We, the millennials, were the first generation to be told that we were special when we were growing up. Gone was the historical idea that most of us were to grow up to be ordinary people, and only a few were ever going to be special. No. In this generation, everyone of us was going to be special. A lot of us of course took it on board, and imagined very special futures for ourselves. We were not just going to get a boring job and live a boring life like our parents and every generation before them did.
And now, apparently some people in society aren’t that happy with the way we believe in our own specialness. They are blaming the people who brought us up this way – our parents, our teachers, the media, and everybody else they can think of. Generation Y is the generation of entitlement, they say. No matter how hard we work, and it doesn’t even matter that many of us work harder than any generation before us, we have this new and radical attitude about our own specialness, that old styled bosses just would not take. Pretending to sound logical, those intending on pouring buckets of cold water onto our specialness would offer gems like ‘if everyone was special, what would ordinary mean?’
Millennials themselves are now divided into two camps – those who have held onto their belief of their own specialness, and those who have now gobbled up the anti-special propaganda and made peace with their own ‘ordinariness’, never to even think about being special again. Some of the latter group have even come out in force to convert the rest of our generation, as if recognising our ‘ordinariness’ is the key to avoid having a quarter life crisis.
But here’s my take on it. The idea that everyone is special, or is at least potentially special, is a revolution that is just starting to happen. We can hold close to this idea, and like the first generation of women who realised that they were actually equal to men and deserved equal rights, start a revolution for real. No longer will we be happy to be just nameless robots, working for the ‘machine’ that is society. No longer will any generation from now on be happy just to live ordinary lives where everyone is easily replaceable by their colleague, and where the main theme of life is simply to work, make just enough money to pay bills, hope to make more money but never quite making it there, and then retiring and dying. A society arranged this way will be seen in a similar way to serfdom in the middle ages, when we eventually look back.
Or we can just give up. Every generation before us didn’t have the luxury of feeling special anyway, why should we need to have it? Maybe if the early women’s rights fighters took the giving up path, they would have said that every generation of women before them had no choices in life either, so it’s not essential for them to be able to vote, to be independent, and to have a proper education. But if they thought this way, where would we be now?
Society is now ready to embrace the idea that ‘everyone is special’ because it has evolved enough. We, at least in the Western world, are (mostly) able to tolerate each other’s different opinions, creeds and lifestyles, like never before. Society doesn’t require conformity to function like it used to. Whilst many people still desire conformity, it isn’t a necessary condition for peace anymore. Technology has also helped. Anyone can publish a book or make and sell their music nowadays, if they want to. And through what they have to say, everyone can show their specialness – the unique combination of persona, experiences, beliefs and decisions that make them special, unique from any other person that has ever lived. The tastes and standards of the elite still discourage people who don’t fit those standards from many forms of expression, but the internet is only young, and in a few decades time none of those limitations would matter anymore. In other words, the revolution is beginning because the time is right, and it’s up to us whether to take it to its conclusion.
In a world where everyone is special, the boring and menial work will still need to be done. I hope that eventually, recognising that everyone is special, society will adjust to distribute the menial work more or less equally amongst everyone, and it would just be a part of life that we all have to have, like cleaning our houses or taking out the rubbish. But most importantly, nobody’s life would be defined by it. Everyone will instead be defined by the things that make them special. Life will be so much more meaningful.
It’s our chance to take up this historical revolution. If you want to be part of this revolution, simply continue to believe that you are special, and so are the people around you. Or you can choose to just leave it. There were women who didn’t want the vote back then, after all. It seems that in every revolution, some people just have to be on the wrong side of history, even if it didn’t make sense.
There are ordinary meals. There are ordinary computers. There are no ordinary people, except those who have been brainwashed to believe that they are ordinary.