I'm really beginning to think the millennials of Western society need something genuinely horrific to happen to them, just so they can finally understand what real fear is. At the risk of sounding like the miserable Gen-Xer that I am, these kids have absolutely no idea how good they have it if they've got the luxury of manufacturing paralyzing night terrors over the tiniest of things.
A couple of days ago we published a piece here that examined the trend on American college campuses toward not simply the implementation of "trigger warnings" on difficult conversations but the creation of full-on "safe spaces." These are areas set aside by universities -- often at the hectoring of a handful of vocal student activists -- that fragile kids can retreat to when they feel threatened by such things as language or ideas they disagree with. A safe space set up at Brown University during an on-campus lecture about rape culture was reportedly filled with "cookies, coloring books, bubbles, Play-Doh, calming music, pillows, blankets and a video of frolicking puppies, as well as students and staff members trained to deal with trauma."
Trauma. Because two people on the other side of the school are discussing sexual assault.
The goal of many of the activists who push for these kinds of things is that eventually the entire breadth of their college campuses will be safe spaces, where intellects and emotions are never challenged or offended, merely catered to and coddled. Given our lack of collective history in the States, I figured this kind of self-infantalization among college students was the kind of thing that was, if not confined only to here, at least more prevalent and pronounced here than anywhere else. Jesus Christ, was I wrong.
Ladies and gentlemen, and everything in between or beyond, I give you the National Union of Students Women's Conference in the UK, which is going on this week. Please, please -- don't applaud, as that will scare off some of the attendees. In case you think I'm making that up, the BBC reports that those taking part in the event are being asked to refrain from applauding as a show of appreciation or praise. "Some delegates are requesting that we move to jazz hands rather than clapping, as it's triggering anxiety. Please be mindful!" tweeted the official NUS account. As much as I don't want this column to turn into me essentially repeating the main points of this ridiculousness because I'm too fucking dumbfounded to come up with any other response -- jazz hands.
You can spend all day trying to figure out how looking out into an audience and seeing 500 people silently, maniacally waving their hands at you isn't infinitely more terrifying than people simply applauding; you'll still get nowhere with it.
Beyond the call for jazz hands, there's the groan-inducing “Disruptive Direct Action” -- a meaningless buzzphrase that needed to be retired ten seconds after it was first dreamed up -- the NUS is calling for in its self-parodic manifesto. Among the groups demands: that everyone in London be paid a "universal basic income" of around £1,500 even if they "don't want to (work)" because everyone contributes something worthwhile to the overall society; that the entire prison system be abolished; and that the “both white privilege and male privilege" of much of the gay community be addressed immediately.
Yes, we're going to have this pointless and stupid conversation again somewhere on the planet. The women of the NUS believe that gay white men need to stop appropriating the culture of black women by using "black" slang and occasionally adopting "black female" mannerisms. They quote a brilliantly conceived little piece of click-bait published in Time last year -- written by an American college student, of course -- that accused white gays of the outright "theft" of black female culture. They take that column and, man, they just run with it, ultimately making a superhuman leap of logic by wondering if the low turnout by gay black women to the NUS's LGBT conference might have something to do with not feeling "safe and comfortable" around gay white men.
It goes on and on from there, but you get the general idea. As I said a couple of days ago, I have absolutely no idea how these kids are going to survive when they get tossed out into real world, which doesn't give a single fuck about their various traumas or hang-ups or their need to feel safe at all times. They may think they're doing themselves and their ilk a favor by trying to surround them all with a protective bubble full of stuffed animals and love, but it's a short-sighted way of looking at things. The reality is that the ladies of the NUS, like so many of these students across the largely privileged -- yes, altogether privileged -- West are going to be screwed in a few years. They're going to be like children whose parents never allowed them to be exposed to bacteria so that their immune systems could develop into something formidable. They'll have no defenses whatsoever.
In other words, they're gonna be completely screwed.
Seriously, for your own good -- nut up, girls.