Awareness in a World Where Your Insignificance is Expected

It has been a common complaint that “this generation” acts with entitlement. I use quotation marks, because no one really has a good grip on the generational time frames and I often make up my personalized group called “The Natest Generation.” Oh, sure, people can make up time spans just as easy, but until there is some real consensus I’m keeping my own. Thank you.

With this stock complaint is the sub-complaint that everything should be handed to us, we need an award for everything we do, and everything should be the paradigm of convenience. That goes along with the alternate complaint that we want to be mail-clerk CEOs, because working 30-40 years for that kind of power is ridiculously long, right?

Regardless that I’m personally an example to the contrary (apparently, I’m everyone’s “exception to the rule”), there might be some merit to those statements but in a not-so-derogatory manner. It’s quite possibly an unconscious act of defiance. The younger generations are unwittingly trying to make themselves stand out. A meta-understanding of self-awareness, if you will.

If we are to sit and review history in the last 2,000 years, we should notice something. How many people are remembered over that course of time? A few, all things considered. There are more forgotten, many, many, many more. How many of them were peaceful, law-abiding, good-natured, well-behaved folk? Even fewer, yes? In fact, people who touted the virtues of non-violence such as Jesus of Nazareth and Mahatma Gandhi were a big thorn in someone else’s side. Whenever I see a bumper sticker that says “well-behaved women rarely make history,” its de facto ignorance of the male perspective smacks of deception. Do you not realize how many “good little boys” have been forgotten in time? Simply put, historical figures were assholes to somebody.

Now that we’ve established it generally takes bratty behavior to be memorable, we should look at the underlying expectations of the last 2,000 years. If it wasn’t feudalism, it was slavery, and then strict social class delineations that were imposed by a handful of people who had power and wealth, whether it was royalty, slave owners, or an overbearing political structure. Society has relied on the majority of people being marginalized through one philosophy or another. The cogs of the machine must be properly installed for the press to operate.

Now, let’s take a look at today. We have a world that’s populated with 7.12 billion people. That, in and of itself, is overwhelming competition for identity. The Earth is settled for the most part. There are no “new worlds” anymore, and I don’t see a SeaQuest attitude about the oceans or a Star Trek attitude about the stars. Just ask the budget-weary NASA. Shocking philosophies such as nihilism and existentialism have become old hat. Culture and art have already gone through multiple phases. Music is recycling melodies and styles from decades ago. This is the perfect storm for another dark age. Anyone who doesn’t want to be treated like a serf has to act differently somehow.

Maybe we’re just all trying to live the happiest life we can, because there is  little in the way of circumstantial developments to be memorable about? What, should we start another war or something?

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10 thoughts on “Awareness in a World Where Your Insignificance is Expected

  1. nicjor79 says:

    That bumper sticker has earned me a lot of compliments over the last couple of years, though come to think of it they were all from women. I never really realized that it had the potential to offend.

    • My beef with that phrase is age old, and I keep my criticism to the idea alone. Its partly why I vehemently separate feminism as an offshoot of egalitarianism, and not make it a subset. Its heavy focus on one sex precludes it from being a complete component of that philosophy. In sound bite terms, if it were totally equality based, it wouldn’t be femi-anything.

  2. kerbey says:

    “Bratty behavior to be memorable” is basically Miley Cyrus’s slogan, right? Bad publicity is publicity nonetheless. But Oscar Wilde says it best about society: “The ugly and stupid have the best of it in this world. They can sit at their ease and gape at the play. If they know nothing of victory, they are at least spared the knowledge of defeat. They live as we all should live– undisturbed, indifferent, and without disquiet.” Was he being ironic all the time?

    • That’s absolutely why Cyrus did what she did. There’s no question in that. She wants to be relevant after her childhood stardom. So, she makes a spectacle of herself. It certainly got the attention of many.

      I’m not sure I entirely agree with Wilde’s quote. If he were correct, we wouldn’t have shows like “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo,” “Jersey Shore,” “Dog the Bounty Hunter,” and “Operation: Repo.” They certainly aren’t “undisturbed, indifferent, and without disquiet.”

  3. Plenty of decent people have left their mark. Mother Theresa as an example. I hope to be one of them, especially since my mother told me no one would remember me because I don’t have children.

    Besides, I am convinced that by the time I die, there will be an app that can algorithmically continue my life from my online postings.

    • How many sinners to saints, though? That’s my point. Through the billions upon billions of people that have walked this planet, the ones that act terrible are remembered more. For every Mother Theresa, Marie Curie, and Florence Nightingale, there are multiple Napoleon Bonapartes, Marquis de Sades, and Jack the Rippers to compensate. I want to make “historical figures were an asshole to somebody” into a bumper sticker.

      By the way, mothers have the most wonderful ways of voicing their concerns. Don’t they?

  4. Jen says:

    I take issue with the word entitlement. Isn’t it possible this generation (of which I straddle the boundary) does not feel entitled but empowered? Yes they can both lead to narcissism and/or disappointment and depression if expectations are too high, but I think that many grumpy old folks mistake youth’s enthusiasm for power and change as entitlement when it’s really ambition, and a belief they can achieve what they dream of.

    • I don’t find it as much a problem as it is stigmatized. The concept and definition of entitlement is fine. It isn’t a terrible, horrible, no-good word. In basic terms, “entitle” means to give a right to a person. “Empower” means to give authority or legal power to a person. What’s very interesting is I’m seeing the retort to the common political practice of making words a pejorative. Good example, Sen. Joe McCarthy and the word “communism.” Still today, using the name of a specific philosophy is an insult in this country.

      What we are witnessing now is the trumping up of other words to make political statements. I’m of the belief “empowerment” was made trendy by those who covet money and power as opposed to those who hoard money and power. This still leaves a lot of people as pawns.

      Entitlement, on the other hand, is basically saying “we have the right to ________.” Currently, it’s “we have the right to avoid working ourselves to death,” “we have a right to creature comforts,” or “we have a right to be healthy.” Just by definition alone, I think it a better fit for this generation without the hard feelings attached to it. That’s how leaders control people: fear and shame.

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