Hating kids, and special snowflakes


How do you make fun of a highly tech-savvy demographic while trying to dodge the inevitable backlash? Simple: you couch your criticism in terms that seem to come from some other place, while eventually circling around to mark your real target. Brooke Donatone followed this formula to the letter with a recent article at Slate titled “Why Millennials Can’t Grow Up.” Rather than write just another screed about millennials’ legendary self-obsession, Donatone chooses to hurl invective at “helicopter parents,” and their supposedly deleterious effect on the mental health of their millennial children. This rhetorical flourish is little more than a fig leaf for what is fundamentally just another crude hatchet job against roughly 76 million Americans.
In her article, Donatone merrily skips toward the conclusion that a generation of over-parenting has produced a group of people who cannot “do laundry and homework on the same day.” Apparently unable to conceive of any legitimate sufferers of mental illness under the age of 35, she paints the picture of a generational cohort who’ve never had to solve conflicts, and who are cripplingly dependent on their parents for everything. Along the way, she inserts tidbits of self-praise (e.g., “A generation ago, my college peers and I would buy a pint of ice cream and down a shot of peach schnapps [or two] to process a breakup”) and a few colorful details (“Google now has Bring your Parents to Work days”). She even alludes to the impact of the Great Recession and how a dearth of jobs has made “breaching adulthood” more difficult. But all of this is merely a prelude to the great sanctimonious finish: All the problems of Gen Y will fall away if we start exercising and dating online. You know, all those things that real adults do. She asserts that everything will be better when we simply learn to “cope.” Such an inflammatory charge should not be made with such a cavalier air; the single 30-year-old patient who’s been presented as the article’s protagonist does not count as a “trend.” (“Millenials strike back: We’re not just whiny babies!,” Tim Donovon and William Guida, Salon.com)

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Cultures can hate, genuinely hate, their kids. I think the reason we think this is impossible is because we're not sophisticated enough to appreciate how evolution could possibly allow for it, and because we all need to believe that however difficult, there always exists some way to get our parents' love. 
But love as an adaptive trait started off very imperfectly. It was genius when before it was just reptiles and other things all eating one another. But "love" still at first was a lot of using children for selfish purposes, and abandoning them pretty much for the first fruit tree once their beguiling eyes so glued to "you" stopped enchanting. Our earliest ancestors were barely loved. They got enough to learn how to replicate what little their parents knew, but nowhere near enough to brave taking on anything new. They basically spent their lives fiddling with the damage their awful upbringings brought them, the heavy price of what being a species receptive to love had earned them. Put some of us in the situation they were in, given the love the better loved of us have had, and even if we knew no more than what they knew we'd in six months innovate what'd take them 40 000 years to do. Tribes going nowhere for thousands of years have found the opposite of the human ideal. They're afraid to try the new thing, for it meaning the rest of the tribe instantly packing up and leaving their cold asses alone in the barrens. 
This is the thing. Cultures that show steady growth are cultures that have known love beyond what others have. Growth means not just satisfying parents' unmet needs, but tending to how your own life might be made better. If this is tried with immature parents, you get abandoned for daring as much, which is the source for all subsequent fears of apocalypse and death and impossible to breach again. But even in fairly well loved peoples — which includes the innovative Japanese — growth eventually makes them feel like they're due for massive punishment. They've been guilty. 
So what happens after the allowance the massive sacrifice of lives and potential the Depression and WW2 enabled was experienced as finally spent through all the 60s true utopia and 70s relaxed sex and disco, is begin once again to see youth and growth as sinful and evil. We create a world which does brutal things to our kids, who we see as deserving their fate simply for desiring the same things a generation before had claimed — desiring their own say on the world. We hate our kids. We project our own "sins" into them, and sacrifice them to an increasingly terrible world. And for doing this, we feel less guilty. It's awful, but true.
What kids who've been hated do, what millennials do, is never get to the point their more evolved baby boomer parents were at and be able to see an increasingly prosperous world as something we all deserve and should just enjoy. They're back in a sense to the primates, who've been sat on and chewed at so much for their barest hesitant explorations, that their brain sees red when they see any instance of guiltless self-pleasure. The "improved" Leonard Lawrence from Full Metal Jacket, after all the abuse and beatings. 
So they're going to be bombed out like the Depression youth were. So broken they'd have it no other way. They'll look to their starved bodies and know, like anorexics delight in knowing, that no awful beast could see them as anything any further good chunk of meat could be gotten from. And they'd know from their starved selves that they've sacrificed all growth, sacrificed their generations’ turn, and surely for this and for dying in some subsequent WW battlefield probably-don’t-it-look-like-in-China, have earned acceptance and love. 
At the finish, a la sort of "This is the End," some Valkryie angel will scoop them up and cart them off the battlefield, to join a welcoming angelic hoard. 

DMichael@Emporium Wow. Simply put, I'd hate to be you or especially your children.


Emporium@DMichael @Emporium I agree, it'd be terrible. Every time I screamed at them for being spoiled brats, the effect would be completely diffused by my having made known that this is just daddy's being taken over by a demon parent alter in his own head, screaming at his own "bad" self … it more likely means, that is, "Completely ignore me. You're actually doing the right thing, kid. Good on ya." 


DMichael

That was hilarious, and spot on..

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RebeccaBeI really don't understand the backlash to this article.

I, like most millenials, am not lazy. I worked hard and did everything right. I have a teaching degree and graduated summa cum laude. I got certified in four areas, which was expensive but came well recommended. Halfway through my degree the job market tanked. Education funding got slashed everywhere. Now few districts are hiring, and those that are hiring aren't hiring me because there are ten times as many qualified candidates as there are open positions. Faced with another year of working at Starbucks, I'm aplying for Ph.D. programs instead. At least I'll get a stipend as a graduate assistant, which is more money than I make now.

I live with my mom because I would be homeless otherwise, not because I'm lazy and can't handle real life. I've been handling it just like everyone else. No one does my laundry, okay? Meanwhile, my friends have been dying overseas for a decade. Everyone forgets that part. Does the fact that I (like pretty much everyone else I know) am being treated for depression and anxiety make a little more sense in that context?

Show me a generation that went through a bigger economic downturn while simultaneously fighting two wars and I'll show you a generation with higher rates of mental illness.

Emporium@RebeccaBe Well, you're a Depression generation. Their point is to have their youthfulness so sundered of them that even when they're out, ostensibly left it behind, they're still mending their own clothes and going to the equivalent of dollar stores whilst their children reject their hardness and invent the equivalent of good times and rock and roll. 

There's consolations, though. For one, people who are bruised enough in life come to see all this abuse as a sign of their virtue — something they're lucky to have, for it clearly pointing out that they couldn't possibly be spoiled. 

And secondly, I doubt that they'll be picked on for long. It's too easy to imagine militants arising amongst them that successfully scare baby boomers away from uttering another blasted thing, like Weimer-spoiled parents realizing that their humorless, Depression-depressed/mentally-ill kids, have been steeled into this new thing -- Hitler Youth -- and who see in their own parents everything that has ruined their once pure country. And also by their ability to do things that show such an awesome disregard for themselves that boomers pull back wondering what the hell they have on their hands -- 'cause there's no way they could do that!

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jsuserman Look, I generally object to broad brush characterizations of entire generations, with the exception of WW I England, and Depression Era America, I am willing to extend that to the bridge group of WW II/ 1950's America, all of which experienced monumental historical shifts recognizable only in retrospect.

"I am having a difficult time finding myself, stop picking on me," just doesn't qualify as the monumental shift I am talking about.

Truth is there are a lot of man/girl not yet adults out there of multiple socioeconomic groups who planned poorly in their education and work goals.  This author seems to be among the most vocal of them.  My sincere sympathy is with you all.  But truth be told, you are not a special, not a snowflake, generation.

RebeccaBe@jsuserman Doesn't the fact that these historical shifts are, in your words, "only recognizable in retrospect" mean that your characterization of the shifts millenials have faced as less-than-monumental is lacking validity?

And what part of two wars and the worst economic downturn in 50 years (these are the shifts that millenials have faced) isn't monumental enough for you?

I'm not a special snowflake (I've read that article too, I didn't care much for it). I'm an out of work teacher. I don't need to find myself, that's a luxury I can't afford on minimum wage. So instead of "I am having a difficult time finding myself, stop picking on me" how about "I did everything right and am still not successful, so please don't call me lazy when in fact I'm just suffering from the same recession as everyone else."
jsuserman@RebeccaBe @jsuserman "As every on else", exactly my point.  As bad as your situation my be are you really comparing it to WW I England, WW II, or the Depression?  I really hope not.  Yeah, I know you have it bad, but seriously,how about " I picked the wrong teaching field..."

Oh, I never called anyone lazy.  Tho I do think the author is a bit of a snowflake.



Emporium@RebeccaBe @jsuserman Rebecca Be, please try and recall there was a time when people didn't decide that the uniqueness of each snowflake was something to deride, nor the uniqueness of each human being. If you're on this same team of believing no one's special as these other assholes are, they might relent in their attack on you a bit, but you're way more lost to the human than you ought to, than you deserve to, be. 

You might even start beating on your kin, who might more than casually assert that they deserve the house and car and vacations as much as any of those asshole boomers did. Maybe more, in fact — a life of fun, without compromise. 

The Hippies took humanity further than anyone else before, just like the Jazz Agers did in the 20s. There's always a follow-up where humanity, suddenly feeling alone and abandoned, clings back to more regressive ancestor/parental ideas of how sin-ridden humanity should be. Some of our chosen enfranchised (like Lena Dunham) are going to get to be exceptions — somewhat — but the rest of those we're coercing to think of themselves as nothing more than a Depression assembly of bland-clothed ordinariness, should hope to find some way to insist on their human right to be enchanting anyway. 

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