Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie recently posted some thoughts on “young people today” that has been getting a lot of play. Here’s the pull quote:
In certain young people today like these two from my writing workshop, I notice what I find increasingly troubling: a cold-blooded grasping, a hunger to take and take and take, but never give; a massive sense of entitlement; an inability to show gratitude; an ease with dishonesty and pretension and selfishness that is couched in the language of self-care; an expectation always to be helped and rewarded no matter whether deserving or not; language that is slick and sleek but with little emotional intelligence; an astonishing level of self-absorption; an unrealistic expectation of puritanism from others; an over-inflated sense of ability, or of talent where there is any at all; an inability to apologize, truly and fully, without justifications; a passionate performance of virtue that is well executed in the public space of Twitter but not in the intimate space of friendship.
I find it obscene.
I think this is well observed and very nicely expressed, but I’m put off a bit by Adichie attributing this frame of mind to young people. It’s a targeting I hear a lot and I think it’s unfair, even a bit of a smear. Are young people the only ones behaving like this and having these sorts of opinions? Some of them are. And I do put a lot of the blame on social media, which is having a terrible effect we haven’t begun to plumb the depths of yet. But are kids the worst offenders?
Not in my opinion. If we’re playing the generational blame game I think Adichie would find spending time with some retirees a revelation. In my own experience it’s the much- and justly-maligned Boomers who are even more politically intolerant, rude, bitter, selfish, narrow-minded, entitled, angry, and narcissistic. To make the easiest point, in the U.S. it was older voters who elected Trump. I find most (but not all) young people to be pretty decent. I find most (but not all) old people (a group I’m having to include myself in more and more) to be insufferable.