Y’all know the feeling. Standing behind your mom and grandma at a department store, itching to leave, all the while your mom’s going OFF at the poor department store worker because he won’t accept her return of the shirt she bought 3 weeks ago. The thing that makes you the most uncomfortable is the “No receipt, no return” sign that you can clearly read, and hope that your mom can see. You stand there looking around for the exit as your mom explains to the poor minimum wage worker that “No one keeps the receipts!” You look at your grandma but she’s just standing in the corner waiting for the madness to end herself so she can take a seat somewhere. This is where you melt in your shoes and first learn what is: anxiety.
Now, ever since those moments, I used to ask myself why was my mom acting unkindly to someone when all I had learned from her was to be kind to all people? What was so different about this 20 something-year-old department store worker and our friendly neighbor? Why was she treating him as if he had no feelings, completely disregarding clear and stated rules in order to get what she wanted? The difference lies in just how we’re wired. Let me explain:
Our parents and grandparents were products of very hard times. My grandparents grew up in Pakistan during the 70s and 80s, not an easy time for the newly developed nation. My mother and family moved to America around 9/11. Most of our parents lived through some of the most intense tragic events in our modern history. A majority of our immigrant home countries were at once ruled over by Western nations. This means that our families have had the idea that the western capitalists’ idea of success was the only way they could achieve a “great” life for themselves. Early on in their lives, they were forced to accept the notion that they would have to put their head down, accept their place in the food chain, and find a way to survive. What a miserable way to live! Coupled with the fact that they sold themselves into the cycle that is capitalism, most of our parents had to deal with the stigma and hate that surrounded immigrants in the early 2000s. Everywhere they turned all they encountered were foreign obstacles and dirty stares. They knew one thing and one thing only: survival of me and my own through any means necessary.
Now here’s where we millennials come in and shake everything up. Most of us will say that we were grown up in “stricter” households. Grew up learning life lessons left and right from our parents, good or bad. Learned to share, learned to grow in tough times, and, if you had siblings, learned the importance of comforting each other during hardships. We learned that we can’t always get what we want. We learned that workers are people. We learned that we are all going through the same shit. But in lieu of all this, we are also intellectually gifted. We learned the sciences, we learned of equality, we learned of the importance of expression. This unique blend of ruthless ambition and rational logic has made the millennials the smartest generation for where we are in our timeline. Read it for yourself:
We soon came to realize that all that we really have in this world is each other and ourselves at the end of the day. No amount of power, no amount of money will solve the underlying problems that have plagued mankind for centuries. The only way to make progress is to move through the storm head on. A big reason why there is such hostility between Generation X and the Millenials, in my opinion, is the bratty nature of us millennials in picking at scabs. We were the generation that fought for and brought to the forefront LGBTQ+ marriage issues, to vehement opposition from the older generation. We voted in the first black president, to which the older generation almost skipped a heartbeat. Our relentless nature of scratching out old social norms is what has given us a bad name. Women are reclaiming their sexual identity and mothers and “well-wishers” are gasping. Men are expressing their emotions in full spectrum now and we hear whispers of parents not raising their children correctly. We are uprooting the system that Generation X was a slave of. Generation X internalized their social constructs, their bonds to the capitalist system, and seeing us break away from those bonds makes Gen X feel uneasy.
What our responsibility as educated members of this corrupt society is to spread our knowledge to the people in charge. We need to simply talk to each other. Talk about the hard stuff, the topics that make us cringe, the problems that plague us STILL. If we want change we have to get it ourselves. The biggest difference we can make is within our own network. Talking to the people you surround yourself with, with family and friends, can be the way that you make your difference in this world. There’s a part that we can all play, but it is up to us to realize that and to see it come to fruition. We oppose the systematic oppression of whole groups of humans. We oppose blatant patriarchy in a society where women are scared to say “no”. We oppose being blinded to the truth while being told lies to. Let us not constantly bicker amongst each other, old or young. Let us band together and focus our attention towards the real matters at hand, whatever your calling may be.
Syed Shahzar Ahmed