Humanity has been marked by progression. Generations have developed reacting to one another and to the different events around the world. In "Generation Me on Trial", the author Jean M. Twenge criticizes millennial and their mode of conduct. He argues that they have only lived in a world where reality television programs and social networks like FaceBook, and that this has greatly influenced the way they behave. He finds that they are lacking in empathy, not being able to understand what other people, including minorities, feel when being attacked. There has also been a downfall in assuming the consequences of their actions and owning the latter; this has been augmented by narcissism and a belief that they are not owners of their own destiny. Furthermore, almost paradoxically, there has been an increase in tolerance, believing that everyone is equal, including less prejudices. While this may be true, Twenge ignores that these aspects are the logical consequences of many aspects of Western tradition, which has always emphasized individualism and an intolerance of differences.
Differences between people are taken for granted in our culture. Everybody believes that he or she is special and unique. This poses two main problems. First, if all people are unique, that is something that they have in common, an aspect that they all share. Second, language allows us to group objects that are dissimilar: for example, while there are many different types of tables, they all fall under the category of table. However, society includes the tendency to believe that everybody is different, and that everybody should be respected as such, because that is in his or her essence.
With this pretended equality, Western culture asks for people to treat each other with tolerance, which has obviously been impossible for the millennia that this has been professed. This is caused by a profound paradox in this tradition: everybody is different, yet they are all the same. Similarly, society makes everybody strive to be their best, not realizing that this competition is contrary to equality. The normalization and intolerance of particular variations is even found in modern science. When one looks to tolerate the other, what must be tolerated are these differences, which society looks to eradicate.
Staying within the Western tradition, the author seems to not recognize this. “Tolerance and equality are among Generation Me's greatest strengths, and should continue to be celebrated” (Twenge 4). If everybody is equal, why is there the need for tolerance? While many of Twenge’s arguments are solid and logical, he omits one of the most important aspects of this study: millennial’ immersion in a millennial tradition. One could say that contemporary culture is the epitome of Western culture, its most developed achievement.
In conclusion, while Jean M. Twenge’s "Generation Me on Trial" is a very interesting article that raises many valid points, it does not take into account the fact that this generation has been shaped by many others and Western civilization as a whole, including its philosophy. The individualization and intolerance that the author decries is in the fundamental structure of this culture; millennials are only the result of this train that has been on its path for thousands of years. If one wants to run against this tendency, society as a whole would have to be reformed. While this is a noble task, it first needs the recognition of the causes of the problem, which are in society itself, wherein we are immersed.
Tweng, Jean M. “Generation Me on Trial.” The Chronicle of Higher Education. 18 March 2012. 1-2. <http://chronicle.com/article/Generation-Me-on-Trial/131246>