In a recent conversation, a colleague of mine stated that he had already grown weary of “these Generation Y Millennials” because they’re all “self-absorbed, over-privileged narcissists.” Aside from a litany of criticisms about work ethic, unrealistic expectations, and obsessive parents, he also derided Generation Y for their incessant blog posts and status updates that pose each individual as “grand protagonists in their own unfolding epic.” In reality, he pointed out, these Millennials are decidedly unremarkable and boring. The conversation, as is often the case in my life, shifted into a one-sided diatribe about a particular topic. I tend to let people spill their thoughts and this moment was no different.
Now I’m not one to advocate for such an agonistic attitude towards other generations. As a society, we’re already divided along lines of class, gender, political orientation, religious belief, and even regional crypto-fascism. Generational gaps are part of the human condition, but stoking the fires of resentment by throwing fuel upon them is no way to reconcile one’s problems with the oncoming future generations. Having been born in the late 1970’s, it’s often hard for me to know if I’m an extremely young Gen-X’er or if I’m among the eldest of Generation Y. I’m not even certain these sorts of groupings matter in a larger context. The old seem to distrust the young, regardless of specific sociological terminology.
What struck me as memorable was his insistence that seeing oneself as the protagonist of one’s own life story was unquestionably self-centered and therefore wrong. To be sure, focusing on one’s own life to the exclusion of the reality of social living is not wise. Valuing yourself far above all others, seeing other individuals as means to an end, and admitting no responsibility for one’s bad decisions are all undesirable personality traits. They’re not generationally specific, however. They’re sociopathic, but not generational. The assertion that reverberated from our conversation was that seeing oneself as the central character of one’s own life was egotistical and conceited. Continue reading