Millennials, The Gentle Souls
It is perhaps for the first time ever that postmodernism has found such a lovely home: social media. The diffusion of the political, philosophical and sociological microphones has done more than just prove that multiple conflicting truths coexist; it has given a voice to all of those narratives, to all of our realities. Contradictions are not grounds to invalidate your story. Social media has shaped how today’s youth discusses the world they inhabit. We are exposed to a vivid pluralism of beliefs and ideas, almost on a real-time basis.
At some point on the axis of time, Facebook and Instagram became places to discuss our collective anguish over misogyny, casteism, racism, homophobia, our parents and pineapple pizza. Candidly, the discourse that exists as of today, is not ideal, in fact far from it. It’s a chaos of constantly clashing opinions. And not the most sophisticated of chaoses even. It’s not the most nuanced or informed discussion, our arguments don’t necessarily feature brilliance or dare I say, intelligence. However, I am not looking for a great emancipatory utility to this discourse. I am merely looking at the hint of nobility that underlies this chaos. What’s noble is that we care.
A concern that is evident in the endearing frustration of our angry tweets about how bras are a tool of the patriarchy or the activist pages on Instagram which tell you that it’s okay to not be able to orgasm. It’s visible in the fifteen-year-old slam poets who dream of changing the world, often not for themselves but for others, and in all of us, a type of audience, clicking our fingers in praise. We realise the passivity of the nature of our activism. We face the brunt of accusations that tell us all we can do is yell at each other in our insular echo chambers. We realise the frustration that this social media activism will get us nowhere. But are we not already somewhere? Especially, the moment we begin to realise the inadequacies and fallibility of our own endeavours.
All of my insistence upon this chaotic discussion being romantically beautiful is reduced to hokum with the words ‘woke culture.’ The ‘woke millennial’ gives up plastic straws and embraces veganism only because it is suddenly cool to care about the environment, not out of actual concern for the Earth. Atrocious millennials!
‘Woke culture’ is criticised, as it should be. But the very fact that caring about social issues is now a metric for social acceptance and approval, is nothing short of a paradigm shift. We are trying to create the socially ratified moral compass we never inherited.
Millennial culture extends beyond the political or social, it enters the deeply intimate, personal spaces of our lives. Here’s where bullying comes into the picture, and what, I believe, shapes us into being the gentler generation.
Bullying arises, mostly, from differences in historically sanctioned prowess; like beauty in women and toughness in men or things like wealth and having a favourable orientation. What most generations have absently done is aspire to be like their bullies. The ‘prowess’ that our intimidators possessed was fed as aspirational. And the moment you begin to believe that your inadequacies are to blame for your pain, you stop empathising with yourself and with others. But here we have our millennials who have gone a step beyond the condemnation of bullies. They are questioning the arbitrary distributions of power and prowess. We are disarming power itself. We are gentler, not only with others but, more courageously, also with ourselves.
The world has been hungover on patriarchal ideas that seek glory in strength, for far too long. We are saying, it is okay to feel. What I am saying is our generation fights the urge to want to be like Regina George and instead embraces the freaky Janis Ian who lurks within. Millennials exhibit the ferociousness of daring to live authentically. The history of our world has strung together stories of the suppression of any kind of human authenticity. From Victorian women who could not renounce corsets and religious laws that tell us men cannot f*ck other men to mothers who tell their daughters not to laugh too loud.
Once you contextualise the past, you begin to see what a rebellious idea it is to dream to live unencumbered. Social reinforcements are what make it painful to be yourself; the eye rolls and the condescending laughs when something about you hints at you being different.
But we are well on our way towards breaking those stringent, stringent shackles. We are breaking notions of propriety, right down to the way we converse with each other. We let each other be the dramatic, flamboyant and weird creatures humans were meant to be. We are not just secretly engaging with our indecorous selves, but finally talking about them.
The millennial ability to let people be the way they want to be, in short, acceptance, arises from somewhere. We admit our imperfections and the colossal mountains of our insecurities. It is this admittance that lends us the empathy to be able to see the fallibility of other humans without feeling the need to shame it. We have stopped holding ourselves up to a pedestal of perfection and have accepted how utterly human it is to be flawed.
In our personal and political capacities, we are striving towards one thing; the complete utter and humanisation of humans. Our empathy manifests both in the acrimonious outrage over the romanticisation of sexual violence in our cinema and in the tenderness with which we listen to our friends’ cathartic rants. Millennial sensitivity is seen in how they will call out a certain brand of motivational videos for being the inspiration porn that they are. Millennials will tell you that the first step to respecting pain is to not voyeur over it. Let humans be human.
They say millennials are lonely, and maybe we are, but we are also surviving through the solidarities we have constructed for ourselves. Sometimes that solidarity is sisterhood, sometimes it is merely commenting ‘Me, as hell’ on a meme rooted in self-deprecation.
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