This semester I’m taking a US Cultural History class, which is fascinating. This class has caused me to pause and think about the way my generation functions, how we have been set up to interact with the “real world.” But the longer I’m in the class, and the longer I think about it, the more cynical I become.
You see, it strikes me how selfishly blind my generation is. No one cares for the well being of anyone else in a truly selfless and loyal way. There’s no concern for how one’s words effect and affect, because we’re “just kidding.” There’s no concern for how habits, like gossip, reveal two things- a victim complex (heaven help us if someone dares take responsibility) and a lack of respect for both self and everyone else.
Vicious lies and exaggerations blow beliefs out of proportion and feast on well-intentioned sympathy. Extremes offer something to talk about, just because we like the sound of our own voices, drowning out those who have a real message with derision and mockery.
All of this is revealed through not only nasty habits, but taste in music. A walk through the pop and rock sections of a music store will generally reveal artists who endorse this self-absorbed mindset, and it only takes a look at bands that are well known (Evanescence is who comes to mind) who sing of depressing loneliness, allowing for the hearer to wallow in self-sympathy, saying through their choice in music that they did all they could. This listener is their own worst enemy, unable to see beyond themselves, to see the damage left in their wake. They simply recite their sad stories and bare their scars over and over again, brooding on all their perceived injuries.
I will not deny that sometimes their scars are real, and tell a heartbreaking story. But there’s a difference between using those stories to make a point compared to brooding on them and reading way too much into every little comment. It is this second type I am referring to. It’s not healthy, and it’s highly destructive- to self and everyone else.
Along that similar thought process, not everyone is like this. I’ve met some genuinely kind, godly people my age. I’ve had some deep, encouraging conversations. I’ve had intellectually stimulating conversations with people only a few months older than me. But the trend I see is that of the selfish Gen Y.
We were the kids raised in the wake of globalization and the internet. We network instinctively, but this has given way to cyber-bullying. We are the true iEverything generation. We’ve been through countless anti-bullying campaigns and numerous self-worth messages. We aren’t allowed to say what we mean anymore, or mean what we say, especially if it offends. We’ve taken up a passive aggressive methods that put the Cold War to shame, because it’s all we’ve been left.
We rely on shallow relationships that spread horizontally, including everyone. This becomes a problem, because we no longer have relationships that are independent of each other. How we interact with one person is how we interact with everyone. If you hurt one person, you become a pariah in your social group, and there’s no forgiveness found there.
I suppose I could make excuses. After all, this applies to me too, though I so wish it didn’t. But I find I can’t excuse these behaviors, especially after feeling the sting of it. Something needs to change.
Respect needs to come back. A balance between this respect and our inflated self-image needs to be found, so we can not only respect ourselves, but others. After all, if we don’t respect ourselves, why would we respect others?
We need to learn how to listen, how to sit quietly and try to understand and comprehend what others are saying. We need to stop over analyzing everything that is said or done, and accept that maybe, just maybe, everyone else isn’t out to hurt us. That maybe they’re hurting too.
In short, we need to grow up. We can’t all be Peter Pan. We need to leave behind Middle School mentalities.
It makes me so sad that we’ve lost the innocence of childhood. That gentleness and kindness have become objects of mockery. We were made in the image of God, and we might have been his masterpiece, but someone went through the gallery and sharpied it, and every other piece in there.
The sobering thought is that it was me, and you, who desecrated that masterpiece. We are our own vandals. We can’t continue in this trend. We’re only hurting ourselves and others far more. Something needs to change.
If everyone has a longing for a basic dignity, a dream of equality, and a hope that one day they’ll be respected, without having to change themselves, then shouldn’t that be where we start? I don’t believe it’s too late for my generation, but I don’t think changes will be easy.