Sunday, September 28, 2014

"Generation Wuss"

It feels like a bit of a rant, but apparently Bret Easton Ellis has earned the right to critique the younger, Millennial generation.

Even if you don’t like his judgments—and his point is that Millennials do not like and cannot handle any negative judgment of their worth—his writing is still worth reading.

In effect, Ellis describes what happens to children when they are brought up to have high self-esteem, regardless of their accomplishments. People who have chosen to follow the dictates of the therapy culture have apparently done damage to their children.

Ellis has been here before, and has been attacked for generalizing. He offers this portrait of what he calls Generation Wuss:

My huge generalities touch on their over-sensitivity, their insistence that they are right despite the overwhelming proof that suggests they are not, their lack of placing things within context, the overreacting, the passive-aggressive positivity, and, of course, all of this exacerbated by the meds they’ve been fed since childhood by over-protective “helicopter” parents mapping their every move. These are late-end Baby Boomers and Generation X parents who were now rebelling against their own rebelliousness because of the love they felt that they never got from their selfish narcissistic Boomer parents and who end up smothering their kids, inducing a kind of inadequate preparation in how to deal with the hardships of life and the real way the world works: people won’t like you, that person may not love you back, kids are really cruel, work sucks, it’s hard to be good at something, life is made up of failure and disappointment, you’re not talented, people suffer, people grow old, people die. And Generation Wuss responds by collapsing into sentimentality and creating victim narratives rather than acknowledging the realities of the world and grappling with them and processing them and then moving on, better prepared to navigate an often hostile or indifferent world that doesn’t care if you exist.

When Ellis first offered his views of Generation Wuss, he was deluged with stories that proved his point:

… a father related a story how he remembered watching in frustration as his son participated in a tug-of-war game with his classmates on the field of his elementary school and after a minute or two the well-meaning coach announced the game was officially a tie, told the kids they did a great job, and everyone got a ribbon. Occasionally there were darker stories: guilt-ridden parents chastising themselves for coddling kids who when finally faced with the normal reality of the world drifted into drugs as an escape…from the normal reality of the world. Parents kept reaching out and told me they were tormented by this oppressive need to reward their kids constantly in this culture. That in doing so they effectively debilitated them from dealing with the failures we all confront as get older, and that their children were unequipped to deal with pain.

Unable to deal with failure, unequipped to deal with pain. Instead of changing their ways, they believe that negative emotions have nothing to do with their actions in the world and do not require them to do things differently. They have learned that negative emotions are merely a chemical imbalance that needs to be regulated through the consumption of psychoactive medication.


Ares Olympus said...

re: "Generation Wuss responds by collapsing into sentimentality and creating victim narratives rather than acknowledging the realities of the world and grappling with them and processing them and then moving on, better prepared to navigate an often hostile or indifferent world that doesn’t care if you exist."

I'm not sure this is a new feature of the human species, but maybe feeling uniquely wussy also generates self-esteem?

I'll contrast it to George Bernard Shaw's ideal of progress:
"The reasonable man adapts himself to the conditions that surround him. The unreasonable man adapts surrounding conditions to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man."

Who knows if it isn't the baby boomers who are the real Wusses, who have over-promised the future while they consume it under the promise of unlimited debt, while expecting the next generation to be bigger and better to pay for it all?

The real problem to me is not that young people are Wussy, but that they believe the lies of their elders, and pretend life-long debt is the only path to success.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

This just in: life is unfair. It's the human condition. Resistance is futile. That's why we have faith in something greater than ourselves. Most if us, at least. Material comfort is fleeting...

You can try to create a perfect childhood for people and expect a flawless outcome, but it won't work. The most amusing aspect of the article is its reflection of the assumption that "coddling" will prevent a life on drugs. It's kind of like the idea that giving poor people free money will prevent them from feeling poor, and counter feelings of privation. You can only live a lie so long until it catches up with you.

The key takeaway from this article is sentimentality. "Generation Wuss," along with everyone else in this insane feel-good culture, has been fed a steady diet of sentimentality for years. You need a lot of medication to escape from reality, but eventually its efficacy wears off. The addiction is that of the adult parent seeking an impossible outcome. It's a way of protecting that's essentially a kick-the-can-down-the-road confidence game: "It's someone else's fault that you're unhappy, Precious!" Huh? No human being can possibly deliver what's being promised! Pharmaceutically imposing perpetual happiness and comfort on a generation of children produces a level of psychoactive chemical tolerance that eventually doesn't work anymore. And THEN we worry why they turn to illicit drugs??? Normal life sets in, and it's a horror show. Welcome to the human condition. Our apologies for trying to shield you from reality. It's not all on "Generation Wuss," it's on all of us. Cognitive dissonance won't save you, Mr. Ellis.

The truth is no one wants to work. Work is viewed as drudgery or endless amusement. Work is work. It can be hard, difficult, challenging, enjoyable, tedious, etc. but what we've convinced an entire generation of young people is that work is supposed to be FUN. It's tied to the great lie: that you can get something for nothing. That life can be just as fun as Minecraft. We don't delay adulthood anymore... we've convinced people that it's optional.

Please let the record show my agreement with Ares Olympus. The long-term debt is the adult elixir to fuel the charade of happiness and comfort.

n.n said...

Generation Wuss, perhaps. I think unearned self-esteem has created Generation Spoiled Brat. However, as Ellis suggests, they did not develop in a vacuum. Perhaps this is a progressive quality of every civilization. Specifically, the corruption sponsored by dissociation of risk, which is intrinsic to every advanced civilization or similar circumstance. An "opiate" for the masses and elite.

Anonymous said...

Siddhartha was raised in a bubble of 'perfection', and when he finally came face to face with reality, he sort of went crazy.

Dennis said...

Not to sound like a broken record, but the more one does not have to strive, work or face challenges the less one respects the totality of life. There are just too many examples to ignore.
If there is a real enemy here it is in those from the 60's generation that help to create the "ME" generation. Their parents thought they were protecting them from the ills that they faced in the form of Depression, wars, bulling, et al. The fact is that each person in growing up HAS to face a series of challenges in order to know how to face challenges. Take that away from them and one is handicapping a person's ability to deal with the exigencies of life.
Admittedly much of this dysfunction was and is created by progressivism that puts forth an idea that the government can protect everyone by just providing everything from cradle to grave. The more provided the weaker the society becomes and the more it becomes enamored of self.
Again, the more one does not have to work, strive, and face the challenges inherent in every aspect of life the more one lacks the respect for what it takes to have freedom, et al. Sadly we have placed so much emphasis on youth that we have, unlike other societies, taken away the wisdom gained from age. This emphasis on youth has so permeated our society that people old enough to know better don't because they have not matured to the point of wisdom. It is wisdom that matters and no one can reach that point without facing and learning from the exigencies of life.