Adulting is hard, but I’m taking a stab at it, as Kajieme Powell always said

This screed is, as it is traditional to say in the current year, a thing. So is the turd that your cat just batted out of its litter box to toy with under the dryer. When I first came across it, I was milquetoast enough to assume that it was well-meaning. Looking at it afresh, I find it little more than crude loser-shaming, although there’s certainly much worse of its type in circulation. What’s wrong with the kids these days? Get ready to throw up in your mouth a little:

The Millennial generation has grown up differently than those before us. Everyone on the soccer team was given a trophy for their efforts even when those efforts were sub-par. The student of the month award was never given to someone more than once until everyone received the award. Teachers dared not leave anyone out lest they suffer parental complaints and a less than supportive supervisor more in tune with the political repercussions of the truth. In some cases grades were written small on our papers to avoid creating competition among students. Some of us couldn’t even play dodge ball at recess because it might create “low self-esteem issues for weaker or less athletic or smaller children. I could go on but this idea that we are somehow entitled no matter how hard we work has been infused into the Millennial generation so as to affect attitudes toward sacrifice and work and thus how some people go about achieving their professional goals.

The problem is that teachers and parents made some feeble efforts to encourage humility and restraint among schoolchildren in a time of extreme cutthroat competition among adults and teens. The author, who never published anything else on her blog (What is this? A term paper for Social Media Studies 202: WordPress Wizardry?), summarizes these trends as “The Age of Entitlement.” Apparently this entitlement is separate from the entitlement of affluent Boomer and Gen X householders to hire day laborers who speak a full dozen words of English from the Home Depot parking lot, using the honor system in lieu of checking their new hires’ authorization to work in the United States, or the entitlement of all bougies of all ages to exploit the precariat for illegal jitney cab services coordinated by shady dot-com tyrants who are currently scheming to strangle all local public transit. It clearly doesn’t include a sense of entitlement to the restoration of benefits and services that were widely taken for granted in the midcentury: collective bargaining rights, workplace safety enforcement, stable employment, pay and debt servicing conditions allowing a stably employed person to comfortably form a family, not having management give one’s job to the most desperate foreigner or immigrant it can scrounge up at the moment.

No, the problem is that Coach Fitzhugh handed out participation trophies like candy, murdered his wife, and became the star of Palo Alto true crime classic Blood Will Tell. Actually, I don’t recall for sure that we were given participation trophies at AYSO, but I do vividly remember Ken Fitzhugh looking like misassigned hospice nurse Charles Cullen and that flexineck trooper with the crazy eyes from Ron Johnson’s night watch press conferences. Don’t I get some sympathy for having had a wife-murdering youth soccer coach? Don’t I at least get some SEO? In fairness, he didn’t give us, shall we say, that Sandusky or Hastert feeling. CHESTERFIELD WHO! And, yes, AYSO wasn’t as fucked up as the Boy Scouts, either. If Redding becomes better known for its massage whores, it can perhaps become less known for its pedophiles and its residents who mail pedophilia jokes in to Boy’s Life. 

Jack Chambless, an economics professor at Valencia College asks his students to write an essay each year on the first day of class. Students are asked to describe their ‘American Dream’  and what role the government should play in helping them achieve it. Students this past year as expected were ambitious. They want a job. They want an education. They want a home. They want money to be given to the poor. They also want the government to ensure all of this because they believe that as humans we are not able to succeed on our own.

Mountain men, who did try to succeed on their own, were fucking insane.

What these students fail to realize that if the government does provide this for them, they are still going to pay for it in the long run -what drives tax increases?

Military contractors.

The system they are describing does not reward success. It would simply redistribute assets from society’s achievers while disincentivizing them to continue the effort to achieve.

That is not the type of society I want to live in, I expect to have to work hard for my success but I also hope that by the time I have achieved some of my goals, I will not be forced to “redistribute” to those who are able bodied, yet have not put forth much effort, let alone worked hard

Yes, you will be forced to redistribute to the lazy, and to Lockheed-Martin, and to indigent farm workers who qualify for public assistance because their jobs, some of the physically hardest on earth, pay shit. It’s probably safe to say that Kathy Killeavy’s goals don’t include stooping over in a strawberry field sixty hours a week to feed this country. She can’t or won’t say what her goals are, and she starts her essay with an admission that she’s adrift, and not the only one her age who is:

As a recent college graduate, I can’t help but wonder what the next chapter in my life will entail. It is a less than optimal time for seniors graduating college. Fifty percent of college graduates have yet to find a job, many moving back home with mom and dad while looking for temporary solutions. For many of us this was unimaginable. From a young age we were all told we could one day have it all if we put forth the proper effort with little thought given to forces beyond our control.

With the attitude she shows in the rest of her essay, there’s no reason the next chapter couldn’t be going to Salinas and cutting lettuce with a short-handled knife.

Incidentally, this Killeavy chick has a heading above her only essay that says, “Keep your heels, head, and standards high.” This is why the United States desperately needs the political candidacies of openly cynical prostitutes with depressive tendencies who wear flats. And Patty Blagojevich. As I learned in Scouting, the sunny side of life is where Chester feels one’s leg. It wasn’t a totally useless organization, then, although it could come pretty close. High standards are okay, though. They’re why I call code enforcement when I learn that tenants have been shitting in trash cans on properties where I’m invested and don’t publish warmed-over bullshit under my own name about how my peers are all lazy, entitled losers who would be able to find work today if their teachers had let them play dodgeball fifteen years ago.

There’s no cataloging all the two-bit Quisling agitprop that bootstrapper Millennial sellouts have vomited forth, blaming their peers for an economic disaster that just happened in the same way that a Taser just happened to kill Robert Dziekanski at Kwesi Millington’s hands. It’s our responsibility as individuals to soldier through a job market that has been stacked against us by sadists in positions of power and/or not to be fatally electrocuted by the police. Entering a job market that has no jobs, except for Mexicans, is somehow an adventure, not grounds to start sending corporate managers and executives to federal prison for orchestrating systemic I-9 document fraud in pursuit of unenfranchised scab labor.

Here’s another example, although not as annoying. Its author, by her own description, writes stuff. She also borrows memestock from the Conservative Tribune, including a photo of a sign at a school badgering parents not to drop off lunches and supplies that their children forgot at home: “Your son will learn to problem-solve in your absence.” Maybe he’ll also learn to syntax. Jenna Abrams is the sort of brownnosing dipshit who thinks it classy and reputable to scrupulously attribute scraped internet content to its most recent distributor. This is the hallmark of the sort of ostentatiously trustworthy person who is actually untrustworthy. It’s the lady who doth protest too much. Crediting a meme bog for some shitty, poorly written sign used by school administrators to scold parents is like providing footnotes for a flame war between trolls calling each other faggots on 4chan.

While we’re lazy and coddled and shit, Abrams is involved in what appears to be an affiliate marketing scam. Most of the comments under her post are trackbacks, interrupted by a reblogging shoutout. Reblogging, which has mercifully diminished as an internet practice, is the equivalent of printing out a mimeographed copy of a newspaper article, posting it to a bulletin board on the village green, and scribbling “Cool shit, dawg,” in the margins. Like Killeavy, Abrams acts like a suckup trying too hard to impress her teachers. They’re the sort of people who are hated and distrusted in K-12 schools (and, under exceptionally dystopian regimes, in colleges and grad schools) because they rat out their peers to authority figures over technicalities. No, I don’t feel like being on the receiving end of mass libel from a chorus of low-rent Judases who can’t muster the principle of Neville Chamberlain. I don’t feel like encouraging them for getting all the collabo together to suck some Vichy cock. They only pretend to be polite. I’d rather stick up for decent people who wander into their crosshairs, even lazy ones, than keep pretending that these sellout scolds are the decent ones.

In addition to our being lazy pieces of shit, our politics are problematic for religiously preoccupied kooks:

And since our education system is completely and totally dominated by progressives, our young people have had decades of liberal propaganda pumped into their skulls, and the results are absolutely frightening.

For example, one survey discovered that 62 percent of Millennials say that they are “liberal”, and 42 percent of them say that they are “socialists”.

A different survey discovered that more than half of all U.S. adults under the age of 30 say that they reject capitalism.

The first point depends on what “progressive” means. Michael Snyder seems to be using it as a synonym for leftist or liberal, philosophies that objectively do NOT dominate very many American schools. The political indoctrination in American schools is actually a confusing mishmash of conflicting agendas pursued by textbook publishers, teachers, administrators, parents, state and federal education officials, school boards, godbotherers who exploit low turnout at school board elections to get their partisans into office, and probably other influential players I can’t recall at the moment. There’s no telling from year to year or district to district exactly how these clashing agendas will play out in curricula, although the broad outlines are usually easy to discern, and they’re ugly. In a word, the standard organizing philosophy driving student indoctrination is authoritarianism. The hard part is explaining the local details and orienting them on a crude left-right political spectrum.

At the same time, students do not simply believe everything their teachers tell them. Does this Snyder dude even hang out with teenagers? They aren’t socialists because some tendentious lecturer told them to be socialists, and they aren’t only 42% socialist. That’s only the percentage that is ballsy or annoyed or fed up enough to stop allowing #TCOT to maintain a vise grip on the Overton Window, dictating everyone else’s political opinions. There are proven socialistic policies that enjoy 70-90% public support in the United States. It’s called Social Security, not Capital Security or Private Security. Get it? Of course, it’s considered gauche to get it, but fewer and fewer Americans tolerate this rightist hardliner bellyaching. #TCOT isn’t keeping us housed and off the streets. It never does.

Here’s how socialist politics work in the United States: Bernie Sanders ably represents a state with one of the healthiest, most robust, per capita most diversified private-sector economies on earth, but he uses language that causes CalPERS nimbies in Costa Mesa to come down with rabies, so obviously he’s Leonid Fidel Ceausescu. When these youngsters say that they’re against capitalism, they aren’t against private enterprise as a whole; they’re against certain banks, student lenders, megastores, health insurers, and other predatory businesses that have a track record of committing financial Holtzclaw. The North Korean government–the same one that Bernie Sanders has called “very weird”–actively suppresses private enterprise, and the Venezuelan government has pretty well strangled its own private sector through excessive central planning and political grandstanding about Yanqui imperialism. We have private sectors ruined by their governments, then, in a chronic top-tier international pariah state and a country so dysfunctional that it has alienated hitherto patient international creditors. It’s possible to account for failed states like Somalia and bizarre, inscrutable dictatorships like Myanmar under its astrology-dabbling junta and still not come up with another current instance of a government actually obliterating private enterprise.

The various levels of government in the US fall across a range in the middle of the spectrum between openness and hostility to private enterprise. The hostile elements, however, are not just on the left. The Affordable Care Act and its precursor patchwork of employer-based health insurance are not socialism. Other first-world countries, and some much poorer countries, use single-payer health insurance or other forms of socialized medicine to spare private employers the administrative and financial burdens that employers in the United States face. Bernie Sanders is trying to do for the United States today what Tommy Douglas did for Canada half a century ago.

Snyder’s shock at the description of official “safe spaces” at Ivy League universities for the soul-embalming of their easily traumatized students is more reasonable than his breathless redbaiting, but the pathologies driving that culture of indulgent self-care by way of self-pity are not what they appear to be at first glance. The students involved in that culture are not the actual dominant social force in the student bodies of elite schools, no matter how much noise they make or ridicule they attract. They’re ne’er-do-wells trying to comfortably furnish their own veal pens. Whenever they step out into their broader university communities, they have to face a sky-high concentration of balls-to-the-wall shitbros, Hall and Oates Effect mean girls from the sororities, and the assorted other domineering assholes who actually dominate the social scene. I’m still floored by how atrociously my own classmates and administrative acquaintances from Dickinson College behave on account of their sense of class supremacy, and my old school (I can’t stand any of them, doing what they did before) had nothing on the Ivies for selectivity when I was enrolled there. It enjoyed a prestige so regional and class-specific that I talked to people from Lebanon County, an hour’s drive away, who confused it with the eponymous law school adjoining it (a Penn State satellite that had no institutional affiliation with Dickinson College).

Here’s another way to look at it: attending Harvard means sharing a campus with asswipes like Mark Zuckerberg. Or worse. Elite schools are overflowing with Type A freaks who seek to rule the world and cultists angling to bask in every bit of reflected institutional glory they can capture. It’s worrisome to realize that these seriously fucked up people are actually on track to wield power over others whom they surely deem their inferiors. Being emotionally stable and purposeful about one’s education while around these assholes can be annoying enough. Having emotional or existential difficulties, e.g., wondering whether one really ought to be pursuing a bachelor’s degree in the first place, and having to listen to these shitwipes all the goddamned time can be debilitating. I knew Dickinsonians who were clearly not there for an education. If they had been, they wouldn’t have carried on like such idiots about vapid shit and had so little to say about anything that could have been broadly classified as intellectual. As the Insurance Schmuck so eloquently, but accidentally, put it, “I never thought of the library in terms of books.” A lack of native intelligence was rarely their problem; what stood between them and an education was their alarming indifference to anything that didn’t immediately pertain to their own socioeconomic aggrandizement. Dimwitted people who give a shit about learning are a huge improvement. I’ve known some, and I’ve learned to cherish them above rubies because I’ve also known their opposite.

The disaffected students suffering in the shadows of these willfully airheaded blowhards include a fair number of failspawn who know that they will continue to fail as they graduate into a world dominated by the likes of their cutthroat classmates. Absolute failure isn’t the standard in use here, but relative failure, as judged by their falling short of thresholds that would be in the ninety-fifth to hundredth percentiles of achievement among the general population but are mediocre by the standards of their alma maters.

Massage circles, Play-Doh, and puppy videos aren’t the cure, but neither is psychological counseling at the student health center. Drs. Hasan and Karadzic can’t analyze and medicate an insane institutional culture into a state of health by treating individual students who may have an inchoate, tentative sense of what’s wrong with the institutional environments they’re trying to navigate and a sense of embarrassment for falling short of the excellence that they’ve been reminded to no end that they possess–for current and future “development” purposes, of course. Involvement in either of these overly therapeutic cultures looks like its own punishment. I know personally that outpatient psychiatry is its own punishment, and that Dr. Karadzic is much more familiar with psychiatry and genocide than he is with shampoo. Campus psychologists and psychiatrists end up treating patients who have what are frankly iatrogenic mental illnesses, but somewhat like our friend the frag major, their employers give them incentives not to fix the root stressors. Doing something that radical would break rice bowls.

Catering to trauma-whoring, by contrast, fills rice bowls. The American academy today is ordered to the proliferation and aggrandizement of its own administrators. Some of these can be hired to liaise with emotionally weak students who want you to *very Vietnam-era VA outpatient clinic voice* let them tell you about their trauma. And if undergraduate institutions have learned anything from the law schools, it’s that it’s better to inspire in their students a generalized sense of trauma directed at some intangible, generalized menace like rape than a specific, coherent sense of grievance focused on, say, a fraudulent law school administration. Law school administrators wonder why their aggrieved former students file suit over fibs about things like graduate job placement rates. Well, they gave them the keys to that realm. Nice bed you made there; shame if you had to sleep in it. They have achieved the reification of oops my white ass just got served by that little punk. Other schools with so far less litigious aggrieved students would do themselves a solid by discreetly discouraging this sort of airing of grievances by those they’ve done wrong. Bitter law school scam bloggers don’t act like they need a dedicated safe space; they’re too busy creating unsafe spaces for the institutions that screwed them over.

Adulthood doesn’t suck just for inevitable existential reasons. Sometimes it sucks because specific adults do specific, antisocial things to make it suck, like ruining the job market for anyone who isn’t an amoral bullshitter. Often the retreat of young people from adult responsibilities is really a withdrawal of consent from a corrupt system. Hey, I just said “withdrawal” and “consent.” Giggity. We have all these shitty companies that make a show of encouraging their favored employees to play sports on company time, then try to compensate everyone they can with stupid parties and some free food instead of, oh, reliable salaries and benefits. Then we wonder why the kids are so immature. Where did they ever learn such a thing?

Kajieme Powell doesn’t have much to do with this essay, but I’m sure that, unlike Sam Dotson, he’d agree that the delightion crowd can take back the damn pastries.

One thought on “Adulting is hard, but I’m taking a stab at it, as Kajieme Powell always said

  1. Pingback: Adulting is still hard, but on second thought, I’m taking a direct stab at it, literally, and I doubt the Boy Scouts ever taught Kajieme Powell such knifemanship | Murica Derp

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