The Millennial Edition

Some thoughts here on Millennial Morality….

Daniel agrees with me on this one, Millennials are widely tolerant of all kinds of behavior in others because the are too ego or device centric to notice that there are other people. I am very tolerant of others as well in general and that is not a moral thing, it’s a neurological “defect”. Its considered abnormal by most of the neuro and psych professions and whole foundations are dedicated to the study of this empathy lacking device addicted generation. This is George W. Trow’s context of no-context to the nth degree.

And yes, they are addictions. Research suggests that devices like smartphones, certain types of gaming systems, and most of the Apple/Mac products – and the apps that run on them – are actually designed to stimulate the dopamine/serotonin channels of the brain and the addictions thus formed are neurologically analogous to any chemical addiction you’d care to mention.

This is not a new science, it is merely a better application of the techniques practiced for years by everyone from hypnotherapists to behavioral architects. The same principles that aid in raising sales through impulse purchases can make someone in an online game (Everquest or Ultima or World of Warcraft (WoW) being the most notorious) spend real money on nonexistent in game bling or virtual real estate.

These are techniques I have actively studied off an on since high school, so no, nothing new beneath the sun here.

So start with the fact that these people have genuine documented changes in the neuronal structures of their brains – glia, white matter, and dopamine pathways, amygdala and hippocampus size and so forth, and yes, they really are different from you and I.

Is this damage or adaptation? Well, that is open to debate. I tell people that my hypersensitivity, unusually high visual acuity, and brain speed of 85+ Hz (norm is 35-45) are not a disability called Asperger’s Syndrome but rather an advantage to me in a world where most people have ten second attention spans. So is my moral, um, fluidity.

But there are times when this sort of thing is disadvantageous. In remnant cultures, when speaking to those older than I am, in trying not to get in trouble with a legal system that has yet to catch up to our new technologies or newer mores. In building lasting or loving relationships. Or working in a team environment. In holding most jobs. Most of my Millennial friends have discovered this. The bounce from job to job, they become “baby daddies” or “baby mommies”, they have trouble living alone and trouble living with others so they live with their parents for longer and longer periods. They bore easily, they are tolerant of mass trends and deeply intolerant of things they find personally strange. Gay marriage is fine in principle but they don’t want to see it in their brother – largely because that inconveniences them.

They are also as my friend Than would put it, “All bullshit and no cows”. They talk a lot. It is very trendy right now to follow a cause or espouse a cause especially through entertainment. The movie “Man of Steel” reviewed very poorly among Millennials. They objected to the ending wherein Superman takes out half of NYC on the grounds that “There were people in those buildings”. One reviewer, age 23 said it was “Horrible, like watching a hundred 9/11s”. Jim Carrey who was in the new Kickass movie – pulp movies about superhumans with limited morality which frequently lapse into parodys of the superhero culture – apologized publicly for his role in the film and for the violence it espouses.

Or take Macklemore’s hit “thrift shop” song. Chart topper. You hear it bloody everywhere and its all about saving money and dissing big money corporations but the song, the lyrics and the YouTube views are about as close to a thrift shop as most of these people get.

I know exactly three thrift shop shoppers in my age bracket…plus myself. And two of us go to the high end stores  and buy designer label stuff solely to resale on eBay at their original prices. (A leather jacket, Armani shirt, and pair of Chuck Taylors I got for two dollars, cleaned for five, and resold for almost five hundred paid for my medical bills one month). Most Millennials still scoff at you or avoid thrift shops like the plague.

Or let’s try a less extreme example – employment. If there is something Millennials really excel at its networking. They have the bullshit, the line, the spin and the patter down. They rarely hold a job for long but they were never in the job for the job satisfaction anyway – if you’re a cog in a huge machine and if your performance daily does not really matter at all as far as you are concerned then it does not matter if you are a good cog, a bad cog, or just a cog. And if you’re fired “so what?”. You go and use your highly trained networking skills to blaze through another interview and repeat the cycle. At the end of the day it is the money in pocket and the after work activities that matter not the job, the product or the people you fucked up that day. After all “everybody is doing it” and those who don’t “just aren’t with it anyway”.

My brother who is management at a local call center says that this is a constant where he works. People come in, do the training, make their initial easy classroom wages, sit on the floor one day and then never return. He says the honest ones tell the trainer they are just trying to pay a cell phone bill, make a rent check, buy a computer or a car, make a child support payment, whatever.

My partner tells me the same thing happens continually at Fatz. People come in, get the trainee wages, stay long enough to network and find a better job, and then bounce.

I’ve done it. Several times in fact during my pre-Lyme days.

And this “Who cares? I got mine” attitude is all pervasive. From the “highest” strata of society all the way down to the lowest.

Madonna talks about sexual mores to prove she is still sexually relevant, Michael Douglas brags about his muff diving tendencies in the form of a public service message, Bono plays British rock to sell out crowds then makes a talk about the environment in order to deal with his feelings of guilt about his success in a world of “have nots”…that is the entertainment world norm, but it is also the Millennial norm.

After all they are all unique, right? All special people who can do whatever they want to do regardless of race, creed, or color? That is what they were told, it’s what the self-esteem movement taught them, and if the world insists on trying to disillusion them then they try all the harder to prove it using the skills they have.

Talk, network, talk some more but ask any one of these people to loan you five dollars for gas or try to get them to sign a petition and you are up shit creek, because Millennials FEAR actual conflict of any kind.

The way they deal with an awkward social situation is to walk away. The way they deal with a friend who messed up is to “unfriend them” and block their number. (And that with out ever once talking to the person or trying to resolve the issue…they just quit communicating with the person period.) I’ve experienced this twice. I even contacted one guy’s girlfriend and it was she, not he, who told me that an online post of mine had offended him and he was not going to talk to me anymore. Simple as that. A sort of social erasure/death.

My brother informs me that while he was at the local high school he had one teacher who actively preached this “Wally principle of survival” – or just “Wally Principle” as it has come to be called. (After the Dilbert character.)

Shoot for the middle. Gain enough power to live comfortable but never ever stick your neck out. I you try and fail, you gain attention and that is dangerous. If you try and succeed you gain attention and that is dangerous. But if you plod along and do the bare minimum than no one can hassle you and you can do whatever you want when you’re not on someone’s clock. Avoid relationships, too. Same reasons. It’s much less painful and you maintain your freedom.”

This from a teacher in 1997.

But this “slouch untouched through life” philosophy has a big problem… that it really really will not work in any group situation whatever for long. You can’t work with someone you are not talking with, can’t married the woman who bore your child if they are socially dead to you, can’t maintain any sort of cohesion, period.

Widening gyres.

I would even go so far as to say that it is this schizophrenic “norm” that allows things like the Lyme disease or hell, the whole health care system crisis, to continue. What do they care…they are not sick, they are not old, and they have never been tried by fire because they run like hell at the first sign of smoke. And to get involved would mean to actually intentionally enter a situation rife with potential conflict. Icky.

If our society does evolve into the cloud than none of this will matter at all; it also won’t really matter all that much when all the boomers die off – not unless there is some sort of global epidemic or crisis with an immediate and personal impact… if we develop into a fascist nation, or if our technologies fail us, or Ebola goes airborne. But if any of that happens than we are done not just as a culture but as a species.

I remember a friend talking with some friends of his in the parking lot of his workplace…I was present because I’d come to pick him up that day as his car had died. He made some joke about how it was just his car not a global tech failure and thus not to too big a deal on his personal worry meter when one of the textheads there asked him what he meant by a global tech fail.

He said, “Oh any number of things” but when pressed he explained using the solar flare EMP example – a solar flare of significant size would create an ionosphere wide EMP and take us back to about 1920 or so techwise. This was one of the possible 2012 apocalypse scenarios- and there were some big flares that year but no “killers”.

She looked at him blankly and said “Um so? I mean how would that be a big deal” He said “So just for starters your iPhone would not work.” She said “You mean like I’d lose signal for a day or two?” And he said, “No, I mean you’d lose signal forever. Everybody would.”

This completely blew her mind. She got genuinely upset and increasingly flustered and was “like then how would I talk to people and stuff? Where would I get my music? Would my video games be effected [sic]?”

The idea of going without her phone for the day was so frightening to her that she never got past it into the really scary stuff – like downed airplanes, dead power grids, dead people with pacemakers, what would happen in places where there are mostly “middle men”, what would occur in places that relied on imported goods to survive (Remember Burke’s Trigger Effect from Connections?”), etc.

When she in turn explained it to her texthead friends they too were terrified and they too never got past the personal device level. If something were to happen they would just be fucked. Simple as that. Whether they would die fast or slow depends on a good deal, tho. Millennials are go getters. I don’t think they’d go quietly into the night. And I don’t think they’d go alone.

They have no ideas on self preservation at the co-operative level because they have no familiarity with all of human histories solutions to the problem of survival as they have no familiarity with most humans. So they will react at a more primitive level. They will know what they want and they will act on their instincts…and those instincts are “me first” impulses all the way from the limbic system to the prefrontal cortex.

In summary, the Millennials are an entire generation of predators without any restraints on their behavior whatever. If I am a hand grenade, they are thermonuclear weapons. Iffy parental backgrounds, iffy job and employment histories, networking skills up the ass, and self-centered as can be. An inflated sense of self-righteousness. That’s almost a textbook description of a sociopath.

In fact according to many psychiatrists/psychologists – many Millennials do have various dangerous sociopathologies. (I’ll send you the studies if you like. Book lists, too.)

But even that does not truly bother me…what bothers me is this thing called the evolutionary cliff.

Remember Pirsig’s comments on Dynamic Quality? About how border spaces are evolutionary spaces? Boundaries are points of growth, change and evolution…but boundaries are becoming a thing of the past. Our legal system cannot keep up with out technologies, our education system is behind the legal one, and now theorists are talking about a phenomenon that is common when there are no boundaries…an evolutionary cliff.

As any biologist or zoologist can tell you the simplest “cliff” scenario occurs when a predator/prey balance is thrown off kilter.

The average ratio in a healthy population is a bell curve function – about four or five predators to about thirty prey to about five crippled for a square mile of Veldt for example. Too few predators and the herd dies of overpopulation which is slow and potentially even pleasant as the herd grows fat and dies in relative comfort. Then only predators remain, and they die off when the herd dies. Too many predators and everyone still dies but they do it much quicker. And messier. The predators kill off all the prey animals, then each other.

And human predators add all kinds of nasty twists along the way. Intellect can do that. I remember a line in a movie about a human predator race. It went “ What will they do to us? They will rape us, torture us, kill us, skin us, and eat us. And if we are very lucky they will do it in that order.”

Earth has been a herd planet for decades now and overpopulation has been a huge issue. Scientists have been warning of a die off event since I was eighteen or so. Plague, nuclear war, green house effect…but it looks like the Millenials are the real issue. And I am not a lone voice on this one.

And hey, think about it?

A whole generation of happy “nice” predators who are just starting to get their bearings and just beginning to teethe on the world’s issues and bad habits? Who are an odd mixture of supreme confidence and insidious insecurity. Who are all about themselves and “right now”.

At least intolerance – defined here as a knowledge of the difference of others – has this effect to it. It forces action. Jihads are cleansing. Jihads keep the predator levels down to manageable numbers and force the prey to re-evaluate their lives – especially if they want to keep them. There is no greater teacher of the benefits of real social ties and of group formations than war, death, or severe illness. (Ask a Lymie.) Yin and yang.

God may have said let there be light, but you’ll note that He did not do away with darkness. Tension is required for growth.

I can think of no better way to destroy a society than to individualize it, teach it that each cell is more important than the whole, and then let it scatter itself.

And these are the people you hope to educate? Or I want to sell a book too (although it will be digital only – even my publisher said print would be literary suicide). These are the people who we are handing the world to?

I think we are fucked.

My brother thinks I am being overly optimistic.

But then he is a Millennial.

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