Gen X frequently asks the question, what the hell is wrong with the Millennials?
They live in padded bubbles where nothing bad can reach them. Entirely free from the merciless ravages of reality. How is this possible?
I recently ran across a statistic that shocked me. I didn't believe it at first and then I started running it through the mazes of my mind. And I realized it was perfectly true.
Almost everyone born before 1961 went through a period of malnutrition at some point in their lives.
Think about that for a moment or two. Almost everyone.
Food wasn't as plentiful or anywhere near as cheap as it is now. Prior to 1961 if the meat was past it's sell by date and vegetables were wilted, you boiled them to death and seasoned the hell out of them. You then tried not to think about the taste and you roared at your kids if they didn't finish everything on their plate because what was on their plate was it. There was nothing else available, the cupboard was usually bare. Making kids eat gone off food was a matter of survival. It was also a matter of personal humiliation if you were their Dad. Backyard gardens were everywhere and they had nothing to do with eating healthy other than it was healthy to eat. A few backyard chickens were often an edge against non-survival. Weasels and chicken-hawks were a threat to your family's existence.
Those days were gone but not at all forgotten for Generation X, when we were kids.
Saltine crackers and milk were still a treat when I was a kid, not the emergency rations they are now. If Mom bought Ritz crackers you knew you were having company that night because they sure as hell weren't for you. If you didn't eat everything on your plate, you were morally bankrupt as a seven year old human.
Generation X was the first generation born and raised without the physical threat of starvation hanging over their heads. But the societal memory was still there. We were raised in an environment where there was always the question in the back of our parents minds, 'will there be enough to eat tonight?'
There always was of course but the demands of a clean plate at the end of every meal lead to Gen X's notorious problem with it's waist line. Fat cell numbers are set in childhood but stay constant in adulthood. If you are fat as a kid you are going to be fighting a weight problem your whole life.
But as I said we were raised in the memory of hard times. Hungry times. Survival urgency was real for us as a threat, even if it was a threat held in the abeyance all of our lives.
A real threat to your survival is the ultimate reality. It keeps you grounded.
When the Millennials came along, even the memory of real hunger had faded.
Think about really beautiful girls and I don't mean good looking. I mean no shit actual TENs. Can you name one that isn't ditzy as hell? Of course you can't. Beautiful girls are raised in a bubble where everyone is kind to them and smiles at them whenever they walk into a room. They are insulated from the harshness of casual cruelty because everyone wants to keep beautiful girls smiling beautifully. No one wants to hurt their feelings, (*notable exception of course being other beautiful girls. Hurting a beautiful girl's feelings are very much on the table then*).
And now consider the Millennials, they are raised to be that divorced from reality. You don't have to look hard to find examples of it. In his essays on Appendix N Jeffro Johnson, points out that some of the concepts in those books are completely alien to Millennials:
This estrangement between the generations… it isn’t normal. And it’s not just that people in the seventies would have read many of the same science fiction and fantasy authors that their parents and even grandparents did. The scope of things that fall within the black hole of the generation gap seems to be expanding almost exponentially now. Even things like Bugs Bunny and Tom & Jerry– I would have watched the same stuff that my big brother watched when I was a kid… and we were familiar with the same classic cartoons that out parents and grandparents would have watched. But that’s changed now. And it goes beyond these things just sort of quitely dropping off the radar for the moment. Millennials that will admit to never seeing them still “know” somehow that these things were racist or something and deserve to be erased. It might seem silly, maybe, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
When it was announced that the World Fantasy Award was replacing its iconic Lovecraft bust, Joyce Carol Oates declared that the literary canon is “saturated with racism, sexism, anti-semitism, anti-democracy… and lunacy.” Graciously she allows that “tossing it all out is no solution.” But why wouldn’t you toss it out…? If it really was as bad as people say, you probably would do just that. I mean really, why would people read the works of such terrible people…? They don’t. And if by some chance they do, the reaction can be almost physical sometimes, as this woman describes it:
"The reaction can be almost physical." Hence the urgent need for Safe Spaces and laws against Hate Speech. The perception that there can be northwards of fifty eight genders instead of the more standard TWO. That women have a right to be sexually attractive no matter what they look like. That there is no difference at all between who you really are the fantasy persona of who you wish you are.
That all reality is simply a mental construct.
They grew up in a world where there hasn't been want for two generations. They don't have anyone in their family who was in danger of starving to death ever.
“My generation of boys is f**ked,” says Rupert, a young German video game enthusiast I’ve been getting to know over the past few months. “Marriage is dead. Divorce means you’re screwed for life. Women have given up on monogamy, which makes them uninteresting to us for any serious relationship or raising a family. That’s just the way it is. Even if we take the risk, chances are the kids won’t be ours. In France, we even have to pay for the kids a wife has through adulterous affairs.
“In school, boys are screwed over time and again. Schools are engineered for women. In the US, they force-feed boys Ritalin like Skittles to shut them up. And while girls are favoured to fulfil quotas, men are slipping into distant second place.
“Nobody in my generation believes they’re going to get a meaningful retirement. We have a third or a quarter of the wealth previous generations had, and everyone’s fleeing to higher education to stave off unemployment and poverty because there are no jobs.
“All that wouldn’t be so bad if we could at least dull the pain with girls. But we’re treated like paedophiles and potential rapists just for showing interest. My generation are the beautiful ones,” he sighs, referring to a 1960s experiment on mice that supposedly predicted a grim future for the human race.
After overpopulation ran out of control, the female mice in John Calhoun’s “mouse universe” experiment stopped breeding, and the male mice withdrew from the company of others entirely, eating, sleeping, feeding and grooming themselves but doing little else. They had shiny coats, but empty lives.
“The parallels are astounding,” says Rupert.
The Beautiful Ones are what happens when you remove the threat of starvation. When you remove the urgency of survival.