We’re back and Welcome to Our Junior High Trauma Month! Let’s talk about a book that neither of us wanted to read during a pandemic and time of intense social unrest and racial inequality.
My human shell is small and of a woman of color. My melanin has much baggage with it but one of the most painful pieces of baggage that I have been given is one of “the angry black woman”. The Angry Black Woman is a trope nearly as old as time. We’ve all encountered her. She’s usually large, has short hair and can hit you with a pot of grits from one hundred paces. For examples, see literally most Tyler Perry movies or many 90s sitcoms written by men (black men are not immune to this trope, in fact, they may be the worst perpetrators of this as the “crazy black girl” is a real form of sexism in the African-American community). The Angry Black Woman could be its own blog post but because of that trope, because of that stereotype I am very aware of tone and am very aware of my tone.
Which brings us to today’s topic. Tone policing, speech and and how one can properly express indignation.
It was actually Amber that got me thinking about tone. She is a proud member of a local African-American community group and her discussions about our shared history, our legacy of mistreatment and our slow but steady rise to semi-equality are insightful and brilliant. Remember a few years ago when I mentioned that now, just now, I became a somewhat angry black person over the history of mistreatment and the cruel legacy of racism and slavery. But my anger is tempered mostly. Because I am at the stage with casual racism, casual misogyny, casual transphobia and casual homophobia and just the regular versions of all of those things that my response to such is just a deep and beleaguered sigh.
I am tired. I am so tired of this. I have endured such things now for nearly 30 years. And I am tired. I am tired of being explained my history by mostly white people who are wrong. I’m tired of people saying they are an ally but and I am tired so so tired of people talking over me or talking for me.
But I am a well-trained Southern prince. I am not to speak out of turn. I am not to raise my voice and I am not to be too firm on anything. It’s unbecoming. It’s unladylike. I’ll never get married if I keep saying such hot button things like “Women are people.”
The training is hard to rewrite and thus, my tone is mixed between shrieking harpy and somewhat passive-aggressive pageant contestant. I was trained to avoid religion, politics and the Great Pumpkin in public speech. And whenever I have been more openly political and aggressive with expressing my own views (if you’ve ever seen one of my panel videos, you know what I mean) I find that my tone is oftentimes sharp, pointed and somewhat irked that I even have to “defend” statements that to me and those I surround myself with willingly are not controversial, brave or a surprise. And that’s difficult to manage as a panelist, podcaster, and person. I have to be able to explain why my family’s history only goes back so far. I have to be able to explain why my hair is relaxed or why my human name is so white sounding. I have to be able to explain those things because explaining them helps people understand the complicated legacy of slavery, racism and white hegemony that rests on mine and the shoulders over every person of color in this nation, nay, the world.
I am a communicator by trade be it both in my professional life and my panelist life and that means I am aware of how people listen. And I can promise you this: no one responds well to a shrieking harpy. It shuts people down. And while my indignation is valid, yelling, being pointed or being terse is no way to further a narrative.
But here is where Amber steps in. She seems no need to police tone. When she is terse or irked, she expresses so. And she passionately defends others who can be terse or aggressive with their tones. A showing of a local black-centric documentary brought up this conversation. I was hung up on a use of a word and Amber finally pressed me on why that bothered me. I said because it has the potential to make things sounds more intense than they were and Amber in the way only really she can said: “So?”
I didn’t know how to respond to that. Because I was taught to be measured, I expected this film to be measured and when it wasn’t, it angered me. Why couldn’t they just sit quietly and let civil rights infractions happen? Why didn’t they have my training? Why didn’t they have to deal with what I do?
And here is where I’ll pause to say there’s a fair amount of misogyny in that answer. My human shell is female and thus me being opinionated, blunt, educated and vocal is oftentimes framed entirely differently than if it were a man in my shoes. A man who confidently speaks over women, interrupts them, confidently spews the wrong thing is a smart, brave and driven man. A woman who does even one or more of these things is a shrill harpy and she’ll die alone because no man wants a woman with opinions, merely a set of ovaries and some bangs.
The reasons behind this are rooted in the patriarchal nature of Western culture and that’s a battle I cannot fight on my own.
So because of that double standard, I am hyper-aware of my tone while simultaneously being my most tired of having to police my tone. If someone is wrong, you should be able to say so respectfully. But challenging the status quo is how change happens. We would never have achieved freedom, emancipation, suffrage or the close grasp at equality we have now if people did not challenge the narrative. And sometimes that means not being nice. Pageant answers can only get you so far. Sometimes to really be an agent of change: one has to throw tone out the window.
There’s a bus driver on my route almost every week day. He greets me when I’m at my least human and can only manage to grumble at him like Grendel does through his novel and makes sure I arrive safely downtown. And as I skitter off the bus, he says to me:
“Have a good day, mija.”
Now many of you who stuck around for my series last year on sexual harassment, you may think I bristle at such attention. Not at all. I accept his comments every day and do my best to be gracious despite my at times hellish commute.
So that makes for an interesting question that I feel shouldn’t need to be asked: but hey if we all answered questions like that, we’d never find out that salted caramel is a delicious option and that red wine and cola is a sin. With today’s current…climate, let’s call it, let’s have a candid discussion about what constitutes harassment and what is just a person being nice.
Now, here’s where this topic gets messy. It is highly subjective and highly personal.
Let’s try two scenarios. Picture yourself in them. Or you can picture me in them. Either is fine.
Scenario 1: You are waiting for your stop while on the bus. A man stares at you. He smiles. It’s somewhat unnerving, but it is a smile. You do not return his advances and once you reach your stop, he follows you. It is not his stop. He gets off abruptly. He rushes to reach you. He finally catches up to you and says: “Hey, beautiful.” you do return his greeting but flatly. His next statement is more intense: “You wanna be my girl?” this time, you flat out reject him. He continues following you for a few more paces down the sidewalk and you duck into a local coffee shop to avoid being cornered by him.
Scenario 2: You are sitting at a local cafe. You are at a table alone. A man offers to join you. You turn him down at first but upon further inspection, you notice that he is reading one of your favorite authors. You invite him to join you. You talk. He is forward but not in a way that bothers you. He says more than one forward thing, in fact, but none of them are irksome. He asks for your number and you accept his offer.
These two scenarios are probably a little more clear but now let’s let the lines blur some.
And we’ll go back to our mostly friendly bus driver.
Scenario 1: A bus driver you routinely see greets you in a friendly way and calls you a non-offensive diminutive name as you leave the bus.
Scenario 2: A man on a local park bench regularly calls you a diminutive name as you pass by.
This one is tricky because realistically, what makes the bus driver situation passable is the fact that the bus driver is in an authority position. He means well wish I hop off the bus or nearly run into a stop sign. In that instance, I’m a young (not too young) woman in a big city that he sees regularly. The man on the bench? That’s another story. Even though he may not mean any harm, I don’t exactly enjoy hearing “Hey, baby.” from a random park vagrant.
Let’s take the conversation down one more level. Here’s a phrase and I want you to imagine it in as possibilities as you can.
That’s a nice dress. You look good in it.
I know the default voice in my head that read that was not as a kind compliment but as a catcall. But I’m also aware that it can mean many different things on different days. If I’m feeling that dress, even if it’s a forward statement: I may be more receptive. If you happen to catch me on the more likely occasion of me wishing to blend into the background of my bus seat: then I may not be as kind to such a statement, though I’ll almost never be outwardly cold to anyone who “means well” (My resting bitch face and deeper voice for a lady do that just fine for me.).
And that’s what makes this whole discussion so strained. It’s highly subjective. The difference between a harmless instance of flirting, someone trying to genuinely connect and a catcall are sometimes as simple as how I am feeling on that particular day. And I know that’s frustrating for men to hear. Rest assured, the same can be said about female to female interactions. I’m if anything more put off by a woman calling me by a diminutive at times while I’ve also been clocked more than once for casually calling a woman “doll” and “hun” almost out of reflex because despite my views I am Southern as hell.
And in this somewhat muddy environment, it’s difficult to know when someone is being too sensitive or when someone has gone too far.
But here’s where I take an issue and here’s the whole point of this.
It shouldn’t have to be like this at all.
If I’m at a bar and have no issue with a person laying it on thick, that’s acceptable. If I am put off by someone trying way too hard at Travis Park, that is also perfectly acceptable.
Now what can possibly help the conservation is a base level of acceptance that a human’s feelings are most of the time valid. I do not owe any person an explanation as to why I am okay with one instance versus another. And as long as I am mostly kind, not breaking any laws and mostly tactful: my annoyance at one act versus another is valid, fair and my own.
I get rightfully annoyed when any human tells me I should smile more. You should hear the story of me telling my Uncle exactly how I felt on the matter. (If you ask nicely, I may tell it in the comments.)
And there’s plenty to be said about it being a bit generational as well. Older folks do tend to think they are just being nice. Many of the times I’ve been called something diminutive or told something that I find questionable: it’s by someone older. Back in their day, when the dinosaurs roamed, it was perfectly fine to tell a woman that she should wear makeup; she’d be prettier if she did. Back in their day, it was fine to call any woman you see by a pet name. Back in their day, it was fine for an older woman to demand a younger lady wear heels or to cover up their shoulders.
That was back in their day.
I’m from a cusp generation here in the South. As I was younger, many of those behaviors were still perfectly acceptable in North Texas. My great-grandma regularly commented on how nice it was that I wasn’t too dark. That was a compliment to her. My mom’s old Air Force office lady friends would often make comments on my weight as a small one. That was perfectly sound advice. Another great-grandma was very concerned over the fact that by 17, I was not marriage. By her standards, I was at risk of dying alone.
As I grew older, I found myself annoyed with such comments from men and women but accepted it as part and parcel of existence on this planet. I started cosplaying which meant that I grew to accept sexual harassment as a natural part of being a biological female in costume. It wasn’t until much later and in empowering younger cosplayers and fans that I had to stand up for myself because it made no sense for me to preach a higher standard of self-confidence to my kouhai than I believed in for myself.
The generation after me likely will have very different views on what is a compliment, what harassment is and what it means for someone to be aggressive or a potential assailant. And in this current political climate where it seems as every single person you have ever looked up to is likely a garbage human (I firmly believe most of the allegations that have come out against most reported garbage humans.).
Next time, we’ll discuss this new higher standard more in depth.
“Dying is a very dull, dreary affair. And my advice to you is to have nothing whatever to do with it.”-W. Somerset Maugham
When I was 12 I lost my father under sudden circumstances and complications to chronic illness. But even at 12 I was no stranger to death. I had lost my grandfather at 9 and Death’s cruel shade would continue to haunt me well into my adulthood. It’s no surprise, really. It’s the one thing we all have in common. Mortality. But we as a group, collective or society don’t talk about it or deal with this fact well and today I’d like to talk about that a little bit more.
Don’t worry. Things will lighten up soon.
When I was 9, my grandfather passed away as mentioned above. He was a great man but he was sick. It was at 9 that I remember being one of the first times asking about my own mortality. As children here in the West, our parents quickly changed the topic of conversation when such serious topics arose. The wording was always very careful.
If you die, you go to heaven.
If, not when.
As if to say because I was a child, I was somehow immune to the nature of entropy. Now, I understand being discrete with children. I’m Southern. And it’s a painful topic to discuss with a child. And not an easy one especially considering that most adults don’t seem to have a solid grasp on mortality. It was also at 9 that my mother told me that I shouldn’t cry at my grandfather’s funeral. I was the oldest of the grandchildren and “had to set an example” for my younger cousins. I was as I said before, 9 years old.
It was this verbiage of if that dotted my childhood. Through natural disasters, terrorism and disease. If.
When my father died at 12, I received a book on how to “cope” with loss. When Dinosaurs Die: A Guide to Understanding Death (Dino Life Guides for Families) [if you have read this book and had great feelings about it, please let me know. I’m almost tempted to give it another read now as a cynical adult to see if angry 12 year old Amanda just didn’t like being given a book to explain the grand mysteries of life and death or it was just a piss-poor book] and I maintain that it’s the most tone-deaf piece of literature ever. It did not help me cope with the loss of my father. It just made me angry. But it was the first time that I remember the tone of loss change. “When we die, this is where we’ll go.” my mother said, standing in front of the open plots. She had purchased two plots: one for me and one for her, shortly after my father’s death. At 12 the fabled if of loss became a when. Life became a ticking clock.
It happens to everyone. It’s just a matter of when.
The reason to bring this up? Recently I joined The Order of the Good Death. A collection of those that say they are Death Positive. Mortality isn’t a curse, it’s a fact. We’re all headed to a grand greater something. What that something is…yet to be unknown. But we’ll all be there.
Another point to bring this up, many of my favorite web celebrities (John and Hank Green are honorable mentions) have been very concerned about mentioning mortality in popular culture. Hank Green recently posted a song to his very popular Youtube channel titled: We’re All Gonna Die. And it’s a brilliant, if not subtly cheeky way, to deal with the fact that our time is finite. I’ve always admired the Green brothers and their candid discussions on their anxiety with the matter; John especially. The Ask a Mortician channel on Youtube is incredibly informative and witty while still being human and it quickly has become one of my favorite new sources for videos.
But as a culture, we’re still uncomfortable talking about death. Some outlets have taken a stand against this and has started to take a stand on realizing that life isn’t something that just goes on forever. We’re mortal. Our lives are very finite and it’s about time we start realizing it. When YOLO first became popular it was a catchall phrase to rationalize somewhat reckless acts because we do in fact “only live once”. Being finite doesn’t mean that our lives are meaningless, it means if anything, it means more. We have so many days, minutes, seconds, weeks and so on. Let’s all do something with the time we have. We’re not Wonder Woman, Superman or a sitcom character: and even some superheroes die; they just come back later on. Our universe is even finite: it will eventually end. All of it.
However, being Southern it’s still a taboo topic. We still struggle with the memory, memorial and sanctity of our dead. We value and rush through life with vigor and we mourn the dead as if death never comes. But Death…the handsome gentleman caller that he is, has very little concerns for our Southern ignorance; he just waits.
Enjoy your existence, whether you believe in the cold nihilism of the mostly unforgiving universe or the warm tender embrace of an afterlife as something greater.
“We sometimes imagine we hate flattery, but we only hate the way we are flattered.” Francois de La Rochefoucauld
I’m not a social justice warrior. I’m not out to save the world. I’m not an overly sensitive young lady, either; I understand the difference between a compliment and a catcall. I’m just a young woman with opinions and thoughts. That’s why in many ways this is difficult to talk about but something worth discussing. Recently I’ve faced a few comments coming my way during my time in the city and it’s worth mentioning them. Not to glorify the act of harassment or catcalling but to mention the more poisonous social aspects of it.
The day had started like any other with me going to work but the deviation in my normal schedule arose from meeting a friend for a drink. This sent me to my bus stop a little later than usual but nothing terribly late: it was still light out. Two men sat down at the bus stop next to me, first asking what time it was and other comments along those lines.
“You’re really cute, even though you must be only 18 or 19.” I shirked away from the compliment mostly because it wasn’t true. I’m 25 and “really cute” is very subjective. And compliments aren’t negative, even if they can be intrusive. The older of the men was mostly a flatterer, and I was able to brush off his comments despite his insistence that I was only 18 years old. The other gentleman, however was a bit more forward. I had picked up a book, a classic tactic to show you are not interested and he kept pestering me over and over again about why his name wasn’t in my book.
Sir, that’s not how books work. This is a study of Paganism and Christianity in the 4th to 8th Centuries.
That was my reply to his incessant request to be in my book, again not understanding how books work. Names aren’t just conjured up without some form of effort. After more prodding and asking somewhat invasive questions about my age it was one about my bust that got me to walk away from the men. I went to talk to a police officer and I told him about the men that were giving me a bit of trouble and the police officer told me that I could wait by him until my bus arrived. It wasn’t until I remembered that those two men were waiting on the same bus that I was that I asked what steps I should take. I wasn’t worried about waiting in a public park and I wasn’t worried about my safety during my walk home; however on a bus with two men that have made comments to me that I rather not repeat was not something I was looking forward. The officer replied that the only thing I could do would be to take a taxi home. So I did.
I’m not going into further detail mostly because it wasn’t the comments that bothered me. What bothered me and still does is that I for my action of just taking a cab home and being entirely “too polite” to the men harassing me was shamed shortly after telling those close to me about it. I can’t tell how you many people have told me that I should have stood up more and that I shouldn’t ride public transportation because of such things. It was my responsibility. It was my onus to assure that I got home safely on my dime. It was my responsibility to stand up to these men on my own. The blame settled solely on me.
Now, I understand that in this case there was very little the police could have done. It is very difficult to police words; trust me I’ve been moderating forums and chat rooms for as long as I can remember and as condescending and terrible as it is there is some truth to being told just ignore it. I also take great offense to those that told me I should have been stronger in that moment for a simple reason: you cannot react harshly in those situations. Most of the time what a woman considers to be harassment even at her most sensitive is to some merely flattery. You can’t react in a bellicose manner to someone when they think they’re being nice. Also, riding public transportation is incredibly safe and it isn’t like women aren’t subjected to harassment in a variety of places from gas stations, to work or even in their own homes or via the Internet. Having a car wouldn’t have saved me in general, though would have in that particular moment. I don’t distrust public transit, it’s quite safe and many bus drivers are incredibly no-nonsense and helpful.
Normally, I don’t speak out about things like this, mostly because I understand they can be a bit of a powder-keg. I also realize that to many I’m being overly sensitive. They were just random comments, it shouldn’t get under my skin so much and I agree. But as I’ve pointed out I’m less upset at the comments and more upset over the response I received in the retelling of these events. We’ve socially accepted that when bad things happen to women, they somehow did something to deserve it and therefore should be responsible for getting themselves out of it. The real tragedy of this is that those comments I received though invasive and unwanted are nothing in comparison to some of the comments that have been directed at me in chat rooms I was moderating over and comments on many others face online. On a whole, I left that situation mostly grateful I could afford the cab fare home and thought about a woman that may be in a similar situation and may be less fortunate than I was who couldn’t afford a safer ride home. I thought about what it means to receive a compliment or to be a victim. What makes us victims? Is it reporting to the police? Quiet endurance or just acceptance? It even made me question some of the terminology used. For instance, I struggled calling it what it was even in this blog post but it was in itself a form of harassment and that doesn’t over-inflate or undermine the seriousness or lack thereof of that situation.
I didn’t want to make a big deal out of a random man not understanding how books work but after having person and person tell me I was somehow insufficiently strong in that scenario got to me. I met that situation the best I could, with patience, politeness and sternness and eventually entire avoidance and I think for that particular instance, that was the best way to handle it. Be kind to those around you. If they come to you and mention something distressing, even if you think they’re being overly sensitive; hear them out. Friends reach out to you for a reason, you can ground them in reality after they’ve calmed down. It’s scary out there for a short girl in the city.
“Prejudice is the child of ignorance.” William Hazlitt
Nikola Tesla. Charles Lindbergh. Thomas Malthus. Francis Galton.
These men were eugenicists. Eugenics is the idea that there are some traits in human beings that can be selectively bred out creating a more robust and better human being. Conditions like anemia and asthma; even death itself, could be selectively bred out to create a more superior person. A person without illness, of strong mind and body. A pure individual. Eugenics arose from Charles Darwin and his theories on Evolution via Natural Selection. In theory, natural selection could be applied to humanity with a little help from doctors and mystics to bring about a more capable and heartier person.
Let’s back up a bit. Because I’m sure by now you’re asking me: Amanda, why are you talking about eugenics? If you ever have the pleasure of meeting me or being a close friend or family member of mine you have certainly heard me claim that something was “the Ghost of Darwin” when a person trips over a patch of heavy air or after hearing a news story that seems to come straight from The Onion but is entirely too true. The Ghost of Darwin became a code to myself and my friends to rationalize when bad things happen to people that per the situation seemed to deserve it. We were practicing social Darwinism. Social Darwinism is a viral and visceral form of schadenfreude: a way to enjoy or take pleasure in something bad happening to someone else. It’s a rationalization for people who drive drunk through the PlayPlace at McDonald’s or to the man who falls into a fountain after aggressively catcalling a young woman. It’s more importantly a way to separate yourself from those receiving those misfortunes: deserved or not. It’s a means of distancing yourself from the general population. To a Social Darwinist they are above the rabble, they are somehow even slightly more superior than the rest. It’s a passive-aggressive eugenics way of thinking. Now again is probably the time you’re asking: Okay, Amanda. That’s all fine and good. But eugenics?
I love movies and recently a few of my most beloved films have had a eugenics plot behind them.
The cult action thriller Machete Kills features a demigod-like villain named Voz. Voz is an almost Steve Jobs sort of man who has grand delusions and dreams about creating a perfect world and destroying Earth as it is. He then rounds up the creme de la creme of humanity and encourages them all to hop aboard one of his space ships to fly out into deep space while Voz destroys the world with a complicated matrix of catastrophes and man-made disasters. Voz and his followers were to enjoy luxury among the stars, even bringing servants with them to continue their elitist ways in the heavens.
Kingsman: The Secret Service pits villain Valentine against the top-notch spy agency The Kingsman. Valentine is a charismatic media mogul who decides that the world is terrible and the only cure for the world is to remove humans except for those he finds or ‘persuades’ into joining him. Valentine seduces politicians, dignitaries and elites with his mentions of how climate change is our fault (which it is) and that the only way to save the world is to trim the fat. Valentine then programs an app in his new free smartphones that triggers uncontrollable rage in the brain. This meant to cull the population of the world through hyper-violence and keep those treasured few safe to repopulate the world.
The ever so controversial Django Unchained features a Southern slave owner named Calvin Candie who rationalizes his cruelty and ownership of human beings with phrenology. Phrenology is a pseudo-science that dictates that you can measure and learn a lot about a person based on bumps and sections of the human skull. Candie states that because of a defect in the skulls and brains of Africans they cannot simply live on their own. They need slavery to function and he was a white landowner was doing everything right by owning other human beings.
Why is this dangerous? Because it glamorizes eugenics. Especially with Kingsman I remember leaving the theater thinking Valentine “made some good points” and it wasn’t until I was in the car with my friend driving back home that I realized how insane it was to say that. I was rationalizing what was effectively genocide, albeit a fictional one. We see these movies and we believe and understand the points made by these charismatic men. What we don’t see is the result of people being swayed by eugenics.
The result of eugenics and social Darwinism is nothing short of death. The result is the Holocaust. The result is the KKK and modern racism and racially motivated crimes. That’s the price of eugenics. When you believe you are better than someone else it’s very easy to more actively wish to remove them from the planet. Hitler ruled Germany through these poisonous thoughts and it allowed for the slaughter of millions. Plantation owners and racists used eugenics and Darwinism to enslave others and subject them to unspeakable terror. When we allow pop culture to even humor eugenics, we validate what these people’s thoughts; that there are people that are radically other than you and it is right and justified to separate yourself from them.
Charles Lindbergh was a noted American eugenicist and didn’t see the error of his ways until visiting the concentration camps of Germany and saw the horror that his perfect world that he wanted to create via selective breeding caused. He recanted his views on eugenics and never looked back on those ideas. As Americans we still have racially motivated crime and terror in our very recent memory and any movie, song, book or even joke that makes light of a movement that rationalized terror seems to be at odds with the needed eye-opening moment Lindbergh needed to have to stop his insidious passion for eugenics.
What’s the most concerning about these recent pop culture mentioning of eugenics and social Darwinism is who gets to decide who lives and who dies. In Machete Kills, it’s Voz and he decides on the elite and the rich. In Kingsman it’s Valentine who also for the most part chooses the elite, rich and academics.
So why the rise of eugenics in popular culture? Crisis. We are in a perceived time of crisis. Like Germany after WW I and the Antebellum South. Most people in the West see our current time with climate change and terrorism both domestic and international as a time of chaos and crisis. So when there is crisis, many find comfort in the idea that there are those that can and will rise above the masses and that the world will be reborn new and different with only the best and brightest. Sound familiar? A lot of dictators used this same rhetoric. The only reason it sounds familiar? It’s the base of the Judaeo-Christian Bible and many other creation myths. The story of the flood is one central to many cultures from Sumer to the Nile and beyond. The flood mythology has a giant flood as its main conflict and “god” or a series of deities select a good righteous few to carry on. The rest of the world are left to die in the flood and the good righteous few are left to repopulate the world with their goodness.
I’ll never police fun and things like The Darwin Awards are hilarious and the occasional jest at the expense of the specter of Darwin aren’t all in bad taste. It’s a habit I’m all too aware of and one that I and my friends do still sometimes commit. However, there’s a darker history is sometimes allowed but it’s important to remember the murky legacy of the statements we made no matter how light they may be in moments.
Anyone close to me is pretty aware of the proud patch I wear. I’m a 90s kid. To my core. I’ve mentioned how it’s shaped me and those around me and I can see how it affected those in the same age group as I.
Society labels me as a “Millennial” which is basically anyone born from the early 1980s to the early 2000s. When I mentioned this to a close friend, he quickly said “Nope. We’re 90s kids, not millennials.” (you can find his work here, check it out. It’s good stuff.) I wanted to disagree with him. The time period fits. We’re technically millennials. As much as I didn’t want to admit it.
Here’s why. A millennial to me is the whiny histper of modern time. The ironic wearer of multiple hats, who sits at Starbucks writing imaginary novels, making references that he himself can’t place. That is a millennial to me. Simultaneously, the image of the generation AFTER mine comes to immediate thought. I have a younger cousin 12 years younger than me. I consider him more a millennial than I consider myself to be one.
And I think I found the reason. 90s kids, we got the best of both worlds. We were able to truly benefit from technology. We were given immense resources to grow, learn and study. The Internet was a powerful tool of discovery. Not a means to shop or play games. But we still had the ability and skill to find materials and research the “old-fashion way” by reading and looking for texts. Not being afraid of an Oxford English Dictionary or an Encyclopedia Britannica. We still played outside, for the days at least that weren’t O-Zone days and were you allowed to play outside. We respected our parents. We looked into the face of the Infinite Universe and saw ourselves. We became humbled by the enormity of existence, we weren’t self-centered, but we knew ourselves. We valued education. We took care of our things, we valued and appreciated what we were given. And first and for mostly, we were shaped by national and global tragedies. Collectively, our rose-colored glasses were shattered and we saw the world for what it was. Amazing, awesome but fearful. We had to be savvy. This embodied in us marked determination, self-preservation, a value and high importance of the self and self-awareness not to mention a near insatiable hunger to always know more.
Why did this happen? Who was it? What can I do to make sure this never happens again?
We served our communities, we grew. And I believe, we’re better and smarter people for it. Not to mention we had some of the best television in the world.
My younger cousin? I’m sure he’ll continue to rely on the University of Google. When he asked me to translate something into Latin for him (He asked because I had taken Latin for 10 years in school) I immediately went to my textbook, which I had kept in perfect condition since my schooling days and declined my verbs and cross checked my vocabulary. I didn’t go to Google Translate first and only did to make sure my grammar was right. (My grammar in Latin had always been a bit off) . And I’m glad he had the wherewithal to ask me before going to Google. It was really flattering.
But my little cousin’s generation…all they’ll know is the Internet as a means for funny cat videos and the quick and easy answers to life’s questions. I wish he’d read. I wish he’d appreciate some of the electronics he has. I couldn’t well fathom at his age some of the technology he holds in his hands and uses to play games with. What I would have used that technology for. Who knows. Books. Many books. Learning. Opening up my imagination to the potential of the entire cosmos. All with a computer.
Myself personally? I’m not as left-leaning as many millennials, I’m actually rather conservative at times in my governmental policy, though still left-leaning. I’m religious, not highly, but I am religious. And I lack the certain arrogant egocentric mindset that the universe revolves around everyone born from 1980-2000. I look Eternity in the face and am humbled. I bask in vast nothingness and find peace.
I’ll label myself a millennial when it’s needed. I rather dislike the title personally. Call me a 90s kid, I’ll absolutely agree to that. In the end, we’re all a generation that’s totally different from the one before ours. And the one after us? Goodness. I can only imagine what the world has in store for them.