When driving through one of the more Hipster-ish areas of the Greater Boston Area recently, I was cut off in traffic by one of the horde of 18-21 year-old students here: I honked at her.
She snapped her head at me, mouth open and lip curled, the look on her face one of shock, moral outrage, and disgust; she then mouthed to me (in her horror): “are you fucking kidding me?”
This is not an isolated incident. For whatever reason, it seems to happen most often with girls and middle-aged men. It has happened to me hundreds of times in the past several years.
Usually when someone cuts me off violently that one has the decency to keep the public conscience intact by pretending not to notice me, to have somehow missed me. I’m often enough annoyed by this, but I grant that it may very well have been an honest (even if potentially fatal) mistake: they might be thinking about their dying mother, &c. I can live with this well enough.
But this brings me to my point, occasioned by the outraged girl mentioned above: these Millennials, more so than for my Gen-X-er cohort, but still also for the Boomers before them, far too often cannot tell the difference between personal annoyance and moral outrage; in some cases, they cannot tell the difference between their own sense of entitlement and being morally in the right.
The girl above clearly confused the concentrate of her feelings with the clarity of a sound ethical judgment, and this is a dangerous thing, especially when it is reinforced by ritual vocal habits (e.g., “are you fucking kidding me?”) that help to summon and circulate this emotional concentrate, disabling thought and judgment: there is an established slot within a narrative ready-to-hand that can banish any need for responsibility or reflection.