For parents, especially contemporary culturally suburban ones since the 1990s, the aim has been to have successy children who excel. I never had this ambition and always saw it as wrong. A good woman is not a CEO because a good person is not a CEO but an underground activist resisting the CEO. I say that because feminism is where this yuppie movement is most screaming. I never, as an activist, could bring myself to celebrate female corperate executives when I wanted to abolish the existence of corperate executives. The sentiment equally applies to males, of course, and parents emphasized the same things with them. In any case, the normative good according to these parents was the material success of their children up to and including being a member of the upper-class, not merely a content member of the middle-class.
This is all to say, from the outset I was against “excelling” and believed the foremost aim in life was to maximize good done in the world for the marginalized, the environment, for peace, and so forth. I fought with my generation at Occupy Wall Street, with the Bernie Sanders Campaign, with Black Lives Matter, on congressional campaigns, and more. Yet, I am the execption to my generation. Now, while my life has hardly been happy, it has been a healthier lifesytle and not only morally. In college, I would never take more than 13 credit hours. Now, I took summer classes but I never overworked myself at any given time. Taking over 20 credit hours was common for my peers. I believed in working slow and living well while they believed in working hard and coping with intense hedonism.
Insofar as it shapes their moral character, it makes them extremely self-conscious of their social status compounded by the generalized dopamine addiction borne of their hardcore hedonism that leads to narcissistic persoanlity disorder. They’re terrified of socially descending and they’re addicted to both the lifestyle of hedonism and, of course, the status which also brings them dopamine hits. They’re not happy so much as they are pathologically addicted to brief daliances of shallow euphoria. There is no honor, grace, beauty, or much kindness. There is no metaphorical or often literal God.
Jonathan Haigt famously says this generation is coddled but it is not parents being a gentle hippie with their children as much as it is raising them to be narcissists. The parents led the children to believe they should aim for their own personal success for themselves as a form of personal charity in the warm fuzzy language of the self-help genre. Which, while it sounds slightly hippieish, is an analog to McMindfulness, the term for the yuppie appropriation of Eastern religions diametrically at odds with their values. Some of the rhetoric came from the cultural left, even some of the concepts, but the core values are fundamentally different.
It’s more than worth graduating a year late if it means your fun is like mocktails and period drama movies or philosophy over lattés as opposed to coping with a 3.8 GPA at 20 credit hours with cocaine and vodka. It is best described by George Orwell in The Road to Wigan Pier when he speaks of the upper-middle class. They don’t want happiness for their children; they want status for their children. Firstly, it turns them into Regina Georges and Blair Waldorfs and makes them shitty people, interpersonally. But it also makes them miserable. Theologically, I am a Protestant but culturally I borrow much from the Catholics. My approach is French and Spanish “Thirty-five hours and a seista or we’re calling a general strike!”
The mental health crisis is caused, in part, by social media but also, in large part, and we’re finding this out, by the Protestant work ethic found by Weber leading to the Protestant suicide found by Durkheim. This is nothing new, we’ve known it for an entire century and it is such a cliché it is basically the plot of Titanic. These kids are being driven to suicide by parents who value the material status of their children more than their kids’ happiness and whose solution to this mental health crisis is not to adjust the environmental conditions that led to the mental health crisis but to drug and therapy it out of existence. That’s great for them because it absolves the parents of the moral responsibility they legitimately bear.
Alas, this is a cultural problem is something that requires an etic perspective. The parents nor the kids are aware other lifestyles exist. The chief problem is they live in a culture where that is the only line. Not only do they deny the environmental issues out of not wanting to take responsibility but they also lack the cultural perspective to see the valid points of threatening a general strike unless we get thirty-five hours and a seista. That the best aim for their children should be moral virtue and a generally happy life. To be altruistic in their ambitions and warm in their feelings. If everyone did that, there would be much less of a mental health crisis.