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On being Grumpy

There are few joys like relishing in one's own grumpiness, I've found. There is great pleasure in knowing that one's grumpiness (saying this as someone at the ripe old age of twenty-four) is sometimes the cause of bewilderment among those more inclined to cheer. This isn't to say that I am without joy (I most certainly am not) but that I take joy out of something that is not usually associated with it; namely a personality characterized as curmudgeonly, quiet, sarcastic, even occasionally a tinge of nihilism and narcissism.

While I like to associate my own tendencies toward being crotchety and mean with those of a certain ancient theologian and biblical scholar, it has more to do (to my disappointment) with what I mentioned previously- namely, nihilism (or at least a temptation towards it) and narcissism. Or, perhaps, I actually do bear some resemblance to the hermit of Bethlehem, whose wit and sarcasm earned him many enemies during his lifetime. Perhaps this hermit could be likened to George Carlin- who although he had major qualms with religion, Carlin nevertheless proved to be prophetic in his own way through his grouchy outlook on life (or at least that is my perception of him).

I suspect the similarities between myself and St. Jerome more or less end at the level of personality, as he is responsible for the first translation of the bible in Latin, the common language of the time, but I digress. I do not wish to get caught up (surprisingly) in the thought and controversies of some ancient Christian thinker. What I would like to talk about is one particular quality of said thinker in which I share- namely that of being grumpy- and which I believe to be highly underrated.

Firstly, I do not think that grumpiness should be considered as an exception in my generation. While nihilism has become ever more popular due to previous generational mismanagement (or hoarding, to put it bluntly) of wealth and influence that has lead to a great amount of generational inequality that is unprecedented. Not only that, but there are ideological conflicts between the "boomers" (the haves, if you will) and "millennials" or those in Gen-Z. (the have-nots). Said disparity has lead to a fracturing of belief and ideology between the two groups, with the "haves" investing heavily in maintaining their status not only financially but also as ideologues. Characterizations of "boomers" being liberal is more than just a stereotype, but at the same time requires a bit more nuance. One aspect of the ideological differences between the two is the precise nature of what it means to be "liberal" versus being a "leftist" or "socialist." Before you characterize this as greed or jealousy on the part of the "have-not" generation, I would like to mention briefly some of the reasons behind my generation's departure from more traditional "liberal" views. One of the most vexing things, at least to me, has to do with education. During the 1960's and 1970's, a college education was presented as a kind of curall to poverty. An education was more or less a straight shot to a good-paying job and perhaps a career. College is the gateway to a successful career, we are all told, and is the best thing we could do as young men and women. Unfortunately, that outlook is not only extremely dated, but is also simply not realistic whatsoever.

The notion that a college education guarantees a successful career is (and was) a myth. Not only was it more or less not applicable to most African Americans at that time, but today it is also egregiously expensive; being vastly disproportionate to most other "products" besides healthcare, which is another issue entirely. The cost of a 4 year college degree has disproportionately increased several times as much as the cost of other commodities, even when it is adjusted for inflation. The median income in the U.S. in 2019 was $68,709, while the average cost of attending a 4-year college or university is at around $25,000 per year, and this doesn't even take into account interest rates, which are, at least in my case, beyond absurd. It should be no small wonder then that many in my generation would support the idea of free college, especially when modern prices are compared to those in previous years. For example, the average cost of a 4-year degree in 1969 was approximately $1,500 per year, including tuition, room and board, and other fees. The median income of the same year was approximately $9,500. The cost of college has gone up approximately 1,500% since 1969, while the average median income has only gone up 615%. This disparity of almost 1,000% is indicative of a major issue with how college is priced and commodified without taking into account the true value of an education in the 21st century, as well as employment prospects, which are nowhere near guaranteed as they were in years past.

What all of this does is it contributes to the prevailing nihilism which has in its grip the majority of young people. It is why young people are less likely to vote in elections and are less likely to participate in national, state, or local politics. This nihilism is, I suspect, at the root of my own grumpiness (as I'm sure it is with others as well), and is very thoroughly entrenched. It is easy to give in to temptations of nihilism, especially if one is hyperaware of current events.

The other aspect of my general crankiness has to do with my personality. I am (surprise surprise) fairly introverted. I do not like crowds very much, nor do I like public speaking. Social interaction drains me more than it should, which leaves me prone to seclusion, especially after work. This in direct contradiction to society, which insists on production, contribution, and engagement- the unholy trinity of lazy introverts such as myself. Being dragged along by the hair through the expectations set forth by society is, for us introverts, just something we would rather not have to experience. We all seek some refuge from the tumultuous sea that is society.

Ultimately, I wouldn't want to change my personality or demeanor (for the most part). It is a part of who I am, and it reflects my culture and my upbringing in a positive, albeit underappreciated way. My sense of humor and coarse, undiscernible sarcasm comes from said upbringing, and is something I consider a gift from God, even though others wouldn't think of it that way. I'm not asking for a lot, just for myself and for all other grumpy, curmudgeonly, crotchety, grouchy, crabby, irritable, and irascible people to be left alone, not to be pestered about the ins and outs of our personalities. Now get off my lawn.


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