***Editor’s Note: This is an adaptation of a recent talk given by Carrot at a symposium entitled “A letter to the editor”.
“They are Lazy entitled narcissists!” There is something to this…I am around them all the time you know?
I attended a talk not too long ago given by a colleague and fellow philosophy professor. The topic was narcissism, it was an informative talk about what the term means along with some discussion about the benefits and drawbacks of narcissism. Once the talk was open to the audience, some in attendance were quick to connect that topic to today’s students…that’s right, lazy entitled narcissists! In other words, millennials!
“The incidence of narcissistic personality disorder is nearly three times as high for people in their 20s as for the generation that’s now 65 or older, according to the National Institutes of Health; 58% more college students scored higher on a narcissism scale in 2009 than in 1982. Millennials got so many participation trophies growing up that a recent study showed that 40% believe they should be promoted every two years, regardless of performance.”1
It doesn’t take long to unearth commentary on millennials, their lack of commitment, their desire for micro-fame, and their lust for avocado toast! A quick Google search excavated these gems…
“I see no hope for the future of our people if they are dependent on frivolous youth of today, for certainly all youth are reckless beyond words. When I was young, we were taught to be discreet and respectful of elders, but the present youth are exceedingly disrespectful and impatient of restraint.”
“The children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love to chatter in place of exercise.”
“Our youth have an insatiable desire for wealth; they have bad manners and atrocious customs regarding dressing, their hair, and what garments or shoes they wear.”
“[Young people] are high-minded because they have not yet been humbled by life, nor have they experienced the force of circumstances.
They think they know everything, and are always quite sure about it.”
“The young people of today think of nothing but themselves. They have no respect for their parents or old age. They are impatient of all restraint. They talk as if they alone know everything and what passes for wisdom in us foolishness in them.”
My grandfather left home at 12 years old, to find work so that he could help pay for his 11 siblings to eat.
My father had a brain aneurysm at the age of 20, which left him paraplegic; he refused Medicaid instead choosing to work for every cent ever got.
And I started working at the age of 14 in order to pay for college, as I knew my family wasn’t wealthy enough to help out.
None of us gave two shits about putting a picture of our dinner on Instagram, you know why?
Because Instagram wasn’t around when we were growing up. You know what was around? An older generation telling us that we suck…My grandpa was called selfish, my dad was a hippie, and I was a dreamer. Yet in spite of these criticisms we all turned out okay.
The problem isn’t the youth, the problem isn’t the past, the problem isn’t laziness, in fact there isn’t really any problem at all.
The world changes, sometimes at alarming rates, older people sometimes get caught in the nostalgia of an earlier time. Despite the world changing, one thing that seems to be a constant is an older generation that forgets that at one time they were the snowflakes, the hippies, the clowns, or the hinkty.
It’s not the millennials or the 20 something’s, or the youth that change, what changes is the culture, the society, and tools we have access to. You drop a 19-year-old Winston Churchill in a modern day metropolis, and he’s not leading England to victory, he’s dropping one shots on bush campers in a fortnite battle royale.
Older generations have been pissing on younger generations since the beginning of time, but this pissing and moaning does nothing but prove that one has officially arrived to the class of older generation.2
I’m here today with a simple comment and a plea. Millennials aren’t real, neither are gen x’ers, or baby boomers, and the “greatest generation” never existed. We come up with arbitrary time periods and generalize an entire group of people based on the years that they happened to have been conceived…this sounds about as reliable as astrology. It’s a haphazard and illogical move to achieve some disingenuous end. And so my plea is simple…make it stop!
When Gen Alpha starts coming of age and doing things that you can’t understand, because their songs and shows and books and movies aren’t as good as yours, don’t shit on them. They didn’t pick to be born into the society that they will come up in, so why treat them as if they are somehow to blame.
Instead, try encouraging them. Life can be hard. They’re people, just trying to get by like every other generation before them and every generation that will come after.
This generation bashing has been going on since the beginning of time, as evidenced by the fact that the quotes I shared (above) are from Hesiod in the 8thcentury BCE, Socrates in the 5thCentury, Plato and Aristotle in the 4thcentury, and Peter the Hermit in the 11thcentury CE. Despite the on-going codgery, we’re still here.
Times will continue to change, and perhaps the lazy entitled narcissists can be the 1stgeneration that will come to accept it.
- Joel Stein, “Millennials: The Me Me Me Generation,” Time Magazine, May 2013.
- This is just as common in the climbing world; you hear the past generations harking back to the “glory days” of looooong run-outs, and bottom up routes.