Adulthood is a Racket that Millennials are Right to Reject

Image by BP Miller.

Being a self-unemployed, thirtysomething, literary visionary can be a depressingly thankless existence. The pay sucks, the publishers are clueless, the editors are dicks and the endless barrage of finger-wagging rhetorical questions from the sanctimonious adults in the boomer peanut gallery rarely withers. When are you going to get a real job? When are you moving out of your parent’s house? When are you going back to school? When are you going to get married and start a family? I’ve heard them all a thousand fucking times and it really does simply amount to a single declarative condemnation. Nicky, you need to grow the fuck up.

My usual response to this mandatory life sentence is as simple as it seems to be infuriating to my elderly interrogators. Why? Seriously. Try asking that question to any professional boomer busybody sometime and watch them short circuit. They never have a real answer to give. But if they could just give me one good reason why I should swallow my dreams to become what passes for a responsible adult in America today I would gladly get a job at Olive Garden tomorrow. Better yet just name me six unmedicated adults who wouldn’t happily march into oncoming traffic right now if they could write it off as a business expense. I’ll even give you a minute to get back to me on that one…

That’s what I thought.

What the hell is adulthood anyway other than another empty social construct used to justify participation in a deeply unwell society? The fucking icecaps are melting but I should be in some kind of big fucking hurry to make shit for pay in some joyless corporate death march that ends with me being buried alive in debt in the suburbs after pumping out two and a half more lambs to the slaughter on the sacrificial shrine of endless war and environmental degradation. With all due respect, concerned boomers, you can all go fuck yourselves with broken glass because I would rather be a goddamn child then grow up to be anything like you.

Thankfully, I’m far from alone in this refusal to cooperate with mass suicide by “normal.” There are droves of millennials just like me who are statistically less likely than any generation in modern memory to date, procreate, work a 9-to-5, or move out, and this socioeconomic boycott has resulted in us becoming near-universally reviled by our elders in increasingly public displays of disaffection. Everywhere you look there is some new expose or op-ed on how my generation is fucking up quite literally everything.

Millennials are consistently presented by nearly every facet of the omnipresent mass media panopticon as lazy, greedy, ungrateful children who need to shut up, breed, and participate in the joyful degradation of the planet’s withering resources. And I’m not here to tell you that we aren’t fucked up. I’m here to inform you that we have every fucking right to be considering the spiritually empty society that you have shoved down our throats since we were literally children.

Millennials may be failures by the current standards of adulthood, but we are also the most overworked and overeducated generation in American history and all this hard labor has only made us poorer and more precariously employed than any other generation since the Great Depression and it all begins with that abusive racket known as the compulsory school system.

Children as young as four are corralled, itemized, objectified, and fed onto an assembly line that grooms us to shut up, sit still and fill out reems of scantron forms for eight hours a day while role crazy, dead-end bureaucrats govern our every move and police anything even resembling critical thinking. All so we can be herded into the federally funded, for profit, college system where we are encouraged to learn literally anything but an actual trade while we get robbed blind and end up in the exact same pointless service industry jobs as our comrades who had the good sense to flunk or drop out.

This whole circus is nothing but a trillion-dollar shakedown, and the only thing COVID did was expose it for what it’s always been by ripping the curtain off. Productivity has been increasing rapidly in this country for fifty years now while hourly compensation has remained frozen in an era when you could buy a three-bedroom house for less than thirty grand. Meanwhile, unemployment has doubled, and student loans have shot through the roof like a cannon while the American Empire squanders the fortune it’s mined from generations of wage slaves on declaring total war against any culture not perverted enough to worship the Dollar like a golden calf.

All things considered, I actually think that the millennial response to realizing that our lives have been a glorified pyramid scheme has been a perfectly healthy one. We dropped out. We collectively rejected degrading employment while slowly drifting back to the tribal values of the multigenerational household and mutual assistance that a deeply polluted and morally bankrupt western culture chucked aside for contrived notions of economic liberalism and conspicuous consumption.

Unfortunately, however, my generation and the one beneath ours has also fallen under the sway of another modern racket called social media which has aggressively isolated us from each other by monopolizing our social lives beneath the constant surveillance of the state and its reigning plutocracy. This is the real crisis of my generation; the crisis of chronic and downright systemic loneliness being trafficked to us by the vultures of big tech.

According to a 2021 Harvard study, 61% of young Americans report experiencing “serious loneliness” and Scientific American has found the current rate of friendship formation to be at a historic low. Self-harm and suicide rates are rising and razor blades arrent even the cheapest way to bleed yourself dry. Psychiatric researchers estimate that the health effects of prolonged social isolation are about the same as smoking a pack of Marlboro’s a day.

Something is seriously fucking wrong here, and it can’t be fixed by simply raising the minimum wage or forgiving student loans. When entire generations are choosing to slowly kill themselves with smartphones instead of engaging with society then society has clearly failed, and we need to stop blaming the victims for this failure. Millennials are pretty fucked up brats because you fucked us up by encouraging us to sell our souls to a system that boomers came this close to overthrowing not so long ago.

Back in 1960, the brilliant subversive psychologist, Paul Goodman, published a study on juvenile delinquency called Growing Up Absurd. At the time, America was facing a similar generational crisis with the gray flannel robots of the Eisenhower era freaking the fuck out about the rise in moral degeneracy in the form of youth gangs, beatniks, and Rock n Roll.

Goodman poured over the numbers and came to the startling conclusion that the kids were right because the system was bullshit. Young people were totally justified in their rejection of “growing up” because society had failed to give them anything worth growing up into. Cold War America was bereft of meaningful work, honorable community, and spiritual sustenance and I think that even the countercultural sellouts of the boomer generation will agree that these conditions have only grown more dire over the decades.

The solution to this problem remains the same today is it was then and it’s far from an easy fix. The solution is revolution. Or as the good Doctor Goodman prescribed, developing new social and moral identities that reject the malignant standards of a debased society. Creating an economy independent of government regulation and wage slavery. Embracing independent thinking and intergenerational cooperation instead of the involuntary servitude of compulsory schooling. Abandoning the spiritual desert of suburbia for agricultural village life amongst the ruins of the Rust Belt. Dropping out of mass society and embracing a more intimate tribal existence.

If this isn’t adulthood, then fuck adulthood. Children of all ages deserve something better to grow into. As for me, I may never write the next great Queer American novel, but I’d rather die typing in my parent’s basement than live on my knees for a paycheck and you boomers can take that to the fucking bank because I learned it from you before your generation sold its soul for a seat at the adult’s table.

Nicky Reid is an agoraphobic anarcho-genderqueer gonzo blogger from Central Pennsylvania and assistant editor for Attack the System. You can find her online at Exile in Happy Valley.