Attila the Pun
Monday, February 28, 2005
Have some issues? Get some tissues

Today's twentysomething whine comes from Brigid Flanagan, a 23 year old International Relations Masters student.

This is where I stand. I am 23. I am a woman. I am highly educated. I am confident. I know my potential and my ultimate abilities. I believe I have got a lot to give.

Good for you, but not a situation screaming out for an op-ed piece I would have thought.

Like a great deal of my mates, I have been financially independent of my parents since leaving school. Juggling the demands of two jobs and full-time study is a reality I live with every day.

That aint easy, no argument there.

Knowing that my forebears fought hard for the eight-hour day, I resent working within a casualised workforce where nothing is guaranteed and a great deal is expected.

You have chosen to do an undergraduate degree, then chosen to do a masters, knowing that university has odd lecture hours. How can you then complain that you are forced to work casual hours? What sort of employer would (or should) take on an employee that can only work three hour shifts, or has to work after business hours? If you want to work 9-5, get a job with those hours.

My sister once worked a Friday night shift that finished at 11pm and had to be back at work by 7am the next morning.

With respect, but boo-hoo. If thats the worst you can come up with, then we are going nowhere fast.

I had to hold back the giggles as an area manager told me off for failing to reach a weekly sales target. Reminding me of the "performance-based rosters", I could not exactly explain that I had been up until 3am every night that week completing an important assignment or that I cared about my sales target even less than she did my dedication to my education.

I can't imagine why any employer isn't falling overthemselves to give Brigid whatever shifts work best for her needs. She has basically admitted that she doesn't give a toss about her job, and is just using it to pay the bills while she finishes her degree. Nothing inherently wrong with that, as long as both sides are honest with each other, but don't come complaining when a job you don't care about decides they don't care much about you either.

I am lucky because my other job is good to me and because I still live at home with my parents. Some of my workmates are not that fortunate.

Huh? When you were bragging earlier, you said you were financially independent. Living with mum and dad does not count as financially independent.

Having completed four years of university study, I have a major HECS debt and with an annual income of less than $20,000, a credit card debt that has hit $4500.

A HECS debt you don't have to pay off until your income gets higher. And what kind of poor financial management led to a credit card debt of $4500? Any holidays in there? A car maybe?

My grandparents are continually shocked at my acceptance of personal debt. For their generation, being thrifty was an attribute needed to survive the challenges of the Depression and World War II. The reality is that I will probably be in debt for the rest of my life.

A key point here - acceptance of debt. I do not argue that students are living the high life, but nobody living at home and working two jobs (with a bachelor degree completed you should be able to find jobs that pay better than $10k a year - I did) needs $4500 on their credit card. Your grandparents probably refer to it as "living beyond your means". And whose fault is that?

I largely blame the baby boomers for the creation of this situation.

I should have guessed.

Given a free tertiary education and largely supported by Commonwealth scholarships during the Whitlam era, the baby boomers enjoyed the freedom and power of being young and educated. They entered the workforce buoyed by their involvement in student politics and have failed to pass this gift on to the next generation.

Fishbowl alert. Have a look at the statistics for the boomer generation. How many went to uni? And what percentage were involved in student politics? The current campus left may look on the whitlam era with devotion (no HECS, vietnam protests), but for the majority of boomers it was as irrelevent to them as current uni politics are to most people today. Also, you have a free degree at the moment - HECS won't have kicked in. So any current financial difficulties can't be blamed on HECS payments.

Politically, these baby boomers have voted in consecutive conservative governments that have passed significant industrial relations legislation, environmental policies and education reform that has significantly altered the society that I am about to enter.

I think we can see where this is going - bring on the boilerplate:

The result of last year's federal election has shown that the generational weight of the baby boomers has little thought for the generations to follow. The old-growth forest in Tasmania's Styx Valley could not be saved and the fight against Brendan Nelson's tertiary fee increases was lost. I am waiting for the industrial relation reforms to fly through the Senate when it is reconfigured in July.

Now back to the whining:

This summer just gone, Zach Braff's movie Garden State, seemed to have an enormous impact on the group of 20-somethings I keep close and call my friends. An incredibly powerful statement on the transient feeling among my generation, the movie explores the idea that beneath the veneer of confidence my generation projects, we are all just a little bit scared, a little bit insecure and a little bit lost.

And what your grandparents would say to that (in a moment of candour) would be "suck it up". People of the X and Y generations have been given unparalled freedom and choice. They can decide to stay at home with their parents till their mid-20's, doing undergraduate and postgraduate study when the mood takes them. Then they may decide to travel for awhile, then maybe even look for a job. And during all this, some want to complain about lack of direction and insecurity.

Want some direction? Find some. Don't sit around complaining and blaming it on the generation that is housing and feeding you.

But I guess that is life.

Yes, that is life. Judging by her opening paragraphs, Brigid sounds like she has had a good one so far, and good luck to her. Writing angst filled op-ed pieces about racking up credit card bills and the travesty of having to occasionally pulling a double shift and missing mum's casserole does a disservice to those who truly are doing it tough in life.

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