“Under his eye” — millennials in dystopia

In a way, Generation Z (the generation of people born after 1995) is better suited for this f*cked up 2017 world — well, at least better than us millennials. I’m in my early thirties but I’m still clinging on to the liberalism that permeated the world before I became fully formed. I will never forget parking my car on the side of the road and consoling my crying girlfriend after watching “Children of Men” back in 2006. She was disturbed by the possibility of a dystopian future. I remember looking her straight in the eye and telling her: “God will NEVER let weird stuff like that happen in real life baby, please chill.” The notion that refugees could be put in cages in the middle of the street, that people would need passes to move around in their own country and that everyone would consider that NORMAL were bizarre nightmares that came out the minds of what I considered an ancient, “negative-minded” generation — I was a millennial and an ETERNAL OPTIMIST.

My attitude growing up was built around the belief that things always get better and if things get tough, I’m gonna Nancy Botwin this life until it all works out. Thing is, if you’re raised in a “Dawson’s Creek” world, it’s hard to adapt to a world that’s starting to resemble “The Handmaid’s Tale”. Negative change happens so gradually that you don’t really realize how bad things have gotten — sort of like the frog in boiling water analogy. Ruthlessness became mainstream so slowly that we’ve sort of acclimatized to it but it’s still pretty hard to watch a Tomi Lahren video and not think: “There’s something sexy but heartless about this way of thinking.”

I have these moments when I'm supposed to be writing code but I can't even think; my mind just goes blank and something random just pops into my head. Something like: “Maybe it’s been like this for the longest. I’ve always been the type that slept on things.” That’s an aspect of my personality that I freely and openly admit. I’m one of those people who miss the really BIG stuff at the beginning. I jumped onto the “Game of Thrones” bandwagon only on season two, this year was the first time I heard of “The Handmaid’s Tale” and just yesterday I discovered the well-known Japanese epic “Kagemusha”. So it’s possible that our 2017 dystopia has been happening all along at miniature scale and I was COMPLETELY oblivious.

Younger people ask me what things were like when I was in college. I can’t quite articulate it. There was this sort of general angst which we all had but also an optimism I find hard to put in words; so I just tell them: “Well, there was a LOT more money. Our parents had jobs. People just had money fam.” I realize that the opportunities that have been created in tech and biotech have been incredible. I also know that the opportunities that will be created in the 2020s by the fourth industrial revolution will be mind-blowing. I understand this because I’m a participant in tech and it’s gonna pay for my lunch today. I still can’t help but think that it has gotten a lot harder just to eat though— just to survive. I can’t help but think that calling people who are in some way struggling, “losers”, is pedestrian; largely because explanations of failure in the 2010s have been pedestrian (read Darwinian). At the risk of being branded a typical millennial socialist/optimist, I personally think more humane government policies at a global level could ease a lot of suffering. And I pray for world peace, LOL.

But then I come back to the real world. The extreme angst that I thought I had overcome in my teens engulfs me again. Except this time I’m not worried by thoughts like: “I hope I did well on that chemistry test so I can watch ’10 Things I Hate About You’ without this dark cloud hanging over me.” This time, I’m fully blown adulting: “God, I hope property prices don’t keep rising this fast. What’s the price of a typical home nowadays? 1 million dollars? What are the implications of a credit downgrade on foreign investment? F*ck, in need to get rich soon!”

I hear that Generation Z is pretty realistic and apparently smarter too — I’ve heard they start saving in high school. I’ve heard that they accept that the world is a cold-hearted place. I can’t do that. I won't. Try as I might, I can’t help but be optimistic. Columbine was an aberration. The South African xenophobic attacks have been aberrations. Charlottesville was an aberration. 2017 is an aberration. That “Children of Men” world will NEVER happen — God won’t let it. I like that my friends sell kombucha in containers that have labels emblazoned with comic book characters they created. I like that my girlfriend knits really cool things. I like that quirky sh*t. I like that I believe that the startup I work for is going to be the BIGGEST THING EVER. Doesn't EVERYONE think like that? Unrealistic as it all sounds, that’s who I am. I see hope in dystopia the way Peter Pan sees a table filled with food in Never-Never Land. That’s what millennials are: optimists. Hopefully, when our generation gets into positions of authority and power, we will revert this world to the one we had growing up. Till then, “under his eye.”

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