Public Perception

In a secular society, we’ve turned to the religion of industriousness. It’s kinda like Protestant atheism; the residue of a Lutheran Northern Europe which would spread west, traversing the Atlantic and washing up on the shores of the New World — what would become happy hunting grounds for the Rockefellers and Guggenheims. As an Irish Catholic, two demonymic signifiers which don’t so much describe me ethnically or religiously, but more so culturally, I seem to lack the work ethic necessary to really push ahead in life. My contemporaries complain of having to compete with far more competent, hardworking, and intelligent foreign students in their respective universities. And such students aren’t just from Lutheran backgrounds; many are purportedly from the Orient.

‘It’s weird,’ one of my culturally Irish Catholic friends told me, ‘there’s this one dude, from Japan or somewhere, and all he does is smoke weed, and yet did better in the Christmas exams than everybody else! It’s as if he’s genetically predisposed to good grades, by virtue of his Orientality.’

‘I’m shameless,’ another culturally Irish Catholic friend says, ‘if it looks like hard work I just won’t do it. I’ve actually managed to find out how to study so that I only actually do about half of each of the exams, and pass on that alone, rather than trying to pass having learnt a hundred percent of the material. Does that make sense, or am I losing my fucking mind?’

But hey, aren’t millennials supposed to be universally lazy? Not that simple, I’m afraid. Millennials are united by an internet-enabled mutual understanding of entertainment media and pop culture, but ultimately estranged from one another by vastly different backgrounds. Just because everyone watches Pewdiepie or reads Harry Potter doesn’t mean that somehow us millennials are a composite hive-mind who think, speak, and act as the one entity. I don’t think any generation was that reducible. Take hippies in the 60’s. Some of them were homophobic, others were staunchly in favour of gay rights before it was actually cool to be pro-gay. Some of them were racists, others supported the civil rights movement, again before it was cool to be a nigga. Some of them liked The Beatles, others preferred The Rolling Stones. Even to speak of hippies as a collective unit is something of a failure by way of overreach. Maybe it’d be better to speak of a counterculture, although once again this invites the question of just how many subcultures are involved in such a counterculture. Are we to include the Hell’s Angels, Black Panther, White Supremacy, and the various Mansonoids along with the Day-Trippers, Psychedelic Soldiers, Import Mystics and Occultists, Potheads, Gonzos, Neo-Beats, Free Lovers, and the one man cult of Philip K. Dick? Come on.

But of course millennials have got cerain things in common. Millennials do spend lots of time on their phones. They are generally not financially independent until well into their twenties or even early thirties. They tend to be OTT on social media. But why does this elicit such scorn from everyone on the internet, and now, as is increasingly the case, IRL [in real life]? We spend times on our phones because it’s often more engaging than interacting with people cara a cara. A lot of my friendships are conducted digitally, and we’re better friends for it; not having to tolerate each other’s bothersome mannerisms, or listen to each other masticate food, or make eye contact. The issue of financial dependence stems from the increasing need for further education if one is to secure a decent job; but this is not to excuse the spendthrift ways of certain millennials, who spend more money on fashion accessories than actual articles of clothing. As for the issue of being OTT on social media, I’m not even going to try to defend us on that front. One of my biggest objections to social media is that it has created maladaptive support networks, particularly for adolescent depression and eating disorders. Entire communities have sprung up, centred around the concept that mental illness is a kind of enlightenment. At its best, it encourages people to be accepting of their mental health issues. At its worst, it leads to a resigned, straw-nihilistic fatalism, manifested through malingering and neurotic oneupmanship — who is more fucked up?