It’s been a while since I posted a rant. I guess I’m fortunate that nothing has fired me up lately. But yesterday I was confronted by such a blatant display of smug self-righteousness that I had to write about it.
I was sitting on the Metro, commuting to work. My normal routine. The typical commuter is silent, anti-social, lost in our own introspection before the start of our workdays. Suddenly a group of college girls gets on the train. They were holding cups of coffee, which annoyed me, because scofflaws of the Metro rules (no food or drink!) always annoy me, but coffee in particular is especially egregious. If the train makes a sudden stop and you dump your scalding extra-venti cup of decaf-soy-mocha-choco-caramel-pumpkin spice-2000 calories of over-sweetened glop onto my lap, we’re going to have us some issues.
Anyway, the subject of coffee caused one especially shrill and over-caffeinated young lady in this group to launch into a lecture about fair trade. She started by admitting that she’s not well informed about fair trade or exactly sure what it means, but that didn’t stop her from proceeding to opine about it for the next ten minutes. Her speech was punctuated by “like” and “oh my god” in that way that a certain demographic of young women have of speaking these days, which I refer to as “Neo-Valley Girl.” Because everything old is new again, and inexplicably, it is once again in fashion to speak as if the space between one’s ears is occupied by the emptiness of an absolute vacuum. I gathered from their remarks that these particular young ladies were students of one of the nation’s most expensive private universities in the DC area, which I will not name here, but it has the words George and town in its name and according to its website it costs an average of $65,000 per year in tuition and boarding to attend.
After wrapping up her impromptu speech about the merits of coffee farmers earning a living wage, (like, oh my god, I totally support Starbucks because they sell fair trade coffee. It’s like, awesome!), the young authority on everything launched into a screed about sweatshops and the inherent unfairness of the clothing industry, and how she, like, totally tried buying only sustainably produced clothing for a while, but like, had to give it up, because, like, it’s just, like, totally impossible to find clothes that like aren’t like made in like sweatshops. She cited as her source of knowledge a lecture she had attended by a husband and wife activist duo who had once lived in a Nike factory in some part of the world (her knowledge of Geography was not sufficient to explain where), and had lived on the same wages of the workers, for like a whole month. And oh my god, they had to choose between buying a Motrin for a headache or eating that day.
At this point, for want of an icepick to jam into my eardrums, I stuffed my fingers as deeply into my ears as possible to try to block the torrent of ill-informed idiocy spewing from her mouth. It helped filter the shrillness of her voice, but unfortunately the content made it through to my cerebral cortex. She continued to opine about the global food production system, and how the simple answer is we just all need to eat less, before finally ending with a rant about Black Friday. In her opinion the simple solution would be if everyone just refused to contribute to “fucking American over-consumption” by not buying things they don’t need on Black Friday.
I am going to jump out on a limb now and make a few assumptions about this young lady. First, I’m going to assume that she’s from a very wealthy family, based only on her attendance of one of the nation’s most expensive universities. Secondly, I’m going to assume that she has never had to work a day in her life. Because if she had, I would assume that she would recognize that some families wait all year for things to go on sale on Black Friday so they can afford to purchase them. Many Americans don’t have the luxury of shopping around for the fairest of fairly traded and sustainably produced goods because they simply can’t afford them. A statistic I read this week said that 1 in 30 American children had spent a portion of the past year homeless. Statistically speaking, of the approximately 150 or 200 people on the Metro who were subjected to the ravings of our little know-it-all, 5 or 6 of them may have spent part of the past year living in a shelter or on the street.
Is she what we have to look forward to from our young Millenials? Does she represent this generation? Overconfident, convinced of their own righteousness, dismissive of any opinion that differs from their own? I’m glad that the entitlement generation is learning about global economics and that they are concerned with sustainability and making our world a better place. But when will they learn humility? When will they learn empathy? If someone has no understanding of the choices a working class family has to make when a mother decides whether it will be Hamburger Helper or Rice-A-Roni this week, how does one have the audacity to lecture someone on how she should spend her hard-earned money?
After they left and I uncorked my ears, the guy sitting next to me said “they’re gone,” to which I replied “thank God, I couldn’t take another minute of that. They had all the answers.” To which he replied, “Yep, a poorly formed opinion on everything.” Exactly.