Twelve 20-somethings chronicle their lives for WBUR. Learn more.
There’s a bit in one of my favorite books, “A Wrinkle in Time,” where Mrs. Whatsit compares human life to a sonnet. Unlike other types of verse, a Shakespearean sonnet has rather strict rules: fourteen lines, in iambic pentameter, with a prescribed rhyme scheme. Yet the author has freedom within that structure.
Or, as Mrs. Whatsit says: “You’re given the form, but you have to write the sonnet yourself. What you say is completely up to you.” Whenever I feel like a victim of circumstance, I try to remember that passage.
My own situation is limited by some things beyond my control — the class I was born into, the current economic climate, pure luck — and I have unearned privileges thanks to my race and health and sexual orientation, to name just a few. But I am writing my sonnet just the same.
I think it’s pretty rich for older folks to call us the “entitlement” generation at the same time that unpaid internships, about 99 percent of which I’d hazard are illegal according to OSHA guidelines, have become the norm. How entitled can we be, really, if we don’t even demand to be paid for the work that we do? Bitching on Facebook isn’t exactly marching on Washington.
You would think that folks coming from the “Me! Generation” might be hesitant to label the young as universally spoiled good-for-nothings, but there you go. The wheel of generational conflict spins on.
Younger people will always be seen as ungrateful and spoiled, and the older generation will always hold all of the actual political and economic power until the younger generation inherits it and can label the
newest crop of twenty-somethings as “entitled.” And so on and so on, forever ad nauseum, amen.
Plus, “entitlement” is pretty a pretty meaningless zinger anyway.
I think Jon Stewart hit upon it best: “They’re really only entitlements when they’re something other people want. When it’s something you want, they’re a hallmark of a civilized society.”
I do not feel “entitled” to a society where people are fairly paid for the work they do and where we provide a safety net for people going through hard times. I just think it’s a very, very good idea.