In the Rise of the Millennials, feelings are given a whole new status above and beyond any shared fact or shred of righteous communal reality. Today, “feels” are peculiarly individualized, and non-universal, and they are now powerful cudgels used against the unwashed and unwitting others.
Instead of honoring every whim and ninny, we need to be in control of our own feelings, evaluate the reality surrounding them in context beyond the self, and then make a rational, logical, decision on what to do next based on perceptive thinking and not on implied — explicit or otherwise — slights and insights and invented microaggressions and their ilk. We must not only keenly know the difference between purposeful cruelty and interpreted, environmental, intention, we must proactively act upon the right result.
There’s a popular meme running through the mainstream right now: “It’s not what you said, but how you made me feel” that is curiously getting traction as an actually reasonable — and non-insane! — position to take for the emotionally offended. What a convenient excuse for the naturally incorrigible and the uber passive-aggressives among us! It isn’t just WHAT you said or HOW you said it, but HOW I PROCESSED IT that brings the offense, not to the offended, but always against the speaker.
You can imagine how that sort of nonsensical thinking quickly destroys the roots of a communal education and the right to be offended — and to offend! — in taking on notions that may not be your own and that may foreignly wound you! Isn’t that what life and learning is about — testing boundaries and finding new ways to connect beyond just how one internally feels and processes emotion against the outside world?
What is so incredibly genius — and self-serving — about this new “How You Made Me Feel” progression is there’s nothing you can do or say to refute the claim of irrevocable emotional harm! What’s done is done and no reason or rational thought shall ever pass this way again.
You see that sort of internal emotional selfishness wending its way into the university classroom. Forget the idea of a common core of agreed facts and truths — that’s been castrated by emotion. Now everyone has their own truth to serve, so instead of teaching a single idea that we all hold together as one, the preference now for students is to shatter the shared core in order to emotionally individualize the shards of it — a sort of class terrorism that benefits only one person at a time in a mutual masterbation between Ego and Id.
So instead of teaching a group of facts and culturally sustainable ideals, you begin to fall for the expectation that a teacher is supposed to come up with not one lesson plan for the day, but for one for each student! Imagine a class of 30 students all expecting personalized teaching that meets their emotional cores, and the task become even more functionally and intellectually impossible as class sizes rise to 300 students — all expecting you to service their narrow feelings in the world in which they prefer to spin.
Our classrooms have devolved from teaching a group of students one thing, to doing individualized, private tutoring, for each student, all in service to the lonesome path of generational teaching modes.
Alas, this has already become a “thing” beyond me and you — and it is eating away at the center of what an educated society used to mean:
Trigger warnings are alerts that professors are expected to issue if something in a course might cause a strong emotional response. For example, some students have called for warnings that Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart describes racial violence and that F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby portrays misogyny and physical abuse, so that students who have been previously victimized by racism or domestic violence can choose to avoid these works, which they believe might “trigger” a recurrence of past trauma.
The ultimate aim, it seems, is to turn campuses into “safe spaces” where young adults are shielded from words and ideas that make some uncomfortable. And more than the last, this movement seeks to punish anyone who interferes with that aim, even accidentally. You might call this impulse vindictive protectiveness. It is creating a culture in which everyone must think twice before speaking up, lest they face charges of insensitivity, aggression, or worse.
The campus public protest cry leaps from “Don’t tase me bro!” to “Don’t trigger me, man!” Have we lost the ability to privately self-comfort instead of always needing to reroute our sorrows into public self-immolation? Must we now always blame others for how we were “made to feel” without taking any active role in the context of what was not just said, but meant?
Is it possible to develop and understand beyond the winnowing of one’s own eyes? Is any personal responsibility ever going to come into play again when it comes to moderating self-control and social expectation against societal demands?
I am seriously concerned we are internalizing the memes of social living with the new demand everyone has to be the same, play fair, get along, and not rock the boat. For a kindergarten class, those are all attainable homogenates that teach the values of social welfare, but when the adult mind cannot be challenged or teased or rigorously tested by new thoughts, the entire fabric of society collapses in on itself and falls apart in a hopeless whipsaw cascade of warping and woofing facades, all without structure or meaning against a plain expectation of sanity and emotional control in ordinary conversation.