Randal Graves is my Spirit Animal

Or: Tales of Human Triumph and VHS Pornography

In my younger days I worked at a mom and pop video store in my home town, where I spent my time in a state of perpetual shiftless bastardom. There, I did my best to channel my spirit animal, one Randal Graves, of Clerks and RST Video fame.

The owner was a boisterous and imposing woman, who had grown to hate movies after years of owning the store. It was 2004, but she obstinately insisted on ordering movies on VHS instead of DVD. I would see her maybe once a week when she would pop in to make sure we hadn’t set the place on fire. As a video store clerk in a small farming town, the majority of my days consisted of long stretches of unsupervised boredom.

I sat there for hours on end, bathed in fluorescent light, surrounded by aging white tile and yellowing walls. The upside of this is that it provided me with ample time to watch and re-watch worn VHS movies on the tiny television under the counter that we used to ‘check movies.’ Each day I would methodically stalk the aisles looking for the day’s entertainment, passing the shifts by watching as many movies as I could, until I had inevitably watched everything worth watching at least twice and quite nearly suffered a nervous breakdown.

Against the advice of my inner Randal, I started reading a lot after that.

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Greek Happiness

I’m overly fond of talking about hubris, especially in regard to how well my fellow snowflakes and I embody the term. A while back, I came across the term Eudaimonia, so in my short tradition of relating Greek terminology to self-esteem, let’s talk about that for a bit.

Eudaimonia has traditionally been translated simply as ‘happiness’ but the term itself had a deeper meaning than that. The current translation is ‘human flourishing’ which is a pretty substantial change, while still conveying a similar concept. A person who is flourishing is probably happy, but a happy person is not necessarily flourishing. It’s not the sort of happiness that is derived from relaxing beach days and delicious foodstuff, its the joy you feel when striving toward your potential.

One of the things that I have noticed among my snowflake brothers and sisters is that we are often unhappy. Life is hard, we are underappreciated, underpaid, undervalued, overworked, and overstressed. We love to focus on what is wrong with our lives instead of what is going exceedingly well. And we love to tell those closest to us all about it.

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Statistical esteem

Last year, I came across this Reason article that summarizes data from a recent survey, which included some questions about how Millennials are perceived. The fact that 65% of Americans feel that snowflakes are entitled isn’t all that interesting or surprising, but the 58% percent of Millennials that agree is kind of alarming.

More than half of us think we are entitled, and 71% of the population (inclusive of our generation) feel that the term selfish accurately describes us. While I’m sure that similar surveys would have found similar responses from older generations about any generation when they were young, it is curious how much we agree with this negative assessment of ourselves. Perhaps we have internalized the recent backlash against us and believe that we are lazy, selfish, and entitled as the media (including the present author) suggests. Or maybe we have a nihilistic self-awareness – acknowledging these things without feeling the need to correct them.

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St. Andrew, the Partyflake

Despite his eternally white (albeit grubby) garb, Andrew WK is not a snowflake. In fact, he’s pretty much the opposite, whatever that is. A flake of party lava, exploding with good vibes and a positive message, maybe? He’s definitely not a snowflake, but not in that uber-masculine Ron Swanson sort of way. Sure, Swanson isn’t real, but Nick Offerman seems to embody the character much in the same way that WK embraces his party god-persona.

I’ve been fascinated with Andrew WK’s recent rise to fame, and equally confused by the conspiracy theories the float around the internet about him. He’s been around forever, making upbeat music about things like partying, and also partying. I don’t know how or why he became this advice giving oracle for our generation, but it’s not unfortunate.

Over the months of watching this I’ve had a couple of different reactions to his positive message. Initially, I met it with my hallmark cynicism. Nobody is this happy and positive, he’s obviously up to something nefarious. I decided that he was going to parlay this following into some sort of pyramid scheme or cult (I’m not sure there’s a difference).

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Id, Ego, and Super-Esteem

Despite having many revolutionary ideas, Sigmund Freud is generally known for only a smattering of his stranger concepts. Introductory psychology courses rarely mention him beyond the obligation of teaching that he devised psychotherapy, had stages of psychosexual development, and is largely discredited in modern psychology.

One of Freud’s more enduring concepts is that of the construction of human consciousness. He theorized that the human psyche consisted of three parts: Id, Ego, and Superego. The Id is the first to develop – it is impulsive and depraved and demands instantaneous gratification. Following this, the Ego comes in to regulate the Id in such a way that our needs are met without causing harm to ourselves or others. The Superego is the final bit to develop, and is essentially what we consider our conscious – rewarding good behavior with feelings of pride, and bad behavior with feelings of guilt.

I tell you that to contextualize Freud’s idea that there is also a Cultural Superego, which is created by our cultural norms and is supposed to encourage behavior that moves society in a forward and positive direction.

Think about The Walking Dead, or any other zombie and/or apocalypse movie, television series, or book. A key component to telling these stories is that they take place in an environment in which the cultural Superego has been compromised or destroyed. The culture of the (usually zombie) apocalypse is one operating on Id alone.

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Presidential Snowflakes

Or: President of the United Snowflakes

Much to my chagrin, it’s almost president season again. It’s one of my least favorite times to be a person with a television and the internet, because it manages to bring out the worst in everyone. Social media is filled with would-be pundits rabidly spewing their opinions as the truest of gospel and attacking anyone that cares to disagree. I can already see the ramp up in general stupidity as politicians announce their intentions to run.

As much as I could (and kind of want to) complain at length about how horrendous the whole thing is, I’m not going to. The reason I bring it up at all is because a singular, terrifying thought emerged from the dread of the upcoming election.

A member of my generation will be President one day, and it will be an amazing disaster.

My generation has consistently proven that we aren’t particularly interested in outgrowing our childishness. Because we are all special snowflakes, we have become entrenched in the idea that we are intelligent, important, and infallible. We have been told we can be anything we want to be. If only we want it enough we can be an astronaut, a fighter pilot, a superhero, a surgeon, a movie star, or the motherfucking president.

This is pure, unfiltered bullshit, but we believed it as children because the people who were supposed to be telling us the truth were the ones saying it. I can’t be whatever I wanted to be. If this were the case, I would literally be Batman, but alas, I am not a billionaire, vigilante, or even an actor that gets to pretend to be Batman.

We’ve been told we can be president so we believe it.

Believing you can be anything you want isn’t really that bad, though. It can motivate us to better ourselves or give us confidence to run down our dreams, potentially catching the realistic ones. But we don’t stop at believing, we act like we can be anything we want. We act like we deserve it because we want it, and that’s where it crosses over into shit covered snowflakery.

This sort of ‘I can be whatever I want because everyone says so mentality’ is why everyone is now an armchair everything. Because of this idea that we are a generation of super-geniuses, we think we are experts on all sorts of things that we don’t know a damn thing about. Some of us don’t even bother googling something before spouting off about law, medicine, or politics.

I’m a therapist by trade. You have no idea how often people act like they can do my job because they know a couple of (usually inaccurate) pop-psychology factoids.

I’m one of those obnoxious people that thinks Idiocracy is some sort of cautionary documentary sent back in time to save us from ourselves. Except they got it wrong – the danger isn’t stupidity (even though it’s a tremendous problem), the danger is selfishness and arrogance. We will build the concept of self on these cornerstones and our culture will crumble under the weight of individual execptionalism. By that time we will have elected at least few folks like President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho, who have won the presidency by somehow managing to out-special the other snowflakes.

One day, a person who has always felt like they deserve to be the president will sit at a desk in the oval office. This person will have an intrinsic value set that says they are uniquely exceptional, that they are experts in anything they choose, that their opinions are probably factual, that they can be anything they want to be.

If you aren’t at least a little bit terrified by this idea, then you haven’t been paying attention.

Grand Theft Esteem

Or: Snowflakes and Privilege

I pretty unapologetically love video games. Most of the time I don’t even have the decency to feign embarrassment that it’s one of my hobbies. I have been known to go on long and frequent rants against the idea of video games are only children’s entertainment. We think of it in this way because we are the first generation of adults that grew up playing them. As we have aged, the medium has changed to accommodate our taste. But I digress.

Because I’m a gamer, I logged dozens of hours on Grand Theft Auto V, just like everyone else out there. No matter what the stressful ailment of the day was, a bit of gratuitous mayhem was the cure. I don’t bring up GTA:V to talk about robbing banks, beating hookers to death, or murderous rampages. I bring it up to discuss snowflakes and self-esteem, which shouldn’t really come as a surprise given the very rigidly constructed contents of my blog.

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