By now, you’ve heard about the commencement speaker in Massachusetts who told graduating students, “None of you is special. You are not special. You are not exceptional.”
The Internet was ablaze with comments, most of them positively gleeful. Many people believe that the speaker revealed harsh truths and deflated the younger generation’s supersized egos.
Of course, a lot of the adults who cheered the speech are unhappy with how their own lives turned out, which is why they got off on a guy sticking it to a captive audience of teenagers.
In any case, the graduates who most needed to hear such a message (i.e., the arrogant, haughty ones) are the kids most likely to dismiss it. When he was done, they flipped open their cell phones and said, “Some bitter old man tried to step on our day. Whatever, loser.”
The larger issue, of course, is whether kids today have been so pampered and coddled that they all believe they are “special,” regardless of what they have actually accomplished. But it’s easy to pile on young people. The truth is that plenty of American adults exhibit a sense of entitlement that far surpasses Millennials.
For example, we think we’re special if we were born in America. We’re better than those immigrants, especially the undocumented ones.
We’re special if we received a good education and grew up in a neighborhood where crime was non-existent.
We’re special if we didn’t get downsized, or hit with a horrible disease, or suffer some other random calamity beyond our control that sent us into poverty.
The sum of all this specialness is that we think we have accomplished everything on our own. So, we not only ignore those who might need a little more help, we actively loathe them. They are not special. We are.
But of course, many of these special adults have accomplished nothing of great significance. They probably started in a better position than other people did, and they mistook this for achievement and the right to disparage their apparent subordinates. They confuse good fortune with rugged individualism. And that displays a much bigger sense of entitlement than some teenager who whines that he didn’t get a new iPhone for graduation.
Now, everybody is guilty to some degree of feeling pretty pleased with himself or herself for imaginary successes that are, in reality, more about luck than anything else.
After all, many of us Latinos think we’re special if we’re lighter skinned, or are taller than the average Hispanic, or speak unaccented English. Some of us believe that we’re special just because we avoided joining a gang or getting knocked up when we were younger. For that matter, how many of us think we’re special just because we’re la raza?
Before you answer that, here’s one more question. Do we think we’re special if we write articles that incite angry comments?