I have a not so subtle obsession with Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. There is nothing I dislike about it. Jerry Seinfeld driving awesome or quirky cars to go pick up comedians and then do nothing but bullshit over coffee? It might be the perfect show. The bonus is that there are some nuggets of truth that I get to discuss here.
Chris Rock was featured in season two musing about how bullying is not an exclusively negative thing, which ultimately inspired a chapter in The Snowflake Effect. I don’t feel the need to recant that argument here, but the summation is that everything you don’t like isn’t bullying, you aren’t going to feel good all of the time, and everyone isn’t going to like you. Perhaps you are unlikable – but that’s not the sort of self-awareness we teach anymore.
Last season, Jerry broke away from his normal New York/LA format to venture into the weirdness of Portland to hang out with Fred Armisen, of SNL and Portlandia fame. In that episode, Jerry makes note of how busy the coffee shop is on a random weekday, and asks ‘Isn’t everyone in Portland doing just what they want?’ And it’s true.
Portland is a city of people doing exactly what they want to do, which is a very snowflakey mentality. They are self-centered and self-serving, but at the same time very altruistic and community oriented. It’s a city of snowflakes that aren’t assholes. They all do whatever it is they are passionate about, but it works because they support each other.
I don’t think I got it wrong on the grand scheme of things – but Portland has found a way to make it work. So I guess maybe they aren’t snowflakes after all.
The next episode features Ali Wentworth teaching Jerry how to be a wasp while cruising around Manhattan in an old Mercedes convertible. Their children apparently attend the same school, so, naturally, the conversation turned to their kids and school. Jerry pokes fun at how serious the orientation took itself then says:
“Lets make sure their environment is so completely habitable that they are completely unprepared for real life. These kids, you criticize them and they’re like ‘What? So far, everyone has loved everything I’ve done.'”
That’s the whole thing in a nutshell, folks. We have created a society in which we ensure comfort and confidence over competence and preparedness. We praise children so often, that they cannot cope or reason when criticized. They have very little concept about this ‘real world’ thing that exists beyond the filtered experience they are allowed.
Good intentions don’t always generate good ideas, and this is a prime example. Of course we want our children to be comfortable and confident, but shoveling those things onto them does harm in the long run. Without equipping them with the proper tools, they can’t possibly be expected to succeed.
I wouldn’t give a mechanic a set of woodworking tools and ask him to restore a car. So why do we give kids trophies and an inflated sense of self and expect them to construct a stable and rational adulthood?
This is not a recipe for success – it usually generates people who demand praise and accomplishment. These people meet adulthood with frustration and confusion. Or sometimes they move to Portland and make it work.