Thawing the Snowflake Generation
I’VE just waved off the last of Generation Snowflake, a term used to describe thinskinned students who stifle debate by ‘no platforming’ people they don’t agree with and who take offence at many things. Actually, that’s a cheap shot, because I wouldn’t say we’ve got Snowflakes, but they certainly come from the same generation. The house feels very empty—just Zam, me and some slightly stale bread and cheese. Plus Fletcher the dachshund.
I weigh up the pros and cons of the new silence. I can keep tabs on my shampoo and eat boiled eggs for lunch, but there’s nobody to argue with about non-binary gender discrimination and whether the younger generation is more, or less, tolerant. And we’ve discussed these a lot.
The curious state of free speech crops up round the table on a regular basis—it’s in the news most days and leads to disagreements about tolerance versus creeping censorship through strange distortions of tolerance. We usually meet somewhere in the middle ground, but I’ve certainly felt the generational gap. I’ve no doubt this is a good thing.
If you’re outnumbered by under 23 year olds, it’s worth taking a poll or two and ours agreed that the (as far as I can tell, erroneous) story that yurts should be banned at music festivals because this appropriates another culture was taking things too far—a relief for me as I’m currently researching them as a possible part of the solution to our ongoing housing puzzle and I don’t want my children to boycott their bedroom because it offends Mongolians.
Everyone was incredulous at the story that clapping has been banned in a Sydney primary school because the volume can trigger negative reactions in the noise sensitive until the 14 year old sitting on my left said they never clapped in her London school assemblies—they clicked their fingers. She looked more amazed than we did about clapping or the lack thereof. The actor who was staying went rather pale.
Then, at the other end of the table, I heard Zam arguing robustly with a 19 year old who said they’d ban Donald Trump from speaking at their university. ‘He’s just too extreme,’ they said. Before things got too heated, I motioned the astonished Zam into the kitchen, thereby shutting down further debate. I returned to the table to find much discussion about fancy-dress costumes for forthcoming parties. The themes ‘tribal’ and ‘tropical’ are cultural-appropriation minefields.
The morning after the banTrump moment, Fletcher looks peaky. ‘I feel sorry for him,’ says one of the children. ‘Nobody listens to him.’ On further enquiry, this charge is laid against me because, whenever he starts whining, I tell him to shush. ‘What if that’s his voice? Some people sound whiny. And what if he’s trying to tell you he’s ill?’
‘I’m no platforming him,’ I say as I open the car door for him to hop in. ‘And he’s not ill—he just ate too much.’
By the end of the holidays, the arguments about free speech are supplanted by a flurry of accusations and personal attacks while last-minute washing and Will’s annual haircut take place in the kitchen. ‘Who’s stolen my knapsack?’ ‘Who moved my bin that had the bag with the black top and the belt in it?’ ‘Who took my face wipes?’ ‘Are you appropriating those pillows?’ I ask.
‘Check Mum’s bag. She always takes the chargers,’ one shouts upstairs to another.
‘Who’s nicked my socks?’ Will buys multi-packs of these and hides them, squirrel-like. ‘Why can’t anyone ever find bloody socks in this house?’ he asks as he eyes me accusingly.
‘I find that offensive,’ I say and wander off to let Fletcher out of the car for his supper.
‘Clapping has been banned at a Sydney primary school