Millennials

A few days ago, I woke up with a terrifying realization:

I am a millennial.

Do you know what a millennial is? Even if you do, it won’t stop me from explaining it anyway. A millennial is someone who was born anywhere between the early 1980s and the early 2000s. I was born in 1992, so I’m pretty much right in the middle of it all.

Why was this a terrifying realization?

Well, millennials are notorious for their narcissism, selfishness, laziness, and entertainment addiction. In fact, pseudo-scientists have recently created a formula that can accurately assess how narcissistic a millennial is, based on the amount of selfies taken per hour.

N=S/h

Vermeer Selfie

In his TEDxSF talk, Scott Hess talks about the five milestones in every twenty-something’s life:

  1. Complete school
  2. Leave home
  3. Become financially independent
  4. Marry someone
  5. Have a child

And here are some statistics about the matter:

  • In 1960, 77% of women and 65% of men have reached all five goals before hitting 30.
  • In 2010, 13% of women and 10% of men have reached all five goals before hitting 30.

As you can see, there is a drastic decrease in the percentage, which speaks for the fact that millennials are lazy indeed.

Except me; I’m a hard worker.

- Every millennial

And I’m one of them. How great.

Young baristas at coffee shops, cashiers, and waiters and waitresses have a bad reputation for being annoyed by the arrival of new costumers whom they have to serve. In this short clip, Louis C.K., an American actor and comedian, states that 20-year-olds “haven’t done anything for anyone, ever,” mainly because young people have just been consuming “education, food, love, and iPods,” and have nothing to offer the world.

But you know, we are treated like children up until we go to college, and then suddenly we are supposed to behave like adults. What kind of human is capable of switching from childhood to adulthood over summer break? How are we supposed to be mature adults capable of dealing with the hardships of life, when just a few weeks ago, we had to ask our teachers if we could go to the bathroom?

There are hardly any parents who initiate their children into adulthood once they reach that age. Most of us have to figure it out on our own. Some people may argue that this helps us become independent, but you can’t deny that we are known for being emotionally fickle and irresponsible, and not primarily independent.

The face of a fickle, irresponsible millennial

The face of a fickle, irresponsible millennial, who succumbed to the pressures of fame and fortune

My generation seems to be full of people who want to be understood and accepted. But more than that, they want to do something significant. It’s the same with every generation. And the older people will always think the younger people are crazy.

“I can understand why the youth perceives us, their life predecessors, as hypocrites; we smoked pot when we were young, and now we get mad at our children for smoking pot as well.” – Jonathan E. Mule

Also known as the YOLO Generation, Generation Y, or the Swag Generation, millennials are actually deep thinkers. Contrary to popular belief, these young people are asking great questions to which authority figures don’t have the right answers. Young people are used to hearing unsatisfying responses such as, “That’s just the way things are,” or, “You can’t do much about that.”

In turn, young people don’t see these figures (teachers, parents, employers, etc.) as people with authority, which is precisely why teenage rebellion is so common in the West. We’re the ones who stand in the front of protests. We have the zeal and the energy to change things, because we have realized that there is something wrong with the world. So what kind of a kick in the nuts is a statement such as, “You can’t do much about that”?

Obviously the world isn’t offering us a mission worth our while. So we make our own missions: how many bottles of vodka can you chug before passing out? Is it possible to swallow a tablespoon of cinnamon powder? Can you climb to the top of the One World Trade Center and B.A.S.E. jump off it?

How far can I go?

We love to push our limits. And the older generation scoffs at it, thinking we are irresponsible, entertainment-addicted narcissists. But in reality, we just haven’t found a mission worth our while, so we settle for superficial stuff like coning, planking, and twerking. Then we post it on Vine, Facebook, and YouTube, get millions of views, and become famous for something trivial.

swag

We’re idle because we have no mission, not because we love being idle. So wouldn’t it be absolutely fantastic if someone gave us something crazy to do? Something meaningful. Not a job, but a mission. We need it. We need to lock eyes with a vision that is bigger than ourselves. Something so extraordinary that entire governments have to change their focus from spending money on prisons and military to supporting its own youth and their innovative projects. Young people rallied together for Kony 2012 and Occupy Wall Street all over the world. Isn’t that a clear indication?

“You can’t just go about your life with such lofty ideas. Life is hard work. You first have to complete school, leave home, become financially independent, marry someone, and have a child. Once you have your life together, when you’re more mature and experienced, around the 30 year mark or so, then we can talk about changing the world.”

Haha.


How The Information Age Has Deformed Our Society

A few days ago I was invited to speak about alternative education at a meeting near Heilbronn, Germany. The meeting was awesome and I had some great conversations and made some new friends. One of the conversations I had with a guy, who was around my age, was about a special thing that has the power to make you rich, get you killed, or allow you to graduate college amongst other possible scenarios. This dangerous and amazing thing is called information.

Konrad Zuse

Thanks to the invention of the microchip in 1941 by Konrad Zuse, a German inventor, a new era was born: the Information Age. Zuse’s invention spurred a global revolution in terms of how information was stored and, later on, shared.

Having information meant having power. The news organizations who were the first to know about something could control how much they wanted the public to know. Just like governments, corporations, churches, schools, and, of course, the general media – film, music, and contemporary literature.

But not only did they have the ability to control the amount of information shared with John Doe and Jane Roe, they also had the ability to manipulate information. You know, “tell the people what they want to hear.”

This enabled the media, especially in the West, to easily mold and shape the social system. They set the trends. They dictated the pace, quality, and structure of life. Where else would you get the most up-to-date fashion and lifestyle trends?

Cosmopolitan

The media allowed itself to define buzzwords like money, equality, sex, democracy, and happiness. What clothes should a woman wear? What car should a man drive? The media gives you the illusion of freedom to do what you want. Bigger is better. Be rich and famous and drink Coca-Cola. Cosmopolitan will tell you exactly how to lose 10 pounds in one week, and, at the same time, remind you to feel beautiful in the body you currently have, and, most importantly, let you know how to sex a sexy sex with sex because, well, sex.

Fast forward to the year 2014.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology as well as Harvard and many other prestigious universities are offering their curricula online for free. You don’t necessarily need to attend a college to get the same information as college students. It’s all available on the Internet.

Having trouble jumpstarting your car? Look it up on YouTube. Forgot who Henry VIII of England was? Wikipedia’s got your back. Want to know what your ex is up to? Facebook. Hungry for lasagne but have no clue how to make it? Google it.

More information, however, automatically means more opportunities to manipulate it. It also means that more people and organizations create and provide an increasing amount of irrelevant information that does nothing to help society grow in a positive way but instead does a lot to help society set their focus on things that should never be a priority in the first place.

Distract them. Real life is boring and hard, so make society focus on the fun and entertaining aspects of life.

For example, depending on the size of their online following, the opinions and musings of some people who have nothing to say somehow matter more than the voices of some of those who are capable of instigating a world-changing movement.

There are thousands of teenagers who are incredibly famous for virtually no reason. When they tweet things like, “Just ate a sandwich with wayyy too much cheese lol #cheeseoverdose,” they get retweets and favorites in the thousands.

There are also thousands of teenagers who have written amazing but ignored (not undiscovered) articles that might shift your paradigm of, say, the concept of tithing in churches or the effectiveness of alternative education.

The man who shouts the loudest will get the crowd’s attention. It doesn’t matter if the man is saying anything important; the fact that he’s shouting it means the crowd is listening for however brief of a moment, and a handful will continue paying attention.

- Jonathan E. Mule

Homer Simpson, for example, can attest to the validity and degree of truthfulness of Mule’s quote.

Homer Simpson

This is especially dangerous when considering that, on average, the young generation spends north of twenty hours a week perusing the Internet and consuming content that doesn’t necessarily require the participation of the brain. What kind of teenager in their right mind would go on the Internet to learn something when there’s Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr?

For example, there is this thing called clickbait. An article titled, “Five Surprisingly Unhealthy Foods You Should Really Avoid,” makes you want to find out what these five surprisingly unhealthy foods are. And after reading the article, you find out that the five items were McDonald’s burgers, Domino’s pizza, soda with high fructose corn syrup, deep-fried potato sticks, and chocolate-coated chocolate balls with a core made out of chocolate. But the phrasing of the title lured you into wasting ten minutes of your time, hence the name “clickbait.”

The point is that we have too much information and no guidance to find content that actually matters. This means that a large part of our social structure is powered by misinformation and irrelevant content that has been filtered carefully, effectively puppeteering the lives of several generations worth of potential world changers.

Media

In regards to how this affects the youth: they don’t get authenticity. Nobody looks them in the eye and calls them out on their bullshit, because the main source of information on how to live life comes from the media, which tells them that everything is ok. There is an overabundance of tolerance, anybody can do what they want to do, and nobody should judge a person who takes selfies at funerals and then posts those pictures on Instagram for the whole world to see. That’s fine. Why do you care? It doesn’t affect you. Mind your own business and be politically correct. If someone wants to take selfies at a funeral, let them do it, you know? It’s their life and they’re in control of what they do, and you need to be ok with that.

As William Ernest Henley said in his poem Invictus:

I am the master of my fate:

I am the captain of my soul.

You are in control of your life.

What a sexy statement. I love that. I control my own life. Absolutely brilliant!

That is the biggest lie the media has effectively turned into a truth. Welcome to the Information Age and may the odds be ever in your favor.


I Wrote This Short Story With A Complete Stranger

I did an experiment the other day. I wanted to see if two writers who have never met each other could write a good short story together. I did this experiment on a site called omegle.com, where you can chat anonymously with random people from all over the world. I put “writing” as my interest and got linked with some person who also put “writing” in their interests list. We didn’t plan a plot line or anything. We just alternated writing back and forth, and what emerged was this strangely good piece of prose. A few spelling adjustments were made, but otherwise I haven’t altered the story.

Raven

It wasn’t the prettiest of days and the early morning commute was the same monotonous drag as always.

He had been staring across the street. A crow was standing unusually tall on a naked tree. He didn’t notice the bus coming from the distance like he usually does and was surprised when it slowed down in front of him and opened its door. He stumbled into it and scrambled in his back pocket to get out his transit pass. The grey-haired driver gave a tedious nod, oblivious to the post-expiration date.

The man shuffled to the middle of the bus and found an empty seat next to a seemingly nervous woman who appeared to have pulled two different socks out of her drawer earlier this morning. He raised his vision to see what was in her hands: a black book with no front or back cover.

He knew the hour was too young to strike up small talk with a stranger, but, an avid reader himself, he couldn’t contain his curiosity. He leaned a bit towards the old woman, causing her to idly move her arms trying to find a more comfortable position. He caught the title from the corner of his eyes in its usual resting place, the top of the left page.

“The Dark Collector”

Fitting title, he thought.

He tried not to think much of it, but the woman’s nervous fumbling, her mismatching socks, and the black book all had a distant sense of eeriness about it. He looked out the window on his right and spotted another crow sitting smugly on a wire. It was just a moment’s glance before the bus passed by it, but he felt the crow staring right back at him. He looked back to his left, but the woman had closed her book and now had her hands resting on their respective knees.

Maybe just an odd start, he mused. Considering the fact that he had burnt his toast and had spent a good five minutes looking for his keys before having left his apartment, he instinctively knew the day could only get better from now on. He glanced at his Swiss-made wrist watch, not fully having registered the time, and then back out the window.
Suddenly he heard a soft voice.

“Excuse me, sir?”

It was the lady sitting next to him.

He let out a nervous cough while turning his head towards the woman, and squeezed out a reply.

“Yes?”

“I’m sorry to bother you,” she said, barely audible over the rumbling of the diesel motor, “but aren’t you Thomas Harten? The chief editor at TIMES Magazine?”

Why would Thomas Harten, chief editor at TIMES Magazine, be taking the bus in the morning? he thought. Nonetheless he wanted to know what she had to say.

“I’m surprised you recognized me, ma’am.”

“I’m a fan of your work,” she said with a forced smile. “Elisabeth Parre.” Her outstretched hand was met with a firm handshake.

“Pleasure, Miss Parre,” he said. So this is what it’s like to be famous? he mused.

The woman cleared her throat and opened her black book. The pages looked worn out and the print was sloppy. “I was wondering if you might have some room for a quote for your next issue.”

Just as he was about to blurt out a yes, he thought there’d be no way TIMES had any room left on their next issue. She’d see right through it – they always work several issues ahead.

“No, I’m sorry,” he said, with a saddened voice out of small smile – perfect for a chief editor, he thought – “although we may be able to squeeze a quote from a fan of ours in the following one.”

The woman’s face lit up, but, looking closely, he could tell that she was acting. He didn’t know why – she’s talking to the chief editor of TIMES Magazine after all.

“Brilliant,” she exclaimed. Pointing to a sentence in her book, she said, “This is the one I had in mind. I think it’s beautiful.”

He squinted at the smudgy script and managed to decipher it. What he read wasn’t a quote. It was a name. “Thomas Harten.” A moment of shock gripped him. The bus slowed to a stop, and the woman immediately shut the book and swiftly stepped off the bus. Before he could say a word, the doors closed behind her and the bus kept moving.

He tried to open up a window to get some air, but the damn thing wouldn’t budge. He looked up from the mechanism and made out a shadow on lamp post far ahead, another one of those odd crows. This was too much, he had to get out of the bus. He ran past the other passengers, pushing a few of them along the way, and got to the driver.

“I’m feeling sick”, he said. “I need to get off. I think I might throw up.”

The bus driver irritatedly sighed, stopped the bus at the nearest intersection, and opened up the door.

He stumbled out of the bus and grabbed onto the bus sign post.

“What the hell,” he exhaled heavily. He shook his head trying to clear his mind. “What the hell was that?” he said, louder than he intended. Breathless, he scrambled for his phone in his pocket.

He scrolled past his contacts, made out the entry for his work place, and dialed it.

“Hello?” he paused, waiting for a reply and heard a warm, “Yessir!” He thought it was strange but made nothing of it.

“I don’t think I’ll be able to make it today, I feel horrible.” He waited and added, “I think I’ve been cursed.”

He heard a nervous laughter on the other end, “No problem, I’ll make sure to inform everyone,” said the man on the line. He was about to say thank you and hang up when he heard, “Anything else I can help you with, Mr. Harten?”


Jan Simson – Dustin Dooley – Miracles Drum Cover

This is my brand new drum cover of Dustin Dooley’s song “Miracles.” Hope you guys enjoy it. You can buy Dustin’s debut album on iTunes or on his website. It’s special because he sang and played all the instruments himself like the boss he is. Cheers.


Why We Love Apocalyptic Movies

Photo credit: Zombies by IcedCoffee

Photo credit: Zombies by IcedCoffee

I recently watched World War Z with Brad Pitt. That sounds weird. I don’t mean that Brad and I were hanging out and then watched World War Z together. I watched the movie all by myself in my office with a bag of potato chips and a can of diet coke, because I gotta watch my line.

It’s quite the motion picture, so if you haven’t seen it yet and you’re into apocalyptic narratives, I suggest you go ahead and proceed to eventually come to the point at which you feel ready to watch it.

There seems to be this trend going on about the apocalypse. Zombies. Pandemics. The end of the world. Global destruction. And the film industry seems to have understood that we crave stories about surviving the end of the world.

Since the beginning of film till the year 2000, about 112 apocalyptic movies have been released. Since the turn of the second millennium, there have been a total of 114 apocalyptic movies. That means in 14 years, we’ve created more apocalyptic movies than in the past 60. Of course there are more end-of-the-world movies, though. I haven’t mentioned the dystopian movies (Equilibrium), the post-apocalyptic movies (The Hunger Games), and all the terrible and amazing zombie movies, or the immensely popular television series The Walking Dead.

But why do we love it so much?

British philosopher and pipe-smoker Jonathan E. Mule recently ventured to state that, “Apocalyptic movies carry a certain sense of a semi-irrational yet eerily realistic possibility of such events happening in our lifetime.” Upon asking whether the attraction to such movies has a cultural aspect, Mule said, “Of course. Our lives are boring enough, and we can’t afford adventure because we’re too bloody busy working, so we escape into a fictional world where buildings are collapsing and havoc is spreading and zombies are gnawing on your neighbor’s leg.” The best part, Mule said, is that, “we feel like the heroes. We watch a movie where the hero saves the world from its seemingly inevitable death. We love the concept of one hero saving the entire human species.”

We’re looking for some kind of thrill, some kind of intense action. But not like a war where humans are fighting humans. We want to fight zombies and aliens in unity, where all humans come together and battle a common enemy. We want something to attack our home planet, and we want to defend it against all odds and still come out on top. “Such movies cater to our natural survival instincts,” Mule said, “and that’s why I think we can’t help but love it.”

Unfortunately, apocalyptic movies are made for entertainment, not training. And that means even after watching World War Z, we’re still stuck in our dead-end jobs in our meaningless existence. Unless, of course, there is something else out there worth fighting for other than merely our own unimportant lives.

 


2014

Last ride down the mountain at sunset.

Last ride down the mountain at sunset

The first week of the new year is coming to an end. It was a good week. I went skiing with my friends in the Swiss alps (watch the video here), visited my good friend and extremely talented musician, Dustin Dooley (whose debut album you can get here), and shared life with friends in local bars, in each other’s living rooms, or on the streets of the beautiful city of Basel.

So far so good.

But I have no idea what this year will bring. I don’t know what I’ll be doing, I don’t know where I’ll be going, I don’t know whom I’ll meet. I do know, however, that I don’t know what’s in store for me in 2014.

It’s almost like I’m in a little boat at a dock in Lisbon, Portugal, ready to sail across the Atlantic to Miami, Florida. You know how sometimes you look out into the ocean and the waters look so still, and you think to yourself, “It can’t be rough out there; it looks so calm”? That’s a big illusion. You don’t know what’s going to happen. You might drown, get eaten by some weird sea creature whose existence nobody has  documented yet, get seasick, or, even worse, end up getting your hair all messed up in a giant waterspout. But you might also make it to Miami in one piece and party like it’s 2015, because it might take you a full year to get there.

He just compared life to the ocean. Wow.

I know it’s a cliché, but there’s a reason why clichés are used so much: they carry veritas, which is Latin for “truth.”

This year I’ve decided not to make a new year’s resolutions list. Why not? Well, have you actually completed all of your resolutions for last year? You did? Oh.

In that case, here’s my unusually long list of new year’s resolutions:

  • Make young people curious.

Voilà.

Young people, which is a relative term, so let me narrow it down a tad so you don’t feel like I’m talking about grandparents who believe they’re still #partying it up with their phonographs. I mean the 12-18 year-olds. These young people think about a lot more than we might expect.

While I was visiting Dustin, he told me something really interesting. He said, “When you’re having a deep conversation with a 12-year-old, just close your eyes and listen. Don’t picture a young face; just listen to what they’re actually saying.” The sophistication and depth of their thoughts might catch you off-guard.

But these thoughts need guidance. If you give a 15-year-old a can of black spray paint and tell them they can do whatever they want with it, they will run off into the city and graffiti the notorious anarchist A onto street signs and residential apartment walls. But give them a simple instruction such as, “Create something truly beautiful,” and you’ll be surprised at what they can come up with.

Young people are looking for a mission, and because nobody gives them a mission worth dying for, they settle to believe what the media tells them to do with their lives: party, drink, do drugs, have sex, no regrets, you’re young. And we all know that the media cares much about the lives of gullible youth.

This year I want to make young people curious about their mission. A ship without coordinates will get lost in the ocean and sink, but a ship with coordinates will brave anything that comes its way and make it to its destination.

So here’s to 2014.

Cheers.


The Christmas Brats on Twitter

It seems that every year on Christmas day for the past four winters or so, an increasing amount of young humans get very upset at their parents for not getting them the present they wanted. They let the world know about their hatred towards their parents, and, more importantly, the gifts they got instead of the ones they wanted, via twitter.

Angry Christmas Tweet

There are teenagers who complain about things they should be grateful for, or not complain about in the first place. American comedian and writer, Streeter Seidell, calls this behavior “White Whine.”

If I put myself in these young people’s shoes and really try to somehow understand the shitstorm of unfairness that life has pitted them against without mercy, I can’t. I simply do not, and can not, mind you, understand how someone younger than my youngest brother can be frighteningly upset at a holiday tradition as well as the two people who brought them into the world to begin with just because they got a gift they didn’t want. It’s not even like they didn’t get any presents. They got great presents. Just not the ones they wanted.

This type of youthful folk, the bitchy rude angry twitter society, is extremely interesting. They are not even a speck of dust in comparison to the other 7.2 billion people who roam this planet with them. The world owes them nothing yet they take everything for granted and demand more for themselves. They are entitled to a luxuriously good life and how dare anyone deal them a bad hand. Well, not even a bad hand. They could have a four of a kind and tweet, “So pissed I didn’t get a straight flush. #ihatepoker”

In December 2013, an ill-documented study was conducted in which unprofessional scientists have daringly ventured to coin this kind of youth “Christmas Brats.”

Here’s a list of Christmas Brats’ tweets.

On the other hand, which is holding a Starbucks venti caramel frappuccino, these so-called Christmas Brats are probably not liked by their mates in school, their parents got a divorce at a young age, their puppy got run over by their stepfather’s Ferrari, all their other “friends” have cool gadgets, technologies, and vehicles whereas they don’t, and so the peer pressure is too high for a teenager to handle. Thus they resort to their venting outlet, which is precisely located at http://www.twitter.com.

But if they live in some Tony Stark mansion and poop into toilets made of gold and frozen elf tears and yet have the hairless balls to proclaim their utter repugnance at how horrible their parents are for getting them an iPad Nano 5S instead of a ‘Stang, then they might as well just go ahead and give away what they don’t want to the young people who are sitting on the side of the street at -5˚C with a shredded blanket and dirty clothes, thankful for every cent they get from passersby.

Inspiration Avenue wishes every single one of you a belated happy Christmas and, hopefully, a joyous new year, too.


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