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Straight Talk: Talkin’ ’bout (not) my generation (Pt 1)

17 June 2024

Join us as we abridge the best of Tony Johnson’s Straight Talk columns, starting this week with an excerpt from a series running with the July/August issue of NZV8

Words: Tony Johnson

There’s an interesting thing going on in corporate America right now. A large number of big companies are choosing not to employ college graduates but would rather take kids out of high school. It’s a very studied, measured, and deliberate policy, and two reasons are driving it. One is that the kids who have graduated have such abysmal vocabulary and writing skills that their college degree means next to nothing. The second, and more compelling reason, is that the work ethic and behaviour that many of these graduates bring to the workplace is nothing less than damaging to the environment.

Corporate America is openly stating that the university system is failing massively. These kids are arriving into the workplace for the first time with fragile egos, an inflated sense of self-worth, and an attitude bursting with entitlement, and it’s all come from the modern ‘everyone is amazing’ and ‘there are no losers’ approach that colleges and universities — full of heavily left-leaning professors — are forcing on the students.

These American employers report finding that kids don’t want to work 40 hours a week, and many young people landing in the workforce for the first time claim that they just physically or mentally can’t work for 8 hours at a time. On YouTube, you can find a young American boy employed by Starbucks recording himself sitting in the storeroom and crying into his phone’s video camera that his boss has just asked him to do an eight-hour shift. The lad is in tears, explaining to the world that he usually works three-hour shifts, and the thought of working for eight hours is so mentally and emotionally damaging for him that he has no other option but to sob into his cellphone, record it, and show the world how outrageous his terrible employer’s expectations are.

Only in America? No. Not so. Right here in Wellington, New Zealand, my girlfriend (who works at a large retirement village) recently employed a 19-year-old lad to work in the laundry, doing three three-hour shifts a week. On just his second week he phoned in sick, explaining that he’s become physically exhausted from working too many hours, and he’s just unable to maintain such a frantic pace into the future. He needs to work less hours. This is nine hours a week in case you didn’t do the maths. There will be similar stories everywhere, and this trend of utterly pathetic behaviour will continue to grow at an alarming pace. Why? Because today’s society, not just the schools, and the universities, and the workplaces but younger generation (not My Generation) Mums and Dads tell their kids that it’s okay to feel that way. Everything’s OK. You’re special. You’re amazing. You’re the best. There’s no such thing as losing. Being told, “actually mate, you’re not good enough, you lost, and you need to try harder” doesn’t happen anymore.

Instead, in multiple generations younger than mine, everybody gets a prize for participating. There are no winners, and there are no losers. My girlfriend attended a primary school sports day a few years ago with her older sister to watch her nephew and two nieces compete. Instead of lining the kids up for a ready, set, go start, the children were allowed to start the running race whenever they felt like it, and waft gently down the straight track at their own pace, to all be lavishly praised by the teachers at the finish line regardless of their finishing positions. When my girlfriend bellowed, “Hurry Chelsea, RUNNN!!!” at her niece, she was glared at most disapprovingly by the other parents and teachers, and then quietly censured by her sister, who clarified that the school doesn’t approve of competition, and it doesn’t approve of children being pushed to be better than other children.

We’ve now had two generations of self-righteous man-bun-wearing nonbinary vegetarians who get offended, frightened, and outraged by anyone or anything that’s not completely aligned with their way of thinking. I’ve even witnessed these people hearing a harmless funny comment, and getting offended on behalf of other people who aren’t even there, because if they were there, they might be offended.

The most frightening thing is that these younger generations really believe — because they grew up being told that they’re winners and that they’re amazing and they’re special — they’re a whole lot better and smarter than older generations. I’d suggest to today’s whole-lot-better-and-smarter generation that they should consider this: 50 years ago, the owner’s manual of our cars told us how to adjust the valves. The owner’s manuals for the better-smarter-generation tells them not to drink the contents of the battery.

Excerpted from TJ’s Straight Talk column in NZV8 222 available here