Disclaimer: there’s a lot of cursing and the first 2/3’s have a bit of a get off my lawn feel, but the finish is quite uplifting–so if you want to keep it positive and actionable, scroll there now.
First off, I want to say I have tremendous empathy for your generation, whether you’re a Millennial or Generation Screen (my term, but I think it fits).
The little meme or hashtag or whatever the fuck “OK Boomer” is gets something right, which is that the Boomers did screw your generation. They screwed mine too by completely dismantling our local, state, and federal tax system they benefitted from so that we all got to attend underfunded schools and take on massive amounts of student loan debt. At least most of you know that going in, but it’s a crappy feeling as a teacher to have to tell a lot of my students they shouldn’t go to college—not because they really shouldn’t, but because the juice isn’t worth the squeeze.
But here’s the problem with #OKBoomer, or any pejorative (expressing contempt and/or disapproval) based on someone’s identity: by going down that path, we give other people the right to do so as well, while robbing ourselves of agency and the opportunity to be better humans.
To be 100% honest, I actually think #OKBoomer is kind of funny–and I get it: basically you’re saying fuck off old person. But it’s the same sort of identity politics partisans on both sides use to animate their followers—and let’s be honest, that’s what most of them are: followers. Because if people were actually thinking for themselves, as independent, intelligent humans, we wouldn’t be in this mess.
But to be fair, if I can make an assumption based on someone’s age, why can’t I make assumptions based on their class, race, sex, social status, sexual orientation, religion, etc? The truth is I can—by resorting to identity politics, we’re effectively saying, “it’s OK to stereotype someone based on their identity, so long as it’s socially acceptable.”
But who decides what’s socially acceptable?
Doesn’t anyone else see what a dangerous road this is to go down?
To me it’s the worst kind of irony—that the social justice warriors of today, who claim to want equality for all, are willing to employ racism, sexism, classism, etc. to discriminate against others when it suits their purpose. And we sure as hell know the other side’s more than happy to do it–that’s basically all that’s in their playbook anymore.
What I find equally disturbing about where we’re headed as a society is that we judge people so, so harshly, but that judgment is almost completely divorced from any respect for the humanity of the individual person. We’re willing to cancel someone for saying something insensitive, even as we’re retweeting some nasty screed about someone we’ve never even met—it’s the tyranny of our modern, everyday tribalism, lasting until the next opportunity arises where people can play victim and pretend to be offended and virtue signal about how great they are.
I mean honestly, given this scorched earth environment, is it really surprising it’s becoming more common to be a complete coward–an NPC–or conspiratorially insane than a normal, reasoning human?
And while every transgression in life seemingly requires an absurdly dramatic response, many people, if we’re honest, are living small, reactionary lives without any real purpose. Because it’s more important to have a cute Instagram story or take a goofy picture with a Snapchat filter or obsess over viral hashtags or the next nonsensical meme, than it is to read a book or create a work of art or build something concrete with our hands or have an honest conversation with a friend… in real life.
And holy shit you fucking maniacs–do you really think your fucking smart phones are having no effect on your lives? Really? You’ve lost not hours, not days, not weeks, but likely months if not years of education because every teacher you have has stop every single class every single day multiple times to tell someone to put their fucking phone away. How many books have you not read? How many ideas have you not had? How many human to human conversations have you lost out on because you were staring at a goddamn screen? Every single indication we have from scientific research shows that smart phones and social media are having myriad tremendously negative effects on humanity, and yet you collectively refuse to face that reality because YOU’RE ADDICTED TO YOUR GODDAMN PHONES!
Like, there will LITERALLY (this is the correct usage btw) be humans in your generation (maybe mine too) who spend more time watching cat videos and other people playing video games on YouTube than any other singular activity in their lives aside from sleeping.
I say this out of love: but maybe instead of telling Boomers to STFU, we should examine our own behavior and really think about what we can do to live happy, fulfilled lives.
Because there is nothing more toxic in our society—NOTHING—than the idea our lives are fucked up because of someone else and the best thing we can do about it is point our fingers at them and tell them they’re bad people. It is absolutely toxic; debilitating, because it robs us of the opportunity to better ourselves and improve our own lives, and vile, because it justifies spewing hate at others based on conditions or circumstances most of them have had absolutely nothing to do with creating.
I say this out of love: but by playing the victim, you victimize yourself. You become your own oppressor–robbing yourself of the opportunity to be the beautiful human being you are.
So here’s my advice on living a happy, fulfilled life:
- Respect all humans, regardless of identity, until they prove they don’t deserve it—and then, instead of telling them they’re awful people, either teach them to be better or don’t be around them.
- Acknowledge that none of us are right about everything 100% of the time. Don’t argue for the sake of arguing. Be willing to admit when you’re wrong, and generally speaking, apply Occam’s Razor–the simpler the explanation, the more likely it’s true.
- Take responsibility for the conditions of your life. Control what’s in your control. And, where there’s injustice, work to affect positive change—just know that things don’t change overnight, and you’re not going to convince anyone of anything by being mean to them.
- Stop looking for reasons to be offended, and stop virtue signaling. It’s been my experience that the people who are the most sensitive are often extremely cruel to others and those who most vociferously tout “hard work” are often lazy and expect special treatment. To what extent you can, don’t be a hypocrite. You’re not perfect, and no one else is either.
- Use your smart phone and social media as tools to better your life, not as a security blanket to hide from reality. Learn to talk to other people, even strangers. And for goodness sake, read. I don’t know a single person I consider genuinely smart or interesting who doesn’t ever take the time to read a book.
- Have compassion for others—especially those you disagree with or don’t understand. As George Saunders has said, “to the extent that you can, err in the direction of kindness.”
- Give something to the world. Create art. Build stuff. Spend time helping others. Be the magic in someone’s day. Don’t spend your life passively entertained, staring at pixels.
Namaste, for those who have not taken yoga, can be roughly translated as, “I see the divine light in you, and I bow to you.”
And so I say to you: Namaste. Let your light shine, and let it shine brightly–don’t let it be diminished by negativity, machines, or screens.