The gender-neutral, nonpartisan and safe conversation menu has very limited options. So I decided to do my favourite thing: start a one-way dialogue about it.
It’s a tough life being a millennial. It’s even tougher when you’re a veteran millennial. Almost a non-millennial. An ugly puddle of somewhat-young and nearly old, struggling to explain why you think you’re a unicorn, while the rest of the world pictures you as a donkey, at best. Donkeys are the best — don’t get me wrong.
I’ve tried hard to keep up. Met many a feminist — the liberal, the socialist, the radical, and then obviously a therapist, nationalist, racist, imperialist, purist, environmentalist, philanthropist, masochist, misogynist, mentalist, atheist, sexist…and there’s never enough room for the manics and phobics.
It’s getting harder to keep up. If you’re not defending the label you’re wearing, both metaphorically and Sabyasachi, or writing about the benefits of pecan nut butter in a vegan smoothie — then there is nothing legitimate about your existence. Some of us dare to lead meaningless lives, lacking the ability to quote Kafka in our sleep, or competing with ourselves in a poetry slam on sociological theories.
The unwritten rule is that there ought to be something that keeps you up at night. Something that disturbs the dreary monotony of your robotic fingers, tapping mindlessly on Instagram Stories that document every breath of a vacation you didn’t take. What will you do when you get bored scrolling through memes on a WhatsApp group chat that you ignored all day? The recommendation is: find a cause, then fight for it. Spend several minutes of your finite life defending that cause. Do it on the most effective medium that is algorithmically designed to create a beautiful echo — your Facebook wall.
There is a collective desire in all believers of causes to mute harmless discussions. There are very few safe sentences that can be uttered without offending someone or something. I have a few tips that I learnt by trial and many errors. It’s about brevity. The shorter and simpler the sentence, the higher the chances that you’ll come out of a conversation unscathed. You’d think talking about something as harmless as goats having “a pretty wonky digestive system cause hey who poops a zillion times a day!” would be in the safe zone. But no, avoid it. Just leave it at, “Goats are cute.” And for Ferdinand’s sake, please don’t eat them. Other safe topics include — bathroom slippers, turquoise-blue door knobs and detergent for sensitive skin.
When you’re younger, they tell you time makes everything better. Give it time. I believed them and I waited. And very soon it became amply clear that passage of time only makes things go from bad to worse. You have to make a conscious effort to stop it from getting worse, and that’s what takes time.
What started as an earnest attempt to raise awareness about important issues, to respect and treat one another as equal and bring about meaningful change, has rapidly turned into a desperate attempt to direct attention to oneself. My Diversity and Inclusion argument is better than yours. Almost no time is spent learning, educating, engaging and listening, or expressing a well informed, well articulated point of view. Not every mention of a woman in distress has to end up in the verdict that all men are evil. Sometimes, it is far more complicated than that. It could be a mood swing caused by lack of consumption of dark chocolate for more than 48 hours. Not always is it a demand for proof that you know, you care, and only you know and have felt it all. Breathe.
Am I suggesting we give up the good fight? Am I recommending we stop calling out B.S.? Am I begging that you not download Facebook apps that ask you for your political leanings and views so that information can later be misused to target you and eventually lead to influencing a horrible choice you might make that will lead to the whole world suffering a cheeseburger-eating orange turd? Hell no! I am not suggesting anything that you should or should not do. And that really is the point of freedom.
It’s only going to get harder to know what the appropriate thing to say is. People will be forced to open a dialogue with an apology (as they are — “sorry I don’t mean to be sexist/racist/any -ist but--”, a warning, many disclaimers. Movies will lose their ‘I’s and be renamed, even fictional stories altered to a perceived version of reality. It is unfortunate that the fine balance between saying something to provoke thought versus provoking an individual and hurting them, is forever lost.
I was watching Ricky Gervais’ new stand up special, Humanity (which btw has quite a few funny moments in case you haven’t seen it yet), and he said something that summed it up for me, “People see something they don’t like, they expect it to stop, as opposed to deal with their emotions. They want us to care about their thing as much as they do. It’s why the world is getting worse, and the world is getting worse. I think I’ve lived through the best 50 years of humanity… 1965 to 2015, the peak of civilization, for everything. For tolerances, for freedoms, for communication, for medicine. Now it’s going the other way a bit. Last couple of years, just a little blip, maybe.”
Results from a survey I conducted with all the (7) people I know in my life indicate that animals > people. If it has to happen online then perhaps you could consider writing an obituary for Sudan in your free time. Give Secret a like and your heart. Or marry Scout. If like me, you’re having a tough time being politically correct, I recommend you practice conversations with your canine/feline/equine/bovine or any other -ine buddies. It doesn’t matter if they have a tail or not. There are only two possible outcomes, as long as there is uninterrupted supply of food: 1. Love and 2. More love.
And that’s much easier to keep up with, no matter what generational demographic cohort you belong to.