I’m not a vegan. I’m not a vegetarian. I don’t plan on being one. I’m not a political activist. I’m not an environmentalist. I don’t like Greta Thunberg. But I do think the environment is worth protecting. I don’t think we live in end times. I think there are only two genders and he/she/it are the only pronouns I’m comfortable using. I think LGBTQ (did I forget a letter?) rights and #MeToo are overrated and detrimental to the people they are supposed to be (and rightly so) fighting for. And I don’t like Mumford and Sons because they sound like Coldplay. And pulled pork buns are not the best way to enjoy pork.
And what the hell is so great about craft beer?
The main reason I don’t like any of these things is the people who do like these things – call them millennials, hipsters, hippies, the left, whatever – are making the world a homogenised place.
Pier Paolo Pasolini, great Italian film director and author, once commented how trends put people in uniforms far more efficaciously than fascism ever could. He was a Marxist so he was making a critique on capitalism. I am not a Marxist but I think his fears are being echoed in the 21st century.
Unlike Pasolini’s time, the world now is globalised. So the uniform is international. If I go to Valletta and go to eat a pulled pork bun with a craft beer, I am likely to see the same people around me I would see in Florence, London, Lisbon, Paris, and other great cities.
The views of people from my generation are becoming extremely limited, close-minded and worse: predictable. People my age are surprised and shocked when they hear me say I love bullfighting, (that’s why my image for this blog shows me enjoying the bliss of the Maestranza bullring in Sevilla – sorry but not really) I admire Hemingway even though he was a big-game hunter, I dislike Greta Thunberg and I think we are living in the best times in human history. But I don’t mind the shock and surprise.
And yet, there are people out there being censored by my generational peers. People like Jordan Peterson, who caused outrage with his views on gender pronouns (there’s another shocker, I 75% like and agree with Jordan Peterson). Richard Dawkins was banned from speaking at universities because of his views on Islam.
Free speech is dying a slow, trendy death.
People who oppose discrimination are today’s biggest discriminators. People who demand freedom are the first to tell you what your freedom should look like. Thought-police on a keto diet.
I love travel and I think the greatest virtue of travel is the need to be surprised and awed. I’m also a great lover of cities. But cities are losing their power to surprise. It is getting harder to find truly local places, serving you tripe stew and greasy pork liver buns (that’s what should be done with pork) and it is hard to go for a drink with locals in no-frill bars, drinking what locals have been drinking for decades.
It’s all too easy to see fashionable speakeasies, restaurants that specialize in organic, vegetarian, chic fare, serve you ridiculously surreal cocktails (which you have to drink through a rubber straw, a graceless feat), pride themselves on their locally sourced food (even though none of them are local) and over-charge you for their gimmicks.
Gentrification is a plague on creativity. It is also a marginalising force driven by those who preach inclusion and equality. Most millennials are well-off, work in online gaming, financing, tech companies and freelancing. They create wealth in any economy. But it is a wealth that is poorly distributed.
Inequality is very often an unintended by-product of gentrification. As cities get richer, techies move in, Airbnb buy out old properties, expensive, chic restaurants open up, the locals, especially the unskilled and under-qualified, have to leave the cities of their birth and seek out cheaper accommodation in often undesirable areas. Millennials and hipsters, the meek and mild, earth-loving and spiritual peace-peddlers, are bullies.
Another reason I don’t want to be a millennial is the complaining. Millennials see human beings as a plague on this world. They are the embodiment of entitled negativity. They guilt you for eating meat, not recycling, for believing men and women have equal rights; they say you are a puppet of the patriarchy, you are an oppressor, close-minded.
And yet, if they took the time to look at our world in a broader historical context, they would see we are living in the best of times. Steven Pinker wrote, in The Better Angels of Our Nature:
If the past is a foreign country, it is a shockingly violent one. It is easy to forget how dangerous life used to be, how deeply brutality was once woven into the fabric of daily existence. Cultural memory pacifies the past, leaving us with pale souvenirs whose bloody origins have been bleached away.
And this from Pinker’s Enlightenment Now:
A Babylonian in 1750 BCE would have had to labor fifty hours to spend one hour reading his cuneiform tablets by a sesame-oil lamp. In 1800, an Englishman had to toil for six hours to burn a tallow candle for an hour. (Imagine planning your family budget around that—you might settle for darkness.) In 1880, you’d need to work fifteen minutes to burn a kerosene lamp for an hour; in 1950, eight seconds for the same hour from an incandescent bulb; and in 1994, a half-second for the same hour from a compact fluorescent bulb—a 43,000-fold leap in affordability in two centuries. And the progress wasn’t finished: Nordhaus published his article before LED bulbs flooded the market. Soon, cheap, solar-powered LED lamps will transform the lives of the more than one billion people without access to electricity, allowing them to read the news or do their homework without huddling around an oil drum filled with burning garbage.
And yet left-wing, fundamentalist post-modernists have the nerve to argue it is better to live simpler, to do away with human culture and progress, and go back to living in some Marxist prehistoric Communism. It is unbelievably arrogant.
Tell an Indian man struggling to make a living to not want progress. Tell an African young man living in an urban slum if he were, somehow, to win a lottery or get a sudden windfall, not to travel on planes because it increases his carbon footprint. Hell, a Masai herdsmen to kill his cows – his only real wealth – because their flatulence is heating up the planet. And then there is the flip-side of the arrogant narrative. How dare you say women in the Western world are bullied and sidelined by the ‘patriarchy’ because there aren’t enough women engineers or politicians, when there are women in Saudi Arabia shackled to their husbands like cattle.
The negativity, the first-world snobbery of this left-wing generation is incredulous and infuriating. Some of them have their hearts in the right places. But they need to be open to reason, the only hope for our species to ever achieve any kind of long-lasting happiness and peace. And whenever I find myself drinking a craft beer or a pulled pork bun or talking to a friend preaching the keto diet; all I can hear is uniformed arrogance and the dying breaths of diversity.