Snowflake Generation

I may have mentioned before that I am an avid book reader getting through, on average, two books a week, so finding something new is a bit of a challenge. I will read some titles more than once providing there has been a long gap between reads however, I recently came across this reader’s review that made me dash out and buy the book he or she was raving about; This book made me want to rip my clothes off and run round the posh bits of North London shouting F*** Off the lot of you. It was a book about a new social phenomenon, The Snowflake Generation which I also found really interesting albeit not enough to make me want to run around naked in North Beverley. However, the book does manage to strip away many of the misconceptions surrounding the proliferation of new ideas and attitudes belonging almost exclusively to the under twenty-fives. This is a generation that should be enjoying the best living standards in the Western World, the most opportunities and so on but instead, finds itself marginalized and insecure. And sadly, none of this is their doing.

I fully appreciate that the term Snowflake is generally thought of as a derogatory term but I am fascinated by it all the same and because it’s only recently emerged I think there’s time to rehabilitate it. Incidentally, the term first emerged on American campuses a few years ago as a means of criticizing the hypersensitivity of a younger generation and as with most Western ideas found its’ way over to the UK. Collins have named Generation Snowflake as their word of the year [2016] and just like its predecessor Omnishambles its’ meaning will become all too obvious as time moves on. The term Millenniums is also used for this generation however, the Snowflakes are much younger which makes a huge difference. Basically, the phrase sums up a particular group of young adults who came of age in this decade [ 2010 0nwards] who are perceived to be more prone to taking offense and less resilient than previous generations. A bit soft in other words. Much of the blame, if that is the correct term, is said to lie with over-protective parenting and the rise of Self-esteem culture.

There’s nothing wrong with encouraging young people to feel good about themselves but insisting that they write down ten amazing things about themselves every morning might be going a bit too far. Why not get the little darlings to write down ten amazing things about somebody else instead? And it’s all very well insisting that they can each reach for the stars as long as they point out that they will need a vehicle to get there and it will have to be in good working order if they are to survive the trip. It’s the same when mixing with other people, it’s unrealistic to believe that we can all get along fine just as long as we all mind our Ps and Qs and become incredibly politically correct. Claire Fox, founder of the libertarian think tank – The Institute of Ideas commented in the Evening Standard last May that The fear of giving offence is killing democracy and stifles truth. I found her words chilling and was reminded of George Orwell’s 1984 and the Thought Police. We should be able to discuss/debate that which we find unfamiliar, difficult to comprehend or downright strange without resorting to insults. That is not only how we learn but how we learn to get along.

According to their critics, most Snowflakes simply become distressed by ideas that run contrary to their own world views and sadly, many suffer from  poor mental health because of it. This is most evident in the many accounts of on-line bullying via Social media platforms. Some critics say that we are now in a New Puritan Age  where certain people crave victimhood, seek offence in all that they see and then demand apologies along with compensation. However, there is one group of  Millenniums / Snowflakes that appear to contradict everything that has been levelled at them so far and they are the contestants on the BBC television programme The Apprentice. For anyone who has not seen the programme, this is a game show where a bunch of the most odious individuals get to tease and humiliate a posse of naive young people who will do anything for the chance of becoming Lord Sugar’s apprentice, whatever that entails. The torture goes on for about twelve weeks before those viewers who stick with the show are put out of their misery and an apprentice is chosen. Clearly, those millenniums taking part in the show are not particularly thin-skinned, overly-sensitive or unable to cope with anyone disagreeing with them which is kind of encouraging but in a depressing way.

The Snowflakes and the Millenniums have their champions. People such as Richard Brooks, NUS Vice President for union development, totally refutes that Generation Snowflake is a homogeneous mass of selfie-taking, free-speech quashing, entitled, politically correct types, which is fine, they need defending. However, whilst I certainly do not believe young people are over-sensitive for wanting to do something about racism and sexism, I do believe that in their efforts to curb free speech they simply maintain the status quo. The term, Snowflake Generation emerged in America at a time when an earlier generation, The Baby Boomers [ born post 1945] were becoming tired of political correctness not because they didn’t agree with it in principle but because it was getting out of hand. Ordinary people were finding themselves being over-looked simply because there was no label that could be attached to them, they were too ordinary. They weren’t People of colour, they were not unhappy with their gender identities, they were not Gay and by and large, they had nothing against those that were.

A study / survey of college students carried out in the USA during President Obama’s second stay in office discovered that only 40% of students were able to empathize with people whose life experiences differed from their own. It was very much the vindication that the Me Generation was finally established and then, of course, each generation must have its’ own conscience so why not adopt the most Neo-Liberal one going? I started off by saying that Snowflake Generation is not responsible for its’ creation therefore we should not dismiss it out of hand. Each generation is the product of its’ environment and however much we might feel that we act only in their best interests, we are often mistaken. We are the ones who made the Snowflake Generation what it is, the ones who gave it special status and then turned our backs on it leaving it burdened with student debt, unable to buy or rent homes, having to take insecure jobs and so on. Ironically, another word that emerged as a favourite newcomer in 2016 was Hygge, a Norwegian word that basically means to find happiness in the ordinary. Perhaps if the generation who gave birth to the Snowflakes had concentrated more on teaching their offspring about the value of Hygge then they might have produced a much happier, more secure generation.

 

 

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About hovisb

Retired socialworker specialising in substance misuse and mental health (Dual Diagnosis). Previously worked in management. Enjoys culture, especially music, literature and art. Animal lover.
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