This essay was first published on Inquirer’s Young Blood
Bret Easton Ellis can kiss my generation’s ass.
The celebrated American author wrote a rare text for Vanity Fair recently, calling the millennials—my generation—Generation Wuss. He did admit that his judgments are “huge generalities,” but didn’t stop at saying we are oversensitive and overinsistent that we are right “despite the overwhelming proof that they are not.”
At Harvard in 2004, 20-year-old Mark Zuckerberg created TheFacebook from his dorm room at the Kirkland House. A decade later, for all its merits and flaws, Facebook has become one of the world’s most powerful communication tools. Only because a millennial decided it would be worth something one day.
Zuckerberg insisted he was right. And wasn’t he overwhelmingly so? Microsoft’s $15-billion offer just when the company was budding seems to confirm that.
Now Zuckerberg can’t just be the defense of millennials every time we are criticized. Someone has to step up and have the same credence.
In Hong Kong, tens of thousands of millennials did. At first they were hesitant, leaving the job to their friends while they cheered from the sidelines. But 17-year-old Joshua Wong bravely stood at the Admiralty District and called on his generation to challenge the government. And what did the authorities do? They arrested and detained a frail, nerdy millennial for insisting he is right.
What happened next is the convergence of so many others his age, with the same disillusionment of being right—standing amid the pressure and exhaustion, sustaining stamina because, as Wong said one Sunday last month to a thinning crowd, “the greater the suppression, the more we fight back, so we will continue to persist, won’t we?”
The world had its eyes on Hong Kong, and who were on the frontline carrying out the most vibrant and determined protest movement of our time? Generation Wuss.
Three years earlier, who were engaged with the movement in Wall Street that would be the blueprint for Hong Kong’s #OccupyCentral? Generation Wuss.
A year before that, who constituted the Arab Spring that toppled dictators in the Middle East? Generation Wuss.
In one way or another, it goes back to that night in February 2004 at Harvard, when the stereotypical millennial sat glued to his computer, out of his mind to think he could ever change the landscape of how the world would work years later.
The world did change drastically after that night. We are better informed and better connected, and therefore, empowered to do things young people from generations before us only dreamed of doing.
Over the course of social media’s evolution, the members of Generation Wuss have fought to show Generation Xers—our most ardent critics—that it is worth their precious time.
Fresh graduates barged into corporations and newsrooms all over the world and said social media was the game-changer. Did they believe us? Not at first. It took years—years and years of convincing we weren’t just tweeting our “oversensitivity,” but actually demonstrating how connected we are. Now you have Generation X inventing jobs for the tech-savvy millennials, making us their social media elves working in a medium they initially dismissed as nothing.
Easton Ellis suggested that millennials were indirect results of the overprotectiveness of Generation X parents, “inadequately preparing them in how to deal with the hardships of life and the real way the world works.”
Let’s dissect that statement in two, the latter part being that Generation X is overprotective of us.
In Hong Kong, parents joined the anti-Occupy group called the “Blue Ribbon” movement, resenting the fact that their children have uncharacteristically defied their wishes.
“Those students are so innocent. We are very sympathetic to those parents who couldn’t stop their children from taking to the street in protest,” said a Chinese woman.
But has that overprotectiveness “inadequately prepared” us, as Easton Ellis implies? The persistence in that young crowd in Admiralty, Hong Kong, tells you otherwise.
It is all sorts of disobedience, yes, but one that remains determined to give justice and meaning to the thousands of students that came before them in 1989 in Tiananmen Square, Beijing.
But maybe older people just have the natural predisposition to underestimate those younger than they. Maybe it’s the way humans work. But never have we seen so much disdain in one particular generation.
“…If anyone has a snarky opinion of Generation Wuss, then that person is labeled by them as a ‘douche’—case closed. No negativity—we just want to be admired. This is problematic because it limits discourse: if we all just like everything—the Millennial dream—then what are we going to be talking about? How great everything is?” Easton Ellis ranted further.
For one, everything isn’t great, so we don’t want you to talk about that. But it happens just once in a change of generation that so many opportunities exist at the same time.
The world is connected like never before, young ones are confident like young once never were; the freedom to choose and the freedom to speak have never been so fervent.
And in our account of recent history: a series of fortunate events that inspire and encourage us to do something unheard of.
We don’t want to be admired, we want to be acknowledged. More importantly, we want to be challenged. Yes, we are the idealistic generation. We think that we can do anything with just one push of a button. And many times, we have. Does that scare you?
It should, partly. It’s the same kind of idealism that terrorists feed on. Young, idealistic, brilliant ones are being corrupted by savages who have jihad all wrong. And think, what if we had just listened to them, and not called them wuss for having the millennial dream?
And so, Mr. Easton Ellis, and the rest of Generation X: We, Generation Wuss—represented proudly in this period of history by the thousands of our kind in Hong Kong—only ask: Hear us sing.