Twenty-Five Things Young People Used to Understand

by Daniel A. Kaufman


My “Twenty-Five Things Everyone Used to Understand” was a minor hit, so here are twenty-five things young people used to understand. The point is to catalogue what would have been the common understanding among most young people of my era (the 1970’s and 80’s) regarding the realities of life; things that seem no longer to comprise the common wisdom of today’s youth. The point is not to debate the merits of these facts of life, but simply to observe how much has changed in the last few decades.


[1] Your early jobs are supposed to suck and pay terribly.

[2] Your first apartments/places are supposed to be shitholes.

[3] If you want a meaningful and well-paying career, you have to work your ass off, and you still may not get it, and it may be no one’s fault.

[4] No one has a right to live in a big city. You have to pay for it. With money.

[5] People with more money and greater position have more of a say on things (and have nicer stuff) than people with less.

[6] Whether you like it or not, adults/older people are in charge, and it’s better to circumvent them through trickery and subterfuge than to confront them.

[7] Baiting or otherwise provoking people stronger than you is stupid.

[8] No one has any interest in your personal ideations or views on things, other than your family and friends. (And even they might not.)

[9] There is no right to be listened to, respected, celebrated, validated, “centered,” spoken about in the manner you prefer, or any other such thing. If you are lucky and socially adept or bring something special to the table, some of these things might happen to you. But they still may not.

[10] There are any number of things that one just does, because they are what one does. You can refuse, but you should also expect to pay a price (and often a steep one).

[11] A university is an institution you pay to provide you with an education and a degree. It’s not your house or a place whose purpose is to make you feel like you’re in your house.

[12] The point of fraternities and sororities is to socialize with girls/guys and to get drunk.

[13] When you are engaged in delinquency of one kind or another, you’re supposed to keep it a secret, as the aim is to get away with it.

[14] Adults’ patience with youthful hijinks is very limited.

[15] Teenagers do not want the attention of adults.

[16] Adults who are not your parents or involved with you in some other special capacity, have no real interest in or regard for you, and you should be glad about it. [See 15]

[17] Teenage dramas are only meant to played out in the company of other teenagers.

[18] Teenage goings-on are more important to teenagers than the activities of adults.

[19] You will be rejected romantically, and you will romantically reject others. This cannot be avoided, and falling apart over it just makes you seem desperate and pathetic.

[20] Brandishing your failures and weaknesses and disorders will do nothing but invite contempt from others, though they may lie to you about it.

[21] If you don’t have anything yet, there’s nothing for you to “give back.”

[22] Businesses exist to make money.

[23] Only dorks walk around pushing buttons on little electronic devices all day.

[24] Young people – at least those not suffering serious illness – are naturally energetic, not perpetually “exhausted.”

[25] It matters what you look like and how you present yourself.





68 responses to “Twenty-Five Things Young People Used to Understand”

  1. Is this supposed to be philosophy?

  2. Is this supposed to be a question?

  3. Conor

    The kids are alright.

    More philosophy, less intergenerational sniping, please.

  4. Dan explains it in the first paragraph. It goes like this:

    “The point is to catalogue what would have been the common understanding among most young people of my era (the 1970’s and 80’s) regarding the realities of life; things that seem no longer to comprise the common wisdom of today’s youth. The point is not to debate the merits of these facts of life, but simply to observe how much has changed in the last few decades.”

  5. Kanthelpmyself

    The two “Twenty-Five Things . . . ” lists prompted me to re-read Kipling’s “The Gods of the Copybook Headings,” to which the lists may serve as useful footnotes.

  6. Terranbiped


    [26]. There is such a thing as a stupid question.

  7. Not sniping. Read the introductory paragraph.

    Oh, and I’ll publish what I like. You can always start your own webzine if you are dissatisfied.

  8. Conor

    I think I’ll just stop reading yours, thanks

  9. Kanthelpmyself

    Did Conor just illustrate No. 9?

  10. Is this supposed to be an answer?

  11. Gottlob+Frege

    As very solid list, Dan. More and more I feel alienate from the world around me

  12. Dunno. He took his toys and went home.

  13. Amazing how people either don’t read the opening paragraph or decide it means something entirely different from what it says.

  14. Seren

    [15] is the most thorough and most surprising change I’ve observed since I was a teenager in the 90s. Different youth cultures existed – Goths, ravers, homies, grunge – music being central to most, and also fashion and ethos. But any one of us would have been /embarrassed/ if someone over the age of about twenty-five took much notice of these things – it would make the youth-culture signifier seem ruined, not fit for purpose, if it could be as readily understood by older people as other young people. This is so different from what I observe of teenagers today, it makes me wonder if I mis-remember my own youth, or am perhaps getting a distorted sense of what is going on for youngsters today.

  15. Paul D. Van Pelt

    Nice work, Mr. Kauffman. Liked your comeback on the first question, too. The world is different now. Those who have not adapted will be uncomfortable. I smiled at the news about a large organization, whose employees are vying for unionization and a thirty-dollar and your wage. The context of reality also changes, as we should have known would happen. Thanks!

  16. I wonder whether some of these changes – between what kids used to know and what they now know – is a fuction of th changing techology and its affordances, that become changing expectations and norms. I know you don’t argue AGAINST that interpretation in your piece, but it might be useful to think about how much that is at play.

    Particularly these two:

    [8] No one has any interest in your personal ideations or views on things, other than your family and friends. (And even they might not.)

    [9] There is no right to be listened to, respected, celebrated, validated, “centered,” spoken about in the manner you prefer, or any other such thing. If you are lucky and socially adept or bring something special to the table, some of these things might happen to you. But they still may not.

    First, kids no longer know [8] because in the most literal sense, it is no longer true. In the world of 25 years ago, who you took an interest in was largely confined to place. You cared about your friends and what they thought but what someone two states over who you don’t personally know thought would have been irrelevent. Not so today, if you follow them (or they you) or you are ‘friends’ on sosme social media site, or they do a Tik Tok that happens to show up on your feed, etc.

    And as a consequence of that, 9 no longer seems true; even if it is, folks will still expect that because anyone at any time could care about what you have to say – and it could get you noticed – therefore, you have a right to say anything as pubicly as possible AND have people take note. Again, this probably proves untrue in practice, but since anyone COULD care, it gives the understandable illusion that everyone should… an illusion no one had reason to hold 25 years ago.

  17. Oh, I think there are any number of reasons for many of these changes, the ones you mention most certainly among them.

    As for the specifics of the two you focus on, while someone may come to *think* there is such a right as mentioned in [9], because they can with a push of the button broadcast to the entire planet, there remains no such right. The ability to should louder doesn’t change anything fundamental in that regard. Though it may make you an even bigger pest than you were before.

    Re:8, you also are correct about some of the reasons for the changing perceptions, but that doesn’t make the perceptions any more apt. And because those pushing their personal ideations onto everyone are among the biggest pests out there, I think an awful lot of people just lie to them, so as to be rid of them as soon as possible.

  18. I agree on [15], and no you are not mis-remembering. Neither is your sense distorted. I have, over the course of my career, taught *tens of thousands* of students. The change is significant and demonstrable.

    Young people, at older and older ages today, are desperate for the attention and approval of adults, when for us, exactly the opposite was the case. We wanted nothing to do with them, and they wanted little to do with us.

  19. kevinck

    “But any one of us would have been /embarrassed/ if someone over the age of about twenty-five took much notice of these things – it would make the youth-culture signifier seem ruined, not fit for purpose, if it could be as readily understood by older people as other young people.”

    That’s definitely an interesting point. I wonder if some of it is that technology today means that gatekeeping is harder than ever, even to the point that young people don’t care about gatekeeping (which might not be worth the hassle) as they were before.

    Put it this way. When we were kids, if our paraents wanted to know about the cliques we were a part of, they’d have had to do some leg-work. Get their hands on the music we were listening to, observe kids (as best they could) who were part of our groups, etc. But all that requires some effort..especially compared to the effort parents would have to make today. All they need to do is jump on tik-tok to see the videos people from our clique freely share and can’t limit the citculation of. Or go to whatever music site has the songs our tribe is listening to. Etc. It is harder for cliques to gatekeep their culture from the parents, and maybe as such, kids are less concerned to do so.

  20. This seems a good analysis, but as a development it’s absolutely terrible. And it actually has had the effect of making the *adults* more juvenile, which is one of our biggest problems today.

  21. Animal Symbolicum

    I don’t think I expected my first apartment to be a shithole. But neither did I expect it to not be a shithole. I had no expectations beyond being with my friends, being off-campus, and being on-our-own-together (if you will).

    Was my first apartment a shithole? From my point of view now, it unmistakably presents as having been a shithole. But did I experience it back then as being a shithole? I don’t know.

    Complicating the matter is that I loved our first place. Was I overlooking its shitholeness? Was I registering its shitholeness but loving it despite its shitholeness? Was I registering its shitholeness and loving it because of its shitholeness? (I could see myself doing such a thing.)

    Or was it something more complicated? I can​ now​ recount the features that contribute to the shithole-ish gestalt I now register. Might I have registered those features without seeing how they added up to the shitholeness I now register?

    In brief, I can’t tell whether the shitholeness that strikes me now struck me then, and that’s because I loved the place and treasure the experiences I had living there. In a way, perhaps, it didn’t matter whether it was a shithole: I had, and still have, that vanishing conservative sensibility that finds it understandable to value a particular thing simply because it’s a part of one’s life.

  22. This is just fantastic.

  23. I still disagree with you about whether 8 is still true for kids today even if they think it isn’t. Here’s an analogy that might help articulate it:

    Were you in 1975, you wouldn’t be writing Electric Agora articles, and hence, your articles would be disseminated along the boundaries of physical space. That likely means only people who deliberately seek out your voice are the ones likely to encounter it. And therefore, you’d have no real(istic) reason to expect that anyone who didn”t have some connection to you would care what you have to say.

    Now, your essays can be widely disseminated… even go viral. People can like, comment, and share them who you do not know. And if you get used to that idea and potentiality, it might becomes that you realistically expect that people you don’t know SHOULD care about what you have to say. It isn’t false either, because quite often, they do.

    I think that is the situation and cognitive headpsace “kids these days” find themseslves in. We are living in the age of networked likes, followers, retweets, etc, where people you don’t know very well MIGHT care about what you have to say.

  24. Chris Stephens

    Thanks for this – Have you seen Richard Linklater’s new movie on Netflix? Apollo 10 1/2? If you like his other movies -Dazed and Confused, Boyhood, etc. I think you’ll like it. Much of the movie is about life growing up in the late 60s early 70s in a Houston suburb.I think it helps illustrate many of your points here. It is especially striking on the differences between the “free range parenting” of that time, and whatever it is we have now (helicopter parenting?)

  25. Jerry Paul Schoeberlein

    This post says more about you than anybody else, Dan. You’re projecting. I know plenty of young people who are not as you describe and those of my own generation who are. I agree with those who say you should stick to philosophy. Nobody cares about your personal life. And that is kind of your point, isn’t it?

  26. Kanthelpmyself

    I like your sifting approach.

    A little off-topic, but perhaps, as one’s first apartment would have been occupied during one’s youth, its character, the events that took place in it, the people associated with it, would have been recorded through the particular frame and lens of youth, in which the valence of emotions are less important than their novelty, volume, and intensity.

    Later in life, perhaps with one’s parents gone and one’s life completely one’s own, when events and experiences have multiplied by orders of magnitude, and emotions associated with them have reached a mean, one’s experience of life in that first apartment may stand out like shiny silver coins in a pile of credit cards—the distilled, ineffable experience of having been one’s self.

    Something like that may have been expressed at the end of “Blade Runner”: the replicant Roy Batty’s harsh life is coming to its pre-scheduled end, yet he says to Deckard, “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time . . . like tears in rain.”

  27. Huge fan of his.

  28. Thanks for your thoughts. I will publish what I like in my own magazine. You are welcome not to read it. And as for your psych analysis, I’ll pass.

  29. I find fascinating how many people get so mad over a simple list of observations. And think that by telling me how mad they are, I’m going to change what I write.

    It’s also funny because these style pieces are some of the most popular and get the most reads.

  30. Kanthelpmyself

    Everything is read through a template of some “tribal” polarity.

  31. It’s just weird to me. Very weird. Especially given what I wrote in the very first paragraph.

  32. I like the description of honor culture, dignity culture, and victimhood culture in Campbell and Manning’s _The Rise of Victimhood Culture_.

    Honor culture: what matters is how honored you are. Consequently, you should be on the lookout for personal slights, and if you notice one, then it is incumbent upon you to do something about it; otherwise, you’re a coward.

    Dignity culture: what matters is that you have intrinsic dignity. Consequently, slights don’t affect your dignity, though grave offenses undermine it. Since slights don’t affect your dignity, you should be the bigger man when someone slights you, but when it comes to grave offenses, it’s not your job to punish wrongdoers. That’s the job of third parties who are designated to do that job.

    Victimhood culture: what matters is how victimized you are. Consequently, you should be on the lookout for personal slights, and if you notice one, then it is incumbent upon you to tell third parties to do something about it. If you don’t tell them, you’re not taking your victimhood seriously. And if they don’t do something about it, they’re not taking your victimhood seriously.

    Campbell and Manning try to explain why victimhood culture arose, but leave that aside. If it exists, then it helps to explain why a lot of your observations are no longer true.

  33. Yes, but one of the things that has always struck me is that victim culture is essentially inconsistent with the basic imperatives of adolescence and youth. It’s like suggesting an ethos of humility for male peacocks.

  34. terranbiped

    Beautifully said. More mundanely but equally to the point: Youth is wasted on the young. Or so it seems from the perspective of one’s older self.

  35. Much more so now than previously. I think we had a very good handle on the value of being young, and took as much advantage of it as we could.

  36. terranbiped

    Male peacock is a redundancy. Why don’t you stick to what you know best. LOL!

  37. So sue me. 🤷‍♂️

  38. Yes, as opposed to peahen. But from what I’m seeing, it is common usage to use ‘peacock’ generically.

  39. Jerry –

    I wonder whether you might want to think more on what you mean by ‘philosophy’, since you obviously refuse to reflect on the differences among various types of writing in general.

    Why do you think that there are no philosophical elements within Dan’s piece here? For example, why couldn’t this piece be thought of as the early stages or the notes for an argumentative philosophical essay down the line?

    And why do you think personal experience should be ruled out when doing philosophy? To ape the great Stanley Rosen: Doesn’t extraordinary discourse (e.g., philosophy) often arise from ordinary discourse (e.g., observations made during the experiences in your ‘personal life’)?

  40. terranbiped

    I know I felt full of vim and vigor, free and unencumbered and thought not of what it meant not to feel so. But that was the natural beauty of it. Assuming one wasn’t burdened with physical disabilities or meeting the basic requirements of sustenance, it was all taken for granted. If I knew then how I would feel now, I don’t know if it would have helped me appreciate more, my health, energy and the smooth skin of females or, the future prospect would utterly depress me. So is the tragedy of the inevitableness of selfish genes.

  41. Rageforthemachine

    It might not be so much that teenagers are seeking the approval of adults, but they are seeking to be viewed as co-equal to adults by recognizing the power they wield with social media. The corporate and political world had been gravitating toward a youth culture since the Clinton years anyway, and social media has exploded that beyond all reason. Youngsters who feel social media is now their exclusive domain have the power to literally shape or destroy almost any individual or group these days. This is a common refrain in journalism offices across the country as old school reporting and reporters are being pushed out in favor of agenda driven editorializing. Teenagers might not want the approval of adults so much as their respect, because they’ll be consequences if they don’t get it.

  42. terranbiped

    Yes it is, as you pheasants say, quite … common!. We remain unamused.

  43. Kanthelpmyself

    Terranbiped at 5:06:


    I wouldn’t say “wasted” as a general observation, however. Some opportunities and alternatives may be wasted. But the characteristics we associate with youth are that it is kinetic, expansive, headlong, idealistic, comic, crude, impulsive, secretive, hungry, suspicious, shortsighted, and optimistic, no? Without the aspects of youth that go into the claim that it’s wasted, would it be youth?

    One thing I like about Dan’s list is that the formerly understood items individually and collectively reflect key aspects of that which “youth” has been understood to embody. The oldest of my sons is 42 and the youngest is 18, and I have been persuaded by my observations of all three of them and their friends and respective cohorts generally, over more than two decades, that surprising changes have taken place in what they have respectively understood, according to the items on Dan’s list.

    That there are such differences is hardly surprising, much less controversial, in view of the enormous changes and events from the earlier end of those two decades to the current year—including 9/11, the 2008 financial disruption, the rise and domination of IT and social media, Trump, and Covid. Add to that changes in parenting norms.

    That’s the reason I was anticipating a great discussion concerning not just whether, but why, how, and in what ways such changes have come about, emphatically including Millennial/Zoomer commenters. (I haven’t been able to get much out of my 18-year-old, characteristically.) The realization of that expectation was derailed or at least delayed when some early commenters took the list as the basis for invidious comparisons. Maybe we need a reset.

  44. I was hoping for that conversation too, but there are a bunch of people who are more interested in engaging in performances.

  45. terranbiped

    If I may be so bold to suggest, I think maybe you misunderstand the take of “wasted”. It is certainly not wasted in the sense that it is a natural stage of life that like all stages is taken for granted as one’s present state of existence. One could and probably will reminisce and perhaps feel that one’s middle age was similarly not fully appreciated from the vantage of older age. The point is no teenager or young adult could ever, ever appreciate their youth as an older person would if she could be rejuvenated. In that sense only, is youth wasted because it cannot help but take itself for granted and reflect upon it from the future self.

    My daughter is 48 and my grandchildren 12 1/2 and 14 so I have no relevant or intimate dealings with the age group in question, only the popular memes that pretty much are in accord with Dan’s fairly comprehensive list. So, I have refrained from offering any particular comment, though like others, I feel there is much overlap between the preceding decades and now.

    As you suggest, the comments could have delved deeper into the historical, sociological, technical and cultural changes that have shaped the environment of the temporally progressive cohorts. But, I think Dan was more interested in a light hearted banter and musings. I think of the commercial with the twenty something who didn’t know what a lug wrench was while getting directions from dad how to change a flat tire. But, I’m sure dad, in turn, was told by his pappy how he walked 5 miles to school in the blizzard of ___. I will say, the social media landscape does offer new and unanticipated challenges to the mental health and social dealings of a brave new world. I’m not sure if the printing press, radio or TV are in anyway comparable to the ongoing social impact and influences on personal development. (No doubt you recall the discussion of trans hysteria among young girls).

  46. I was born in 1973, so I’m probably the next generation after Mr. Kaufman’s? That means, among other things, that I grew mostly in “analog” culture and not in “digital” culture or social media. At any rate, most of his observations seem to ring true to how I remember growing up. But here are some differences, speaking mostly for myself:

    #6 [circumvent adults/older people through trickery and subterfuge instead of confrontation] In my experience, I’ll add that “placating” the people in charge was just as important. Maybe that’s part of “subterfuge,” except that by “placating” I mean to include “internalize the values of people in charge just enough in order to carve out my own existence.” I guess that just means I wasn’t all that rebellious or independent minded.

    #9 [no right to be listened to, etc.] That was different for me. I think it was partly”generational” because schools had begun their turn to self-esteem culture. It was also partly “situational” to my specific case, because I had the good fortune to be very good at schoolwork and so adults at least pretended to think that my views were indeed important. (Even so, in keeping with my “placating” addendum to #6, I often parroted what they probably wanted to hear. Or at least it was my impression that they wanted to hear it.)

    #11 [universities are for education and not a “house”/”home”] If I understand that point correctly, that started to change by the time I went to college (1992, as a traditional aged student). The specific university I attended billed itself as promoting the “undergraduate experience” and was starting on its path to make university life more a consumer experience. It wasn’t what it became, but in retrospect, the trend was well on its way. (There was a Simpson’s episode at around that time that captured the mentality pretty good. I’m too lazy to Google the title.)

    #12 [fraternities/sororities were for socializing] I probably assumed at the time that they were more for securing housing because I assumed that you paid extra to be able to live in a frat house. I never tried to join a fraternity, so I didn’t really know. At the time, I looked down on them and just thought it was probably a waste of money I couldn’t afford.

    #15 [teenagers don’t want adult attention] I generally didn’t want attention, but that seems to have started to change at least by my teen years. One complaint I heard from a lot of people at that time (and from pop culture) was that “parents don’t pay attention” or “I want to be closer to my parents and they do [X bad thing].”

    #19 [inevitability of romantic rejection from and to myself and others] I was way too naive to have any sophisticated take on that. (I was a very late bloomer in such matters.) As a result, I “fell apart” over such matters quite a lot. But in keeping with #20 [brandishing failures and weaknesses just doesn’t], which still held for me at the time, I kept it mostly to myself.

    Speaking of #20: that started to change by my mid 20’s, or maybe it had already started to change. As an undergrad and right after, I was probably mostly working class. Then I went to get my MA and then I was exposed to the “be open and honest about your feelings and insecurities.”

    I hope my comments match the spirit of your original post. I honestly don’t know how much of my own “observations” are true of my generational cohort and how much are mostly a reflection of my personal circumstances or my class, race, religious upbringing, region of the US, etc. I’m also personally very wary of asserting what any given “generation’s” common sense or attributes are. Many of the 20 somethings I know personally seem to hold mostly to the observations Mr. Kaufman made for his own generational cohort, though of course they’re very engaged in social media.

    Finally (you knew this blog comment had to end sometime!) I should say that even though I grew up in a mostly “analog” culture, I suspect the groundwork for the “digital” and”social media” systems we have now had already been laid by my teenage years. In fact, I suspect the groundwork had probably been laid before Mr. Kaufman’s own adolescence, with the more consumer-oriented developments of the post-WWII era and probably with other developments I’m forgetting at the moment.

  47. There are a few things I do no see Dan saying at all in this piece that others apparently see:

    1. He is not saying this is a philosophy piece where each observation – which is what he calls these items – is backed up by any deper reasoning.
    2. He is not saying that all – one need only look at the title – that any of these items are things no young people today understand.
    3. He is not saying that the understandings of 25 years ago are necessarily superior.
    4. He is not saying – even if any of them were superior – that these changes in understanding or the fault of today’s young people or make them blameworthy.
    5. He is not saying that the changes between 25 years ago and today have unilaterally been for the worse.

    I think people may be reading those things in, maybe because of their own biases, inferences made with knowledge of Dan’s stances elsewhere, or the way the piece is written (“used to understand” is easy to fill in with “…but now are in error about.”) But the piece can be read without Dan making any of these claims.

  48. I was born in 1968, so you and I are both Gen X.

  49. Thanks, Kevin. Spot on.

  50. Exactly right with “placate.” That’s an omission on my part.

  51. Kanthelpmyself

    In an earlier comment, I noted some of the significant events that have marked the lives of those young people who came up during the past two decades. This is a sketch of what I see as two over-arching cultural trends that have shaped Millenial/GenZ yutes (hereafter, MGZ), and which, in my admittedly judgmental (and, perhaps, jaundiced) view, may account for many of the observations on Dan’s list: the first is “Oprah Culture,” the apotheosis of victimhood; and second, the “Age of Self-Esteem,” the dominating belief that a valid sense of self-worth can arise from fulsome childhood protections against stress, discomfort, and disappointment, without regard to actual effort and accomplishment.

    These two elements may initially seem to conflict, but I think they are actually complementary in operation. In Oprah Culture the extent of one’s victimhood is an inverse measure of one’s merit—perversely, the deeper one’s victimhood, the greater one’s potential sense of self-worth as a result of the indulgences and deference of others (which is at the heart of “intersectionality”). Additionally, by “brandishing your failures, and weaknesses, and disorders” (wonderful phrase), one can remain a victim, but be additionally considered “brave” by Oprah Culture standards, thereby earning bonus points on the self-esteem scale. Strength through weakness.

    Some observations, suggested by Eric Hoffer and others, that help illuminate Oprah Culture and victim status: power corrupts, but so does weakness. The weak find permission to act badly in the justification that, as the victims of the powerful, they cannot be blameworthy. Bad actions by the powerful virtually authorize the weak in their own perceptions to repudiate all constraints in their acts of retribution, as has been repeatedly demonstrated by the history of revolutionary regimes’ exceeding the cruelty of those they overthrew. The applicability of this to both Trumpism and the woke movement is a further but separate subject.

    With regard to those of the MGZ raised on a counterfeit sense of self-esteem, their relative fragility, atrophied sense of personal responsibility, and lack of resilience provide the bases for a ready sense of victimization. In addition, the validation and protections from stress and disappointment the MGZ have enjoyed has always come from parents, educators, psychotherapists, and other authority figures. Young people thus not only want the attention of adults and other authority figures, but look to such figures generally for continued validation of their views and claims, for protection against stress/disappointment, and, especially, for the punishment of those that “victimize” them by challenging their equanimity, including the insufficiently woke.

    As both the sense of victimhood and the sham self-esteem are imaginary, each requires the belief and agreement of others for sustainment. MGZ members have thus been trained to be performance oriented and other directed. (In the words of Dylan “I’ll let you be in my dream if I can be in yours.”) Enter the internet, which blurs the distinction between virtual reality and empirical fact. And enter social media: a virtual minute-by-minute Dow Jones Market Summary, in which one may gauge volume gains in one’s victimhood, or see one’s self-esteem shorted. (One may additionally see targets identified for attack. For the MGZ, social media is like the virtually imperceptible signals among massive flocks of birds or shoals of fish that allow them to move in apparently automatic unison.)

    As Dan observed, victimhood is inconsistent with the basic imperatives of youth, and his invocation of “male peacocks,” while perhaps a pleonasm, is most apt: a sense of self as victim, but also as validated by the esteem of the group, seem to suggest a general feminization of the MGZ cohort relative to Gen X and Boomers. Admittedly, the characteristics of youth I listed in an earlier comment tend to reflect my experience as a male father of sons, but many, if not most, of those qualities seem muted and blunted among the MGZ. As the father of daughters, Dan may have further observations, as may others. I’m particularly interested in responses and refutations by MGZ members, for whom I hope this has been sufficient “provocation.”

  52. Seren

    I was mulling over this as I hung out my little one’s nappies. Thinking about my mother being handed a smart phone, mid 90s, and told, You can easily watch videos of anything your teenaged daughter is interested on here. I’m guessing, but I think she’d have found the idea rather bonkers. Would probably have started telling you about the Beach Boys and stomping, proper teenaged pursuits. In fact, it wouldn’t have taken alot of leg work for her to make a nice cuppa and sit down to watch Rage on the tele. The more I think about it, the more I can’t imagine what that sort of intrusiveness – on the part of their elders who should be their betters – must be like for young people. You’ve done alot to increase my sympathy for a generation I was largely feeling irritated by.

  53. His reply reminds me of one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard, Shlomo Artzi’s ‘Yareach’ (there’s actually an even more beautiful version in Yiddish, ‘Leben’, by Dudi Kalish. But, nebech, after having downloaded it and lost it”s disappeared fom the Internet, and I can’t find it anywhere, brrrrrrrr)

  54. terranbiped

    A great insightful and entertaining explication. A shame it received neither recognition nor response and I myself am rushing to leave for out of town. I hope my up vote is of some consolation.

  55. Kanthelpmyself

    Thanks, TB. I had thought some grandiose theorizing around the questions implicitly raised by Dan’s fascinating list would generate further critical comment, but instead . . . crickets. Un petit dommage.

  56. I suspect the angry people have already left, so there’s no one left to argue with.

  57. Also, people who are interested primarily in engaging in performances, usually aren’t very interested in having real conversations, which might go in directions they don’t expect or dislike.

  58. Kanthelpmyself

    And then everyone gives up. Gresham’s Law of comment sections.

    Good list, though. Thanks.

  59. Marc Levesque


    Another enjoyable list. I used to take a much more oppositional stance to the style, I guess I’ve come to respect it more.

    > The point is not to debate the merits of these facts of life, but simply to observe how much has changed in the last few decades.

    ok then, facts of life 🙂 I still think some of those points are questionable, and that for a part of the others the changes could easily be due to various sampling issues.

    On changes that might go deeper than that, I see most of them following from our own and even older generations individual and collective behaviors.

  60. Marc Levesque


    Interesting analysis.

    I tend to see youth being more open or less private about stuff like their femininity or masculinity, their mental issues, and about their being or having been victim, as a positive change.

    I think a lot of the negative we’re seeing stems from a back and forth between two minorities, maybe large minorities but still minorities within a much larger population : those that tend to be against these kinds of changes and those that tend to be against those that are against change, each one egging each other on.

  61. Marc Levesque


    Interesting analysis.

    I tend to see youth being more open or less private about stuff, like their femininity or masculinity, their mental issues, or about their being or having been victims, as a positive change.

    But I do think there are negative sides, ideas getting pushed too far, or becoming too confrontational.

    On over arching factors behind changes, I tend to see Oprah culture, an age of self-esteem, along with changes in youth together on the side of effect, and on the causal side, more general influences from older generations, a big part of which I think comes form the pressures capitalism, as it evolves over the years, exercises on society and its institutions.

    (in case there are two versions of my comment, this is the corrected one)

  62. It was extremely interesting to read this and get a sense of what Western people may have been like in 70s – 80s.

    (Just an observation) The more I tried to put myself into that kind of environment the more I felt like I would be deeply unhappy. I think in my life, between late 90s chatrooms and modern day Reddit, all the interaction with people online (shallow, but high in volume and variety) supplemented my lack of family or “home”.

    Either that, or early internet was my version of first shitty apartment and I now appreciate it because it formed part of my life, like another commenter wrote.

  63. Howard

    Let’s assume the correctness of your claim; I’d say the ignorance about life is partially due how they are raised and specifically not growing up on the streets or if not the streets on their own unsupervised.
    Still, I take it you say these realities are simply the way of the world; but some are just social facts and subject to change over time
    Further, I take the changing attitudes of young people as not entirely dysfunctional and part of it as reflecting new social norms, some of them better