Friday, December 4, 2015

To All the Whiners Who Whine About My Generation Whining Too Much


Dear Whiners of Generation X and Generation Boomer and also those Self-Loathing Whiners of My Own Cohort,

I have noticed a certain kind of an opinion editorial that pops every other month or so. Sometimes it shows up on some random blog, and sometimes on an established opinion journal such as The Atlantic. The editorial generally goes like this: college students and twentysomethings today really are the worst. They are entitled, childish, coddled and absolutely hopeless as people because they are too obsessed with trigger warnings and participation trophies. They think they are all special snowflakes, but really they are not special snowflakes at all. They need to wake up and face reality because their parents aren't going to be around to hold their hands forever.

If you write or share this kind of piece that I have just described, please stop it. You are only adding to a perpetually dull subgenre that without exception fails to engage with contemporary life at such a fundamental level that your work is not even wrong. You’re not wrong, you’re just deeply incurious and seemingly unwilling to do any real work to understand what’s going in the world around you. You say my generation is overly sensitive but that’s so far from the problem as to be laughable. 

Snake people (a term I think most of us millennials prefer to use so maybe you could give us the right to self-name at least) are a generation that has been pretty seriously fucked over by previous generations both in economic terms and far more permanent environmental ones. We came of age into a piece of shit economy facing factors that are unprecedented in the U.S. since the Second World War: zero wage growth1 and zero job security. This is an economy engineered by boomers and Xers to redistribute all the wealth of the nation to the top one percent and to say fuck you to everyone who doesn’t make it there. The results are unimpressive and we have every right to bitch about it. Previous generations (read: not snake people) also decided it wasn’t important to make any effort at all since at least the 1970s to try to prevent their bullshit consumption patterns from permanently ruining the planet we all have to live on. Frankly, given the hand we were dealt, we shouldn't be complaining. We should be taking hostages.

OK, let’s leave all that to the side for a moment. Pretend none of it matters, or maybe even didn’t happen. Some people think the climate is just fine (Republicans). Some people think the economy is just fine (Upper Middle Class Obama Supporters). Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt. Even then, pretty much everything you talk about in your dumb snake-people-are-too-whiny articles is the result of boomers and Xers (read: not snake people) choosing to privatize and/or otherwise restructure all the civic institutions of this country to function more like shopping malls, which always have a primary mission of keeping the customer satisfied.

And see I don’t know if you’ve ever worked a retail job in your life. Most snake people have worked this kind of job, since it’s been one of the only growth areas of the labor market since we’ve been of age for ‘full-time employment’ – a term that itself is pretty much a joke for any of us who weren’t lucky enough to be able to purchase a college degree. But if you have worked retail, I’m sure you’re well aware that a lot of customers can be entitled, tantrum-throwing, humorless mouth breathers. That’s no accident. In fact, it’s pretty much part of what defines being what’s called a customer. If you don’t find evidence for that claim in the dictionary, please direct your attention to reality because it’s obvious and you’ve been one. I have. We all have. It’s part of the game.

Being a student is supposed to be something entirely different. A student is not supposed to be concerned with being satisfied by a product or service, but rather solely about learning for its own sake. Unfortunately, some folks in the generations prior to ours got the idea it would be more profitable to throw that distinction away. And so here we are, where universities and colleges are competing to keep customers satisfied. That means the growing corps of administrators that manage these institutions are pressuring teachers, professors, and staff to treat students not as thinking human people, but instead as consumers of the lowest common denominator. You know, these kind of folks. Folks who we certainly should condemn for playing the roles that have been written for them by a thing we all really like called the market.

I haven’t yet addressed that your editorials always tend to erase the vast majority of my generation in favor of focusing on a narrow band of extraordinarily privileged snake people. I count myself among that lucky caste, and I will defend how we act at least to the extent that we are certainly no more intellectually lazy or self-involved than our parents were when they were our age. And if it irritates you that we’re trying to get people to stop using the word ‘faggot’ so casually, please remember that you are getting old and one day will be the crotchety grandpa that exclaims over one embarrassed Thanksgiving dinner “What? I don’t see what’s wrong with calling them coloreds. I have plenty of colored friends.”2

However, there has been so much writing about the snake people of my class that to belabor our defense would be very much beside the point. Instead, allow me to introduce you to the millions of people born in the 1980s and 90s who did not have helicopter parents, and did not know anybody with helicopter parents. These are the people who have been told by every president in their lifetime that they are entitled to pretty much nothing – not fair wages, not stable jobs, not pensions or 401ks, not vacations, not homeownership, and certainly not anything fancy like the right to whine about their teachers being too hard on them. The only thing they were told is to work hard and get an education because that's the only slim chance they have at something resembling decent living conditions. But most K-12 public schools are in the shit, and even if they managed to finagle an education out of one of them, they had to confront a higher education system designed by and for (comparatively) rich people.

These folks I’ve just tried to introduce to you, since it doesn’t seem like you’re aware they even exist, form the majority of us snake people. Get to know them, because once they win a $15/hour minimum wage nationally, they’re going to be cleaning up every other mess made by people who should know better. They come from a rich tradition of doing exactly what I’m describing and you better hope I’m right because otherwise our species is pretty much doomed maybe actually for real this time. You owe them an apology, and a thanks-in-advance note too if you’re feeling generous. But you’re probably not feeling very generous since otherwise you wouldn’t have written all that shit that inspired this letter.

In short,3 before you write another article about snake people (or millennials, if you insist) go try harder at thinking and please read more books because as it stands now you write in the manner of a spoiled, unlearned twat.

1 This is despite steadily rising productivity. I am of the funny opinion that as societies become wealthier, living standards should rise. John Galt, eat your heart out. 
2 A hat tip to Sarah Silverman for articulating this last insight in similar words. She is one of those rare adults who actually understands something called an intergenerational compact.
3 Or, TL;DR as snake people like to say. You may be able to tell I'm not very good at TL;DR. Sometimes I fail as a snake person.

2 comments:

  1. To those who write the 'opinion editorial that pops every other month or so. Sometimes it shows up on some random blog, and sometimes on an established opinion journal such as The Atlantic.

    From 'the rat race is for rats' speech:

    'Society and its prevailing sense of values leads to another form of alienation. It alienates some from humanity. It partially dehumanises some people, makes them insensitive, ruthless in their handling of fellow human beings, self-centred and grasping. The irony is, they are often considered normal and well adjusted. It is my sincere contention that anyone who can be totally adjusted to our society is in greater need of psychiatric analysis and treatment than anyone else.' - Jimmy Reid Rectorial Address 1972 (http://www.scottishleftreview.org/li/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=336)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hahah snake people.. no arms, no legs just slithering around looking for its next meal. Spitting nothing but poison. Hah. Snake people..

    ReplyDelete

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