’s-60’s was the height of women staying home and not working from what I can tell.

Interesting about divorce causing those children to remain single.

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