February 18, 2014

Bret Easton Ellis on Generation Wuss

From a Vice interview:

You have to understand that I’m coming to these things as a member of the most pessimistic and ironic generation that has ever roamed the earth. When I hear millennials getting hurt by "cyber bullying", or it being a gateway to suicide, it’s difficult for me to process. A little less so for my boyfriend, who happens to be a millennial of that age, but even he somewhat agrees with the sensitivity of Generation Wuss. It’s very difficult for them to take criticism, and because of that a lot of the content produced is kind of shitty. And when someone is criticised for their content, they seem to collapse, or the person criticising them is called a hater, a contrarian, a troll.

In a way it’s down to the generation that raised them, who cocooned them in praise – four stars for showing up, you know? But eventually everyone has to hit the dark side of life; someone doesn’t like you, someone doesn’t like your work, someone doesn’t love you back… people die. What we have is a generation who are super-confident and super-positive about things, but when the least bit of darkness enters their lives, they’re paralysed.

It's time we start lumping in the helicopter parents with other special interest groups whose main goal is to shield their Potential Victim Group from all criticism.

The multi-culti crybabies say we're not allowed to notice anything bad about a culture or race that we don't belong to. Feminists whine about men pointing out anything bad about female nature. And upon hearing a single slur, the homophiles are already preparing their "I love my dead gay son" speech to berate the bigots.

With the family values revolution of the past 20-some years, "my children" have become yet another sacred victim group. It's not children in general, a la "save the children" or "believe the children" from the 1980s. That came from do-gooders during a wave of child abuse, who may or may not have had small children of their own. Today's "praise the children" movement comes from parents themselves, seeking direct benefits and praise themselves --  "Who raised an honor student? THIS GUY!"

"Tell me how awesome my kid is."

Well, what if your kid is a wuss? Or a brat? Or a social retard? Or anything else that pollutes the public sphere? Your little dear isn't like those spazzy doggies that can be kept on your side of the fence. Pretty soon these annoying little shits are going to be spazzing out all over the neighborhood.

I remember when strangers would shoot you a stinging glare if you were acting up in public, when they might even come over and pinch your ear, scolding you to "Listen to your mother!" I also remember when you could make "ching-chong" jokes, dismiss female hysteria as "just PMS-ing," and sling the word "faggot" without being prosecuted for a hate crime. Do that these days, though, and you're treated like you pulled a gun on them, or like you raped their self-esteem. Nobody wants to be regarded as a thug or a rapist, even by strangers they'll never meet again, so basic norm enforcement has vanished from public places (anywhere outside of the nuclear household, including schools).

As "my children" age into their late 20s, we're finding out that the Millennial self-esteem bubble must be maintained indefinitely -- not just to save them from the occasional scraped knee as children. Parental interference is de rigueur at college, and grade inflation rampant. Anyone who's had to read college students' essays these days knows what Ellis means when he says you can expect shitty quality once the group has been declared off-limits from all criticism.

It's striking how absent the criticism of the anti-criticism movement has been, even while so-called conservatives have been busy thundering about the politically correct dumbing down of the culture. Maya Angelou alongside John Keats in English class? Dumbing down. Frida Kahlo studied as seriously as Rembrandt? Dumbing down. Everybody gets a trophy day, "Awesome job, buddy!" -- ??? Uh, well, you know how you have to handle the sensitive mind of a developing child. A child who's 25 years old? Yeah well... what are you trying to say about my parenting, huh asshole? Just like the other full-time defenders of Potential Victims, parents these days enjoy making a noisy display about how butt-hurt they are when you offend them.

While we're at it, why do so few of the anti-"dumbing down" crowd champion the balls-to-the-walls kind of classics? Somebody whose name demands the emphasis of "fucking" -- Christopher fucking Marlowe, Cara-fucking-vaggio. This is another sign that many in the anti-PC group are overly delicate themselves.

I know the strategy of framing helicopter parents as a variant of race hustlers would not fly with the liberal half of the country, but I think it would find enough traction in the conservative half. Or at least serve to separate the shameless from the integrity-minded ones.

11 comments:

  1. I think the sensitivity to criticism comes from their lack of social support, less from being sheltered. Since they don't have support networks and few friends, Millenials get paranoid easily. I am more sympathetic towards them.

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  2. Ag, I think there is a bigger issue here thats more related to status seeking than to weak egos.

    Consider the act of giving advice. In low status seeking times, advice would probably be considered honest attempts to improve ingroup performance. Since the status-seeking stakes between two familiar people would be low, the advice can be taken whole-heartedly and the status of both the advice giver and receiver would likely rise. You would see more close male friendships in cases like this, since men would respect each other as brothers/friends instead of competition.

    Oppositely, in high status striving times, giving advice is an act of dominance. Advice cannot be accepted on principle, since doing so would accept the frame of lower status. Consider giving/accepting advice in the presence of females. When women decide who to have casual sex with, women expect 110% confidence and having an answer for everything; taking advice is a sign you don't know everything. And consequently the status of the advice-giver rises only.

    You can't call this a Millennial problem. For example, my advice to the Rolling Stones is to retire. If my status was irrelevant, the advice would be sound advice for a bunch of 70 year old 'rebels.' But since status is so important in today's world, my advice is worthless at face value. They would never consider my advice to retire. If I had more status, at best it would be considered trollish. If you agree with this premise, then you recognize that high status is the lifeblood of the Rolling Stones, and that they cannot continue to exist without a status-seeking society.

    One more comment. There are times in the past, probably during the period when status-seeking begins to fall, when you had phrases like,
    "Giving unsolicited advice to men is incredibly rude."
    "Minding your manners is important."
    "Hold your tongue."
    "That man is well respected. Listen to his advice."

    Do you blame Millennials for not having morals like this? Because it seems hardly personal, and much more a product of the cycles you talk about so readily.

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  3. There's an element of that in the prohibition of criticism, but only when it appears to be constructive.

    I mean, we're not even allowed to call queers sissies anymore, or call Lady Gaga a boring skank ("wtf, seriously? slut-shaming in 2014, really?").

    If Millennials felt that criticism was an attempt at dominance-through-advice, they'd give a smartass reply, like "Thanks Mr. Know-It-All, we'll all be sure to keep that under advisement [eye roll]." Or "Fat chance. Who died and made you king anyway?"

    Instead, they respond like someone just slugged them in the gut for no reason -- when in reality it was nothing more than somebody making a funny face at them.

    They melt down over trivial challenges to their perceived awesomeness, like telling a joke and no one laughing. Many of these situations involve a non-response from an audience or group, when the individual feels they should be getting applause. That's not one person trying to impose their dominance on another. It's the group failing to respond at the person's attempt at stimulation.

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  4. You really need to cover the reaction group (?) more. Too many kids are very highly disciplined in authoritarian communities, and they have an ice cold lack of empathy that appears like sociopathy at first glance. There are cult-like "Jesus camp" prep schools that are obsessed with obedience and rigor, except they are fanatically secular. They have an extreme mix of individualism and submission to the leaders, but no group forming capacities at all. They are hostile towards groups, except interest groups for minorities, but this is seen in scorn and pity.

    The dubious self esteem crowd might just be the reactionary group, as mainstream WASP culture becomes even more cutthroat and less cooperative. This is a defining WASP trait, to actually lose social trust instead of grouping together, as outside challenges get worse. WASP survival depends on outsiders leaving them alone, so they can enjoy the productivity of their work ethic and diligence.

    Anonymous2

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  5. Why are you so angry? Christopher fucking Marlowe, Cara-fucking-vaggio?

    Calm down. Or do you aspire to be a hot-headed thug like Caravaggio?

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  6. Millennials Don't Have High Self Esteem2/19/14, 4:54 AM

    If Millennials felt that criticism was an attempt at dominance-through-advice, they'd give a smartass reply, like "Thanks Mr. Know-It-All, we'll all be sure to keep that under advisement [eye roll]." Or "Fat chance. Who died and made you king anyway?"

    Those seem more like elements at dominance by being a smartass. Status striving attempts at social dominance plus high enthusiasm and risk taking. 1980s Wolf-O'-Wall-Street shit - "Yeah, fuck you and your advice buddy. Who dafuck is askin' you? I'm the fuckin' baws here!".

    call Lady Gaga a boring skank ("wtf, seriously? slut-shaming in 2014, really?")

    I thought that was what Perez Hilton types did pretty much all day?

    I wouldn't say there's more tearing people down or less than in say the 1950s but it's more in a competitive and self enhancing way rather than trying to get them to join you on your level. People don't try to bring others down to their level but to bring them low. Probably even true comparing our era to the also status striving, but earlier in the cycle 1980s.

    I think Curtis and Grit are on the money here - any trends that do exist are a consequence of the high inequality situation, where failure has major consequences so can't be allowed to happen, where competition is hostile, and where support networks are lacking. Nothing to do with high self esteem among kids (which don't exist) and an "everyone's a winner" culture - that shit is more than cancelled out by the freaky environment of the war of all against all.

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  7. "1980s Wolf-O'-Wall-Street shit - "Yeah, fuck you and your advice buddy. Who dafuck is askin' you? I'm the fuckin' baws here!"."

    Don't spaz out, just because you tell them that nobody died and made them king doesn't mean that you think you yourself are king. You're imagining a dominance game behind a simple act of self-assertion.

    But that proves my point. If the "no criticism allowed" thing is mostly about these dominance games, then you'd expect Millennials to respond like the Wolf of Wall Street type. Their upbringing has been more competitive than for Gen X or Boomers. Yet they don't assert themselves, but rather melt down like some big fat meanie-head just hurt their feelings on the playground, like the big fat stupid audience at the school play didn't give them a standing ovation.

    You can't call someone a boring skank and get away with it. You're dismissed as a hater. Any attempt at criticism or shaming triggers a larger shut-down.

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  8. @Agnostic
    "You can't call someone a boring skank and get away with it. You're dismissed as a hater. Any attempt at criticism or shaming triggers a larger shut-down."
    Yeah, so why do you waste your time? that's what I don't get. I have a youtube channel where I post my music and I get a ton of "haters" which is fine, I also get a ton of people who really dig what I do. But I've never felt the need to "put someone in their place" or inform them of how much they suck just because i'm "helping them out in life". Like really, who gives a shit? If they suck or are shitty life will sort itself out, what's with the god complex? I often find the only people that respond in such ways are those who feel threatened/envious towards the person they are putting so much effort into bringing down.

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  9. If the "no criticism allowed" thing is mostly about these dominance games, then you'd expect Millennials to respond like the Wolf of Wall Street type.

    Not if they lack social confidence and enthusiasm.

    Don't spaz out, just because you tell them that nobody died and made them king doesn't mean that you think you yourself are king. You're imagining a dominance game behind a simple act of self-assertion.

    Sure, my point is only that, people generally come with the smartass replies as a show of dominance or aggression, not because it's at all necessary. A simple "nuh-huh", "hey, whatever" (in a relaxed, not a stressy Millenial way), or "That's just, like, your opinion, man" generally suffices, if you're not trying to come with intimidation.

    That's why smartass replies are such a 70s-80s thing - the combination of social confidence (they're not gonna run and hide like falling crime Millenials) with a status striving period need to establish yourself at the top. So different from the "Uh... say... um, excuse me... listen... Me and.. me and the boys don't like the way you're talkin like you're better'n us, see" style of the Mid Century.

    Kind of like why bratty Bart Simpson is a creation of the late 80s, such a late Gen X kid, while his Millenial cartoon kid counterparts aren't exactly "eat my shorts" material (compare the just as bratty, but more boring and inhibited South Park and Family Guy kids).

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  10. I am 19, part of this generation, and I am not like that, but I have noticed what you are talking about a lot. I am not aloud to love R. Crumb (which I do) because he was a racist. I am not aloud to read Gone With The Wind because it takes the pro-slavery argument. Nothing is without problem. My new favorite is I'm not aloud to enjoy woody allen movies because he is a fucked up person. We are expected to hate just about everything and be hypersensitive. If someone makes a homophobic comment to me, (I am a lesbian), I make a small penis joke and then move on with me life. Other girls will give some speech about how the person needs to be sensitive to others' differences. I should have grown up in the grunge era. It was so much cooler back then.

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  11. Tony Davidson10/1/14, 2:03 AM

    In South Africa we have the added phenomenon of Black Economic Empowerment since 1994, the net result of which is a general dumbing-down of standards across the board to satisfy the political imperative of creating an "educated" black middle class. Whilst the intention is noble, the execution leads to many unintended consequences, especially a lowering of service standards, corruption and theft etc. So our "Millennials" fall into black and white groups, even after the fall of apartheid. White kids not born in the apartheid era find themselves unable to get jobs because those are reserved for blacks, in order to make up the correct demographics that government specifies. It is still necessary to declare ones race in post-apartheid South Africa when applying for a job and many jobs specify that blacks only need apply. Government has assumed the role of helicopter parent to the young black population and any criticism whatsoever is regarded as a hate speech, racist, colonialist etc. The pass rate at schools has been reduced to 30% to allow more people to "graduate", so qualifications have become seriously devalued, although the illusion created is one of improvement and growth. Sad.

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