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Prioleau Alexander: The Plight Of ‘Gen Z’

“Things have changed …”

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You’ve probably noticed this, but Gen Z and a pretty big chunk of Millennials are pissed. Many report feeling hopeless about the future, and bemoan their inability to move out of their parent’s house … much less ever buy a house of their own.

I don’t blame them. Sure, they need to do a lot less whining and offer a lot more intellectual discourse about their grievances, but they’ve certainly got a lot of things to bitch about.

In the 1970s, a father in Charleston, South Carolina could work a pretty-decent job — white or blue collar — and he could afford to buy a home, two operating cars, and with a careful budget could have his wife stay home and raise the children. 

Those days are long gone. My hometown got discovered, and rich people started pouring in. As The Eagles once sang, “You call someplace paradise, kiss it good-bye.” 

We should’ve kept our mouths shut.

I looked up information on a 1,300-square foot cottage on the upper peninsula of Charleston, sitting on maybe one-tenth of an acre. Pretty beat up, but nothing $200,000 couldn’t make look new. It just sold for $700,000

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Charleston, S.C. (Getty)

Who are the people buying these houses, and what do they do for a living? This isn’t a fancy area — gunshots at night are routine, and good luck getting a package delivered to your home. There’s a fleet of porch pirates sailing the area, looking to relieve you of your Amazon booty. 

Why would someone pay a million dollars to live there, when houses 20 miles away are 60 percent less expensive? Because the location is awesome. It’s close to everything. And to them — whoever they are — it’s worth the money.

I just spoke to a professional peer in Charleston, and found out that the salary I started at in 1990 for $25,000 has now — 32 years later — skyrocketed to about $40,000.

Is that “fair?” No. But life isn’t fair. Young people want to live in Charleston, and are willing to deal with our low salaries and sky-high cost of living. That’s a choice, right? 

Things, however, have changed a great deal since the 70s. 

One thing that’s changed big time is the cost of living. Not need-based cost of living, but want-based cost of living. 

Consider the things that didn’t bite into the 1970’s family’s budget: Smart phones, high-speed internet, premium channels, dining out more than twice a month, coffee that cost more than a nickel, maintenance on an car engine run by a computer, kids’ sports that cost money, buying computers and printers, streaming music, shopping available 24/7 with the push of a button, gym memberships, gaming systems, three-day bachelor/ bachelorette parties in exotic locations, and purchasing fashionable brands of clothing and shoes.

The things listed above are not a criticism — most apply to me, as well. I don’t care about brands, and I’m too old for bachelor parties, but we the people have adopted these things as needs, not wants.

They aren’t.

But given they are perceived to be, and have been a part of most kids’ lives since the day they were born, I completely understand the illusion.

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Another strong desire amongst youngsters is the desire to live in a fun place: Charleston, NYC, Vail, Miami, Jackson Hole, San Diego… the list goes on. They want to live in a place where people go for vacation. I don’t blame them. 

But wealthy Boomers have made that all but impossible. They want the same thing, and they’ve got the money they saved over the decades … them and the trust-fund kids pouring into Charleston who pay $900,000 to live in a cottage.  

Many blame the problem on corporate greed. Whether it’s the hourly rate being offered at local mom-and-pop pizza joint or Microsoft (but not Apple, of course), the view is that everyone in business is greedy. While I certainly agree most public companies are focused entirely on making more and more money, that’s what they’re designed to do … people who own their stocks don’t mind.

Mom and Pop, one should remember, didn’t launch the pizza joint to feed and clothe their employees, or feed the world for the lowest price possible. They borrowed money — likely with a second mortgage on their home, because banks in Charleston won’t lend to new restaurants — but they alone took the risk because they want to make enough money to provide them with a comfortable life. A business should be viewed as a living-breathing organism, and profit is the oxygen it lives on — Mom and Pop deserve every beneficial breath their business takes.   

The real problem, of course, is that young people are naive, and are thinking “socialism just hasn’t been given a fair shake. It can work if we’re put in charge.”

Socialism has never worked.

If you’d like to see America’s latest attempt at micro-socialism, do a search on “Pay What You Can restaurant closes.” It will give you a feel for the viability of the idea. Could that be because it’s human nature to take advantage of opportunities? 

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RELATED | PRIOLEAU ALEXANDER: MY FIRST TAKEOVER

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Aside from the fact that socialism has always failed, there’s a key concept that most youngsters don’t understand: Despite the participation trophies and your parents never-ceasing praise, odds are huge you’re just a scrapper — and there are lots and lots of people out there much, much smarter than you. 

And they don’t want to give up their life of luxury. 

Who are these people? Wall Street investment bankers by the thousands. The lawyers who know how to beat the system, and ensure Apple pays no corporate taxes. Entrepreneurs like Jeff Bezos, who turned an on-line bookstore into a company big enough to make him a billionaire sixty times over. People like Warren Buffett, who add no value to society at large, other than manipulating 1s and 0s. Savvy businessmen. Upper echelon management in corporations. Politicians using insider trading. The tech sector. Celebrities. Members of the lucky consummation club.

These people aren’t going anywhere, and you can rest assured they aren’t going to let anyone tell them they can only make a certain amount each year. In addition, imagine them letting go of not just their money, but their power… or their ability to eat a $700 lunch with others invested in keeping you out of the club. 

This is important to understand, because they have no intention of making room at the table for you or me. We are as meaningless as a jellyfish that washes up on shore. And they aren’t going anywhere, unless the plan is for a Maoist slaughter of the rich and educated … which ain’t gonna happen, because rich people can surround themselves with professional security if things ever get dicey. Antifa might be good at bullying old ladies, but they aren’t going to fare so well when they storm a bastion protected by a half-dozen former Seals.

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Antifa protestors (Getty)

Is all lost? I don’t think so, if younger Americans would accept the unfair hand the Boomers left them, and focus on the future. After all, it is their future, as bleak as it may seem. 

The kinda-okay good news is Americans have been through this before.

Americans living on the East Coast in the late 1800s saw their dreams of success being pummeled by a lack of opportunities, so they literally put Ma and the kids in a chuck wagon and headed West — for nothing more than a chance. It was a miserable existence, and cost God knows how many lives, but they did it. Not because they wanted to, but because they had to … if they wanted to achieve their dreams. They could’ve stayed on the East Coast and wallowed in a more secure sort of misery, but they wanted more out of life.

The great immigration during the Ellis Island era brought Europeans by the millions, most arriving with a second-grade education, no English, fifteen cents, and a piece of string.

What happened to them all? They took the fresh start available to them, packed the family of six into a one-bedroom apartment, and dove into any opportunity that arose. 

Why did they come to America? Because their version of Boomers and elites back in their country had sucked all the opportunity out of their nation.

Sound familiar?

They came to America to start anew in a place that rewarded success based on their creativity and work ethic. No promises … just a chance.

I think that’s what the Millennials and Gen Z are going to have to do: View America as a place that still has a lot of areas where success is possible, just not the fun and cool places — the rich have overrun those. Yes, Charleston may pay only $40,000 for the job I mentioned, but someone in Peoria is likely making the same amount … and living well in Peoria on $40,000 is a world apart from doing it in Charleston or San Diego.

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Brooklyn Bridge, New York City (Getty)

Consider this: In Detroit, you can buy a suburban 4-bedroom, 2-bath, 1,577-square foot house for $34,900. You can afford that delivering pizzas. 

But who wants to live in Detroit? I’d venture to say, “some youngster with cojones, willing to migrate to the Wild West for a chance at real success.” 

The Rust Belt and the Flyover States are teeming with healthy cities offering inexpensive homes. Many of them, like Columbia, S.C., have to overpay to recruit specialized talent. I don’t hold out much hope for you if you got a Gender Studies degree, or have no blue-collar skills, but these places are out there … and open to anyone who doesn’t think it’s a Constitutional right to work remotely.

Would I like to move to one of these places? No. But I’m lucky — I’m an early Gen Xer, and grew up in city in a state in a nation that hadn’t yet lost its mind. As a result, I don’t have to. I’m more than happy to call it luck.

In the 1980 film Caddyshack, Danny is explaining to Judge Smails that his future will be bleak if he doesn’t win the caddy scholarship, to which the judge responds, “Wellll … the world needs ditch diggers, too.”

Indeed it does. But millions of times in the past, Americans started out as ditch diggers, then struck out to a place with obvious opportunity and staked a claim to their future. Many of them succeeded.

The natural inclination of young people is to say to two or three friends, “Let’s move to New York!” I don’t blame them. Totally understand. 100 percent agree. Kids have been doing it for a decades — cram into a small apartment, get a job waiting tables, and end up with enough money to enjoy a night out once a week.

Now, what might happen if those three friends agreed, “Let’s move to Detroit!” If enough kids did that, Detroit would rally, thrive, then become hip — probably so hip their own kids couldn’t afford to live there.

Gen Z and a lot of Millennials were dealt a lousy hand. They really believed the $100,000 in debt would pay off after they got their degree in archeology or music “because that’s what interested me. I was told to follow my dreams.” They were raised in an obscene standard of living, and thought nothing of it. They lived like millionaires in college, using their borrowed money to pay for a nice apartment, sushi, and spring break. They were coddled and lied to by stupid parents, who didn’t have the balls to say, “You can borrow tuition only. You’ll have to work to pay for everything else.”

So, yup — if you’re one of them, you got screwed.  The question is, “What are you going to do about it?”

Because doing nothing isn’t an option. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR …

Prioleau Alexander (Provided)

Prioleau Alexander is a freelance writer, focusing mostly on politics and non-fiction humor. He is the author of two books: ‘You Want Fries With That?’ and ‘Dispatches Along the Way.’ Both are available on Amazon. He hopes to have another title published soon, but that would require his agent actually doing his job, so it may be awhile. Oh, and if you want to see his preferred bio pic? Click here …

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3 comments

OK Boomer June 19, 2023 at 2:59 pm

I encourage guys like you to compare the America you inherited to the America the younger generations are inheriting and question whether or not your advice is even worth the dwindling value of a grungy penny on the street.

I vote to ship Drunkle off to one of these run down, mold infested 1 bedroom 3 hole-in-the-floor slum mansions he’s talking about. He’s an expert at boostrapsology so he can no doubt show us how to dodge bullets on our way from the missing front door to the dented frame of what used to be a car sitting on cinder blocks. What a fitting example of the future late stage capitalism has in store for the rest of the nation.

Reply
L on L on L June 20, 2023 at 8:12 pm

The plight of Gen Z?

Inheriting the world this idiot blogger and his peers created.

A smidge of self-awareness goes a long way.

Too bad drunkle will never experience that sensation.

Reply
Escapism for Empty Husks June 21, 2023 at 8:48 am

It’s literally the generation that can’t afford a car, a house, an education, healthcare, having kids, and likely being far less likely to retire than their parents or grandparents, being told to stop whining by the generation that can’t stop obsessing over drag queens reading books.

Guys like Drunkle are the most entitled brats America has ever seen playing armchair economists with people who have been royally shafted. Even if he had the intellectual honesty to grasp the situation completely and figure out real fixes, he doesn’t have the empathy to care enough and follow through.

They’ve been put into a box of culture war nonsense and become way too comfortable to step outside of it and deal with the harsh realities around them.

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