A Sideways Glare at Contemporary Society
It’s been over three months since the overprivileged young people of Vancouver staged a reenactment of Last Tantrum in Paris on the streets of my city. Unfortunately, last June’s Stanley Cup Riot has not faded into history. The mayor, police chief and various media outlets are keeping it alive by miraculously growing extra fingers to point in all directions. Incredibly, there still haven’t been any criminal charges filed but most ordinary folks around here don’t want any more cheese with that whine: they’re tired of it. Only a few of us at the time who realized this was going to be Inspector Clouseau meets the Keystone Kops. However, it’s starting to surprise me that some people are still surprised that our oh-so- caring/sharing local government is wandering around the halls of power clueless on this one. Frankly, it’s no secret our elected elite couldn’t pour chardonnay from a boot — with the instructions clearly printed on the heel. But enough about that; I have different fish to fry.
Ever since our sons and daughters took it upon themselves to drag their city’s international reputation through the mud, I’ve been wondering why. I deal with my fair share of young people (basically the under-30 crew) and aside from their unholy sense of entitlement, I’ve always thought they weren’t particularly different from any other generation. They strike me as enthusiastic, full of energy and ideas. They generally work hard at what they do. For the most part, they’re polite and take their society seriously. They have their share of doubts and make mistakes – but don’t we all? Personally, I think they’re a little smarter than we were at that age and if not more mature, at least more realistic. After all, we thought if we just calmly explained things to the idiots running the world, they’d shape up and fly right. Today’s youth is under no such illusion.
However, after conscientiously listening to young people for the last three months — in an effort to understand what snapped last June — I’ve discovered a substantial difference between this generation and pretty much every other one that’s come before it. These folks are constantly bitching.
Don’t take my word for it. Check it out. Grab anybody who can’t realistically remember the Berlin Wall, buy them a coffee, and I guarantee you — within 20 minutes — max — they’re going to have something nasty to say. Actually, it’ll probably start at the counter with the quality of service, which seems to be the bane of every young person’s existence. If you get through that, I don’t care whether the conversation is about science, art or commerce, before the Starbucks is finished, they’ll be complaining about something. And whatever you do, don’t get tangled up in politics because Hell isn’t big enough to hold half their wrath on that subject – and that’s on both sides of the aisle. Nor does the discussion have to be about matters of great import. If you want to get a real earful, try talking about television, or gardening or the smartphone they’ve been texting with under the table. In fact, technology is one of their major complaints. It’s almost as if they’re having a Sicilian blood feud with digital innovation. I have yet to find anybody young enough to actually work a smartphone, who isn’t already mad at it.
Young people seem to see every social encounter as an opportunity to complain. They spend most of their waking hours dissatisfied, and this isn’t just disaffected youth; these people are serious about it. At a time in life when everything should be bright and beautiful, this generation is in a perpetual state of pissed off. It’s as if they believe the bumps and grinds of everyday living were put on this earth to vex them. Everything from the economic downturn in Europe to the old lady who won’t pick up after her dog is a personal affront. Mick Jagger got more satisfaction, for God’s sake!
I don’t have any idea where this comes from or why it’s particular to today’s youth, but it strikes me as completely contrary to Mother Nature’s way of doing business. Old people are supposed to grump around, grousing about everything that crosses their path. Young people are supposed to be flexible and shrug everything off — because they’re too busy dancing and singing and ringing in the new. This generation seems to be so high strung (and for no apparent reason) dogs whine when they whistle. I’ll tell you one thing, though: somebody better give these people a tickle pretty soon, or by the time they get to be my age, there’s going to be no living with them.