Adam Carolla hates plastic trophies.
I just listened to the comedian’s rant against Occupy Wall Street, and I feel as though I deserve some sort of badge — which would just prove Carolla’s point.
His rant encapsulates everything people object to about this generation. “We’ve created a bunch of [verbing] self-entitled monsters,” Carolla exclaims. “ ‘I want my Most Valuable Player trophy.’ ‘Well, you’re the slowest, fattest guy on the team.’ ‘Why should he get one and I don’t?’ ‘Because he busts his [patoot] and he runs a 4.4 40. That’s why he gets one.’ ‘Well, this is [excrement].’ And then everyone gets involved and everyone gives everyone a participation trophy and then everyone feels good about themselves but it’s not based on anything. You should feel good about yourself because of your accomplishments. Not because someone yelled at you to feel good about yourself and you got a fake [engaging in intimate acts] piece of plastic that was sprayed gold and had your name on a plaque at the bottom.”
Occupy Wall Street, Carolla argues, is the outgrowth of this — of being Generation Trophy, constantly told that we were the all-singing, all-dancing carp of the universe. “Go into the park and hand out gold stars,” someone joked in my weekly chat, “and they’ll fold up and go home.”
The Occupants have done little to dilute the widespread idea that we Millennials are a bunch of “self-entitled” jerks who expect jobs to be handed to us just because we showed up with a nametag. This sense that we deserve anything just because we don’t have it is exactly what they expected of us.
No one is denying the presence of trophies in our childhoods. But we earned all those trophies, dang it, trophies for things like Existing and Being a Person. We excel at being people who exist.
The going wisdom is that we’re a bunch of self-esteem junkies who would rather receive positive reinforcement than food or sex (there was a study about this recently). We sometimes binge for days reading our old school reports and covering ourselves in gold stars. In the fourth grade, we were required to fold sheets of paper into “fans” and write sincere compliments about everyone in the class, which we could take home and read at our leisure. Some of them were stretches. (“Jen is very Jen-like,” we wrote.)
Our biggest innovation is social media, which is just a way to replicate the experience of being constantly “Liked” and given gold stars and getting celebrated on our birthdays.
Sure, we may be a bunch of self-entitled monsters, if “self-entitled” is an actual phrase. But at least we're a self-aware bunch of self-entitled monsters.
Just look at the rest of you.
Millennial-bashing is everyone’s favorite new pastime.
First the Gen-Xers complained, which, since they barely got jobs six months ago, seemed a little thick. Then another generation called the Catalano Generation or something materialized and demanded recognition as Special and Different. And don’t get me started on the Boomers’ complaints.
This is why we dislike previous generations: They are all bunches of [redacted] whiners calling us a bunch of [redacted] whiners.
Entitled? We’ll be spending our best years paying for your declining ones. And you’re the ones who implied that everything would be fine and we could coast along on the tautological Seussism that “there is no one alive who is you-er than you.”
You aren’t happy with how we turned out? Well, I didn’t buy myself that banner that said, “Hey, World, Gird Your Loins, Because This Kid Here Is the Grandest Thing Since the Lascaux Cave Paintings And She’s Going to Give You Something Unique.” Well, okay, I did. But that’s because my parents were the rare statistical outliers who gave it to me straight.
But there was only so much they could do. The rest of the day, I was showered with confetti and praise for simply being myself, a process that required little to no effort, giving me an ego roughly the size of the Taj Mahal.
At first, it was fine. We had little to complain about. College brought grade inflation and another bout of back-patting. Our only worries were things like “Is it possible to have too much self-esteem?” and “What if being called ‘absurdly bright’ actually damages your test-taking ability?”
Now we have real problems. We arrived in life and discovered that we no longer received trophies for completing routine tasks like filing our taxes, brushing our teeth and paying the rent on time. Where was the constant positive reinforcement to which we were accustomed? There was constant negative reinforcement, but it wasn’t quite the same.
We don’t have jobs. Even though our résumés list our primary qualification, Being Special and Unique and Ready to Give The World Something Awesome, no one seems enthused about hiring us.
“Why didn’t you tell us?” we bellow into our phones.
“Tell you what?” our parents ask, over the faint noise of Gen-Xers snickering.
“The world is a cold, cruel place, where dogs eat other dogs, and we do not have jobs, and we are heavily burdened with student debt.”
“We thought you were bright enough to figure that out on your own!” they mutter. “You’re a star. Go earn money to pay for our retirements!”
We plan to rear our children the hard, traditional way, forcing them to earn our love and trust by completing challenging ropes courses and playing the piano until their fingers bleed.
Meanwhile, we are entitled — to complain. We will be paying for your retirements and health care until we perish or you decide to accept a cut in benefits — or, more likely, the Mayans return to Earth and destroy all civilization. And Occupy Wall Street has been kicked out of the parks. And Adam Carolla is yelling at us.
And we don’t even get a stinking trophy.