Don’t Pretend to Care

I just heard on TV that “Millennials are a generation that never experienced prosperity.”

When I hear this kind of thing, I lose all hope that anybody would do anything on climate. If it’s acceptable to say something like this about people who have known nothing but – God, forget prosperity – obscene opulence, then it’s hopeless.

If even this kind of completely out-of-control consumerist existence is perceived as hardship and privation, if they honestly believe they don’t have enough shopping, enough consuming, enough devouring the planet, then they need a whole galaxy of planets like this one to satisfy their hunger.

And yeah, yeah, it’s relative prosperity, Boomers or Genexers or whomever supposedly had even more gewgaws, I’ve heard all that chaloimes* many times. It’s really helping the climate to nitpick about all that.

I can understand the approach of “I get that the level of consumption in the US is ridiculous and if other regions of the world try to achieve it (and why shouldn’t they?), the planet can’t sustain it. But I don’t care because I just can’t be bothered.” I’m not discussing the morality of this position, but I get it. It’s deeply cynical but at least it’s honest.

But this whole “I care deeply about the planet but what we’ve got in terms of prosperity is insufficient” is so insanely hypocritical that I don’t have words for it.

And it’s also the smug shamelessness that kills me. Go tell people from Eritrea that you never experienced prosperity. Go to Cuba, to El Salvador, go to fucking Magadan and tell people who shit in outdoor toilets at -50 degrees how you are generationally deprived of prosperity. This is colonialist mentality on steroids. And it’s precisely the mentality that despoils the planet to feed a relatively small group of spoiled brats who feel hard done by if not every whim is satisfied immediately.

And I mean, just go be who you are, whatever. But don’t pretend to care when you clearly don’t.

* It’s what we call empty blabber in Yiddish.

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11 thoughts on “Don’t Pretend to Care”

  1. It’s: now, more consumer items in the present but then, more stability. A smartphone and service plan looks fancy, but is a LOT less expensive than dental work. Back during prosperity, the dental work would happen for sure if you were middle class, although for a phone, you’d have been sharing a landline at home AND at work, and using pay phones on the street. Now you have a smartphone but not teeth.

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      1. They haven’t lost them yet. My dentist is AMAZED I opt to do things other than pull; most people really can’t come up with the money. My father used to think that way, and people abroad do,

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  2. …(I hit send too soon) — but I’m from an era / place of actual prosperity and I’ve got higher expectations, not for luxury items but for basic things. Typically, and this is not just now, the poorer may have a luxury item or two, but nothing that will sustain them for the longer term.

    Prosperity looked different. My father had a middle class job and raised a family on one income. Not in luxury (I see people in cafés buying $5 cookies for their kids on a normal, not a special day and no, we did not live that high) but well, eating every day, clothes bought new not used, cars not fancy but running, no question about whether or not you’d go to the doctor if ill, etc., and by the time I graduated from high school I had been to Europe three times. One could look ahead to college and know it would not be a major expense, really. And so on. There were no entry fees to state beaches and forests, minimum wage was worth more and housing was a LOT less expensive. This was prosperity … also, prosperous was my father, who retired in his 60s with a pension that is still sustaining him 30 years later. Nowadays you have to be outright rich to have all these advantages! I look at all my parents’ friends, people with modest jobs really, and they are ALL so well set up; I just don’t have that to look forward to and people younger than me have less regardless of whatever nice little consumer items they may have at the moment.

    I’m not saying that means we live in Arctic huts.

    Also: contexts matter. In some places I’ve lived, not having hot water at home (except by heating in a pot), or not having a bathroom in your own apartment, but sharing one that is down in the courtyard, did NOT mean you were destitute — it was just how things were set up. Here, a place without hot water tends also to be a place with holes in it, rats, etc. Having that hot water now doesn’t mean you’re not two weeks from homelessness and so on. But then I do not live in a rich state.

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    1. It’s all a matter of personal and cultural priorities alongside whatever amenities and necessities a person actually has access TO, as well as the attitudes and prejudices of both the government and professional classes towards those in the lower echelons, that determine how evenly and equitably both the necessities and the spoils are meted out.

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  3. Yes, like Z said, the feeling they’re describing is not not having enough material possessions. It’s the cost of housing, healthcare, and college.

    Regarding your comments about conditions in poor countries – you’re completely right, in absolute terms. But this is just not how human brains work. The way we feel is heavily influenced by how our lives compare to those of our peers, not people on the other side of the planet. If that were not the case, there would be no happy people in poor countries, and no unhappy people in rich countries like the US.

    It’s kind of like your bête noire, Christine Blasey Ford. She was so traumatized by being groped by Kavanaugh and the lack of control she had over the situation while the boys were laughing at her because she probably had an unusually happy childhood with no emotional trauma whatsoever, of the kind you and I have sustained. It is not her fault: she was extremely lucky in life so far, which determined what her neural circuitry was like at that point, and how it reacted to that experience, making that event feel particularly bad.

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    1. I think it’s pretty clear that Blasey Ford lied about this whole story. And by the way, kids with unusually happy childhoods don’t conceal attempted rapes from the parents who created the unusually happy childhoods. A child who somehow manages to conceal a trauma of this magnitude is not living in a great environment. And then for the next 40 years nobody in the unusually happy family notices that anything is wrong?

      This story isn’t making sense.

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  4. “Go tell people from Eritrea that you never experienced prosperity”

    Prosperity is not an absolute, it’s very relative. I agree that the quote is badly stated but it’s referring to a real condition, what Millennials lack (that previous generations had*) was a sense of stability and security. A few generations ago it was possible to buy a house and a couple of cars and support a family all on one salary and the very idea of side-hustles was almost degrading – an insult to the inherent value of work.
    The fact that that they have a lot of trinkets in lieu of a stable sense of health doesn’t mean they’re not experiencing wrenching dislocations – they have nice seats on an ocean liner in the middle of a storm that makes it seem the whole thing might capsize – (while the Filipino crew envies them their soaking wet staterooms…)

    *I’d say it was generation X that first experienced the post-boomer levels of dislocation and disinheritance

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    1. If anybody mentioned the increasing rootlessness, loneliness, loss of a sense of purpose, loss of meaningful connections – I would support the statement completely. There are many things this generation lacks. But by God, prosperity in any terms at all is not it.

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      1. And by the way, it’s a mistake to assume that Millennials are dying for those stable, well-paying jobs. There is a whole industry around teaching companies how to convince them to accept and stick around in such jobs. You can make a killing in this industry because the demand is insane.

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