Confessions of a Millennial Misanthrope
The My Truth generation has lost its mind. Many think socialism sounds dreamy. There’s an antidote to Millennial malaise, and it’s not Marx.
Before I escaped from the trendy predations of my local sink school, I plastered my geography teacher in chocolate milk. It was a triumph of Olympian dexterity—the open bottle of Yazoo clipped the ceiling tiles above Mr. Bowler’s head, showering him in sticky milk. That was the last I saw of Mr. Bowler.
My fourth (or fifth) psychologist, a chlorinated waif named Louie, deemed my delinquency to be ‘challenging behaviour.’ To Louie, the milkshake was the Molotov of the unheard. After riffling through Carl Rogers, Louie decreed: “Unstable, angry, medicated, low self-esteem.”
According to the prevailing psychology, those green shoots of modern My Truth culture, my fellow hoodlums and I were helpless victims; our ‘challenging behaviour’ a protest; our lupine lope the body language of the left-behind.
In truth, Mr. Bowler should have, alongside Louie, given me a kicking. Instead, the cure back in the year 2000 was to make everyone feel good about themselves. Self-esteem was the social vaccine to salve all social ills from criminality to addiction, to failing grades, teenaged pregnancy to pollution.
From these days of the self-esteem culture, we inherit Wokeness, Harry and Meghan, compassionate narcissism, and something called ‘self-care.’
Our parents and our teachers eschewed all criticism, and instead saturated us in unconditional praise. The self-esteem movement swept away brutalizing red marker pens for soothing teal-green, traded grade ‘F’ for ‘U’, ‘a bit dense’ for ‘minimally exceptional,’ knowing useful things for ‘knowing yourself.’
The right answers didn’t matter. Neither did grammar. The right answers were passé. What mattered was how one felt inside. If you felt right, well, you were right.
This utopian culture sent half of my generation to university where magical thinking melded with Marxism. Our professors would insist capitalism was doomed because of man’s inherent selfishness and in the same breath insist that Marxism was destined because of man’s inherent unselfishness. One particularly radical professor scissored my essay’s grade down from a bare 2.1. because I’d referenced Milton Friedman. I’m no fan of Friedman, but I assumed his Nobel Prize in economics lent him a little weight.
Perhaps that professor had a point. In 2007, Friedman’s ilk flounced as the global financial system melted through the concrete and seeped into the soil, contaminating the social water supply. That same consensus outsourced high-wage jobs and welcomed the ruinous rise of China, writing off millions as surplus citizens to be mollified with payday loans and Special Brew.
For the first time in our lives, a syrupy affirmation made no purchase upon reality. We soon learned that one-third of one’s salary goes on rent, that buying a home is a fantasy, that many degrees are worthless, and that wages haven’t budged since our parents went to university.
Dear reader, don’t despair. I’m not a Marxist, nor am I Woke. Though, it’s imperative to understand why three-quarters of Millennials and Zoomers are beavering through our institutional foundations with the conviction that Mao had a point, that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is the height of erudition, and that a murderous burlesque of reality could, despite salting one-hundred million lives in the twentieth century alone, be worthy of an encore.
I suspect most sympathizers hanker for the sane capitalism our parents enjoyed, not the corporate freedom of gig-work and Deliveroo. This is not complicated; It’s almost impossible to buy a stake in society.
The effects of the utopian experiment of our youth are now obvious. In Woke culture, Millennials and Zoomers find the political evolution of self-esteem culture. Woke culture is sentimental, narcissistic, and committed to fantasy. Everyone is special. One’s victimhood—whether real or perceived—elevates one’s ‘lived experience’ from humdrum or perhaps misfortunate, to a fascinating biography from which the evangelized siphon the harm and trauma of the past, transfuse it into one’s entire identity. Those who best pathologize their plight are prized highest, just like our school days when we’d sit in circles and tell the class not just how great we were but how great everyone else was, too.
Amongst the Woke, reality is filtered. Troubling intrusions unfitting of ‘your truth’ are airbrushed, cancelled, doxxed, no-platformed, censored, unfriended, muted. The right answers are constructs, the pursuit of the right answers mere relics of colonialism or ‘whiteness’. Wokeness shelters the flock from the corrosive reality that most are average. The problem is that attaining what for so long was average is no longer so average.
This denial of the ordinary permeates everything. Order a coffee at a Millennial haunt, and read the mawkish lecture on the menu. That cortado is no mere marriage of coffee and milk but an experience, a journey toward righting some fictitious and fashionable wrong. That cider start-up staffed with Sebs and Cheskas is not just peddling happy apple juice, their mission statement decrees a ten-point charter of their inclusivity. You would think a cider company’s mission would be: ‘sell cider,’ but no, it’s all about empowerment. Everyone is empowered and all are on a journey. Our culture, what’s left of it, a doom-looped Reiki attunement.
If only Millennials could vote, Great Britain and America would resemble Twitter’s print edition — The Guardian.
Indeed, it would look like we’d elected Harry and Meghan. They’d have harm to prevent, awareness to raise, trauma to heal, compassion to build, and problematic speech to cancel. Harry and Meghan’s Archewell mission is to ‘drive systemic cultural change across all communities, one act of compassion at a time.’
Despite (or perhaps because of) their rank mediocrity, Harry and Meghan are the high priests of the My Truth movement. It’s all rather empowering.
So empowering in fact, each time I’m rewarded another of Harry’s Zoom confessionals, I’m reminded of those ginger jihadis who join ISIS in protest of their involuntary and rather justifiable celibacy. Then I consider my working-class white privilege compared to that of a literal prince, and I weep. Upon recovery, I reminisce over that time Meghan daubed ‘You are strong’ on bananas before handing them out to those whom some newspapers call ‘sex workers’. I ponder, how did that not work? How did such compassion not drive systemic cultural change?
Perhaps because it is patent quackery on par with palmistry and tarot cards. Indeed, our My Truth culture hasn’t worked, either. All this empowerment, all these inspirational posts, all those influencers, all that wellness, and yet we’ve never been so mentally plagued. We are some of the planet’s most depressed, anxious, and burnt-out beings. I’m no sociologist, but perhaps basing everything in fantasy has a deleterious effect on reality.
Perhaps that reality, the one impervious to likes or retweets, filters, affirmations—you’re-so-braves—is what ails us: a game-show economy and a talk-show culture. A culture stagnant since the 1990s. A culture obsessed with itself, terrified of itself, reluctant to replace itself. A culture with its beauty absent, its truth mangled, its art and music and literature all stale, freeze-dried back in the decade our elders proclaimed as the ‘end of history.’ But it was merely the end of what they took for granted—rising wages, decent work, a buyable home, a defence of sanity.
Now, our culture is a screenshot of a screenshot. No wonder we’re depressed. All this empowerment — all this bullshit progress — is driving us all mad.