Millennial Malaise by Alex Kime

Schrijver: Charlie Groen

What do think of the term Millennial Malaise; what would be your malaise?

What comes to my mind is ‘angst’. Sometimes I classify that as dissonance — ideas in your head that just don’t quite make sense. Liberty and justice for all, but housing isn’t guaranteed, healthcare isn’t guaranteed…? To be alive at this time as young adults and taking stock of the world where we see how the people who have been in power have really done all that they can to mess with the world. There has been choice after choice, opportunity after opportunity, to prioritize people over profits, longterm over short-term; and we’ve squandered those opportunities. That is why I love to validate the angst of my students, myself and my peers: We should be angry, we should be more than a little messed up by this!

The Millennial Death Race

Seeing company bailouts being prioritized over the Flint Water crisis. To take in all of this contrasting information and still say to young adults ‘well, you need to go work, conform to stereotypes, you need to be fighting for your spot on the Forbes 30 under 30 list!’ Sometimes I jokingly call this the millennial death race: who is working the hardest, pulling the most all-nighters, who is taking the least time off, who doesn’t have friends, doesn’t have partners, is solely committed to the work? There is this push to keep glorifying that mindset instead of being abjectly horrified. This can manifest into justifiable or righteous anger.

So when I hear the phrase millennial malaise, it comes back to this notion of normalization, ‘oh you shouldn’t be angry at this’, ‘this is just how the world is and you should accept it.’ What if I don’t want to? And what if I can’t?

The status quo is killing us. Literally. So this notion of ‘you are going to change when you get older, you are going to sell out just like we did’…, I would love to not have that happen to me. It would be so beautiful if we resisted that. Because when we aren’t politically organizing, when we aren’t scaffolding each other into this larger consciousness, it can come out really sideways. I have a lot of friends that are depressed, and I am one of them. We experience huge amounts of anxiety and burnouts, because we have been trying to conform to this brutal world.

Hope is a Discipline

We use these two models in class. One that is the cycle of socialization, you are born and then your parents instill you with norms and values, and then you go to school, you see media etc. This cycle shows how you pick up what we are supposed to know about the world, what constitutes ‘normal’, ‘good’, and ‘moral’. But we always pair it with the cycle of liberation. Because otherwise you’ll see this cycle as all these huge systems invested in keeping us down, separate, uncritical. It can fall into nihilism— what’s the point, fuck it!  

The wonderful organizer, educator, and curator Mariame Kaba once heard a nun say “hope is a discipline.” It is work to stay in a place where we can think that this can get better. Where we can use technology and work together to address some of these huge problems that are facing us. Unless you have communities to organise and a sense of hope, it is more than understandable to feel this notion of unease, or really sad and morbid. Feeling the malaise.

It is about what you do with that malaise, this dissonance. Because if you just become well adjusted and you tell the voice(s) of your consciousness to cool it: maybe this is wrong, maybe we are killing the ability to live on this planet — but what can I do?

Surely, it is not an individual person that is going to save the world. The superhero mentality, the myth of the titan Atlas holding up the world for us; individualism is not going to save us. There is enough hatred, and to be honest, corporate interests, to silence any one person. And so it is much more about how we can understand ourselves as being connected to one another.
Some of the best parts of who I am have been nurtured by vibrant communities that that were and are multi-racial, multi-gender, artists, thinkers, and the politically-inclined. I try to recognize that this experience is rare. In a country with a long history of segregation, we have so many people existing in homogeneous enclaves. My relatives that grew up in these little rural farming communities, for example, have had such different baseline experiences around people and politics due in no small part to the people they are in contact with. In order to not give into the despair of feeling different, and not being understood there, I have found spaces through the internet and also thankfully IRL, connecting with people in the area who do feel similarly to me, or want to engage in good faith anyway. This has been part of giving me a sense of hope, sanity and validation.

        I am so lucky to be in a position at IGR where I feel like what I do matters, where being a source of dissonance, saying ‘this doesn’t make sense’, ‘we should be mad at this’. It gives me a sense of hope. Being connected to the vibrant and beautiful people in my communities, that gives me a sense of hope. Looking on Twitter and other means of digital sharing, organizing and communicating, looking at grassroots artistic, cultural, and technological innovation; all of this gives me a determined sense of hope.