‘Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.’
The audacity of such a leader! How dare he/she/xi demand I must contribute to a society in a way that benefits everyone. What if I need help? What about my problems? Who will care for me?
I hope, reader, you know me well enough by now to know that these musings above are hyperbole and what I can only imagine is the genuine interpretation of JFK’s famous line by modern day young people. It begs the question of how the world would react today had Donald Trump said almost the same line in his inaugural address in 2017. What has changed between now and 1961 to create such tensions and demands from young people, who seem to hold such a high disregard for criticism and motivation?
In my time as a writer (an occasional speaker), I have been accused of racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, misogyny, and ageism. I have been accused of fundamentally low EQ and had my higher education questioned by my adversaries. This often happens when things are said in the company of young people after hearing something they disagree with, and this is causing worldwide problems as we seek to grow and communicate together.
The exchange of differing thoughts and ideas ultimately leads to growth and information. The silencing of students in college campuses and the influx of safe spaces is helping no one. It is contributing nothing. It is only adding to the segregation of people’s ideas and beliefs – becoming ultimately more divisive than inclusive. The very thought of a millennial facing any form of intellectual challenge or criticism fills them with such fear and anxiety, I wouldn’t be surprised if a week was dedicated to its awareness.
I say this as someone born in 1991. Peak millennial, I can’t help but refer to them as that – ‘them’. I do not share the belief they maintain that negative or challenging thoughts and arguments are so detrimental. In fact, I think the opposite. I wrote something about our constantly ‘Triggered’ generation, which you can read here.
In such divisive and uncertain times on both sides of the Atlantic, combative and dismissive methods do not benefit anyone. We cannot and will not learn from mistakes or experiences if we close ourselves off from bad ones. We cannot fight for what we think is right if we do not hear what we think is wrong. We will not gain if we do not risk to lose.
For as long as freedom of speech exists, I will listen to all criticism I receive. I have always vouched that painful missteps, and our accountability for these missteps, is the best way to learn and develop. I urge my peers to embrace a bit of criticism now and then.
“Criticism, like rain, should be gentle enough to nourish a man's growth without destroying his roots.” - Frank A. Clark