Everyone's a Snowflake

Yes, that means you too.

In recent years, it has become common to accuse your opponent (or some arbitrary group of people) of being a special snowflake, that is, of being invested in the idea that they're special without having to prove it to anyone. This usually goes along with a diatribe about how special snowflakes are easily offended, and about how this is a bad thing, proof of their spiritual weakness, and so on for another poorly typed Facebook comment, or supposedly witty thinkpiece (much like this one - hurrah for self-deprecation!), or something of the sort.

I happen to think these comments make about as much sense as doing this:
Don Quixote tilting at windmills
But why? After all, aren't young people very easily offended these days?

Let me speak. As an entitled, whiny millennial, I'm below the median age for most developed countries. To put this in plainer English: most people are older than me.

The stereotype of the whiny millennial is often conflated with the stereotype of the social justice warrior or regressive leftist (basically the same thing), an extremely vocal social media user who adheres to ideas about privilege theory and feminist theory which have been common in academia for decades but which have only recently come into the mainstream. This stereotype of the social justice warrior is unsurprisingly...very easily offended!

frost on window
Pictured: a gathering of millennials.
I have been hanging around in these circles for a while now - mostly because these ideas do a good, if heavily flawed, job at explaining US society. If you were brought up with a mix of liberal and socially conservative ideas like me, it's a weird place to be; while both liberalism and establishment conservatism focus heavily on the idea of reasonable debate, social justice circles reject the idea of reasonableness as tone policing (RationalWiki is the most neutral source I can find on this). This makes it very difficult to ask questions or get much of an idea of what's going on, unless you sit and listen to a bunch of weird angry ideas for several weeks. This is exactly what I did, but I have more patience than most. While liberalism and establishment conservatism at least pay lip service to the idea of open debate, social justice circles almost entirely reject it to the point where discourse is sterile. Shouting down anything remotely critical of established ideas has probably morphed into taking offence easily.

Anyway, while being a whiny millennial I had a thought: if young people, particularly those in social justice circles, are the most easily offended, surely we should make up most of the outrage?

I admit that I haven't done a systematic survey on this. This is anecdotal evidence. On the other hand, so are anecdotes about social justice warriors.

snow on evergreen
While I lean predominantly left of centre, I'm in a precarious position: I'm critical enough of most social theories and emphasise individual liberty too much to stay in social justice circles, but I like enough of privilege theory and feminist theory to get me categorised as one of the dreaded SJWs (or SWJs, for those who are too outraged to proofread). Happily, this puts me in a great position to observe both groups. Because I don't give a shit about ideological purity, I also have friends and acquaintances from all over the political spectrum like a normal person and I do my best to read things which challenge my point of view.

What I've discovered from this is that everyone, regardless of politics or age or gender, regardless of any particular trait, has a personal bugbear: freedom of speech, religion, being considered complicit in oppression, video games, fandom, or the hypothetical relationships of fictional characters, and so much more. Everyone has that little button you can press to make them froth at the mouth, because something in that button is something they strongly identify with for whatever reason. That's offence. That's all it is. And it takes more work than simply disassociating oneself from millennials, or SJWs, or feminists, or whoever the Target of the Week is. It takes acknowledging that button and challenging it, and being humble, and wondering if you might be wrong.

But it's okay to be offended, and it's okay to be a snowflake. We're all as flawed as each other.
That's you. That's me. That's everyone. That's okay.