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"There is a storm of hurt feelings throughout the world"

For "Generation Snowflake" you are nothing if you are not a victim. 


The theme violation is a minefield, and I can reassure readers that this article is not about the Muhammad caricatures, the hijab or the niqab, about the gays or discrimination of people with other skin tones. Hypersensitivity is also growing outside these well-known areas. American students now require one trigger warning before an art historian shows a picture of Leda and the swan in a lecture: The subject is sexually charged and can trigger a trauma. Many shakes at the head of this exaggerated new moralism in the universities.

Hanne Østli Jakobsen ask in the Morgenbladet 17.07.15 if the hair loss has taken over. Jens Jessen in the German weekly newspaper Die Zeit (20.10.16) states that a storm of hurt feelings is blowing through the world. What's new is that not only are minorities feeling offended; the majority also feel offended by the minorities: If you cannot appear as a victim, you are nothing. If people have really become more tender-skinned, what are the consequences? How to understand this politically?

Generation Snowflake is sensitive to what concerns themselves, but insensitive to others.

More recently, the debate over insult has been linked to those who became adults in the 2010, called "Generation Snowflake". They are accused of having an inflated self-image and a delusion of how unique they are. The term "snowflake" comes from Chuck Palahniuk's novel Fight Club (1996), on which the movie by the same name from 1999 is based. It says: "You are not special. You are not a beautiful and unique snowflake. ”

The extreme right side has already embraced the term. Fox News works with what students can perceive as hurting at universities. The Tea Party movement hands out snowflake awards, ridicule liberal snowflakes og snowflake democrats. It fits well in this picture that Republican Clint Eastwood describes the young people as "Generation Pussy". So does Claire Fox's book of last year, In Find That Offensive! (2016). According to Fox, we have "shaped our own overanxious, easily offended, censoriously thin-skinned Frankenstein monster. We created Generation Snowflake. »

Fox (b. 1960) has a background in the English Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP), a Trotskyist group that was disbanded in 1997. She now leads the think tank The Institute of Ideas, which was founded in 2000 by LM magazine (an heir to the magazine Living Marxism ). The institute itself says that the purpose is to create an intellectual map for the 21st century through free debate. Jenny Turner claims in the London Review of Books (08.07.10) that the institute is a think tank on the right wing, paradoxically a haunt for old members of RCP. They have, according to Turner, "a rather shallow and repetitive libertarian agenda." Fox is accused of extreme liberalism on behalf of free speech, for example to defend "Gary Glitter's right to download child pornography".

In the book on violations Fox explains the hypersensitivity of Generation Snowflake based on overprotective parenting. The new skinless rulers will decide for themselves what they want to see and hear. If not, they feel violated. Overprotective upbringing has created a new type of potential dictators who want to ban everything they do not like to hear. They take everything personally because they are socialized to it. The "curling" generation has had it too easy. The hypersensitivity is combined with an aggressive and lawful attitude that they should be taken into account. Overprotected by parents who see dangers everywhere, they believe that words can harm them. The Institute of Ideas' critique of the therapeutic state, political correctness and victim mentality have meant that the old Trotskyists are now suddenly gaining a hearing on the right.

Amelia Tait objects in New Statesman (27.01.17) that it is not the upbringing, but the internet that has done the millennials more sensitive: "If we are snowflakes, the internet is a snow machine." She grew up in a small place and believes that she herself has become more sensitive because she has gained access to a number of other people's experiences through the internet. This argument is not so easy to understand: One can probably also become less sensitive from all the information that pours inwards towards us? And have not many pointed out that people in the big cities are less sensitive to each other than those who live in small towns?

But it is true that the rapid reactions online promote spinal reflexes and emotions instead of mature consideration. There is no more time to sleep on it – a good, old advice to keep a cool head.

"If we are snowflakes, the internet is a snow machine."

The hypersensitivity stood central in the old hysteria diagnosis, which was popular in the late 19th century. The hypersensitivity was combined with a lack of sensitivity in other areas: Hysterical paralysis of an arm or a leg could be combined with a violent sensitivity to sensory impressions. We find the same duality in several Generation Snowflake: They are sensitive to what concerns themselves, but insensitive to others, who often have to obey their whims.

When emotions are out of proportion to the object that causes them, one speaks of sentimentality. The sentimental are ultimately egotists, although of course they claim that those they fail to manipulate are insensitive. Sentimentality is perverted emotion. There is a difference følsomhet og sentimentalism. The combination of brutality and sentimentality in many Hollywood movies clearly emphasizes this. First comes a small scene that tear-drippingly emphasizes family values. But then the hero must go out and kill, before he returns to his wife and children in a touching homecoming scene.

In his autobiography The journey through life (1932) Wedel Jarlsberg describes an episode from growing up that I always think of when I see Knausgård or his equal laugh on TV. The letter K in Jarlsberg's ABC was illustrated with a crocodile: "When the crocodile cries pitifully, the very young children eat." "I can not at all say how this first wisdom of life has often been useful to me later in life, when by negotiations or other occasions I have been on the road to being softened prematurely."

Many defenders the wave of confession and the new sensitivity of people getting confirmation that they are not alone in their problems. Recognition is positive! Release of emotions is in vogue in fiction and the general public. People are constantly coming forward with everything from cancer and bad backs to alcohol problems, depression, panic disorder and refusal to eat: The public is insatiable. When Kjell Magne Bondevik, Inge Lønning and Fabian Stang come forward with their depressions, other depressed people know that they are not alone. But how many affirmations do you really need that you are not the only one who has a problem?

The argument is in many cases untenable – for the suffering of others is a meager consolation. Also, many who are neither alcoholic nor heroin addicted love to read that others are. The joy of injury must not be underestimated: the person in question is a celebrity, but is still in trouble! He is no better than we are, and it's good, because we can not stand it!

According to the World Happiness Report published this March, Norway is the world's best country to live in. This may seem paradoxical: Many foreigners who have read Jo Nesbø, believe that Norway is populated by junkies, drug dealers, serial killers and corrupt police officers. If you read fiction from the snowflake generation, it also gives a gloomy picture of self-harm, anorexia, mental problems, violence and a meaningless life. To give the floor to the main character in Gine Cornelia Pedersen's (b. 1986) debut novel zero (2013):

«The doctors say that I'm lucky to be alive / They are stupid in their heads / They do not understand that I am unlucky to be alive / They do not understand that I only use the tax money for people / on alcohol and destructive living, and that I take up / beds who could belong to someone who wants to / live and who wants help / I do not want help / I like to be at the bottom / I drown in my own selfishness / It is great / I love to give a damn about everyone else, myself included ».

There are a lot of strong emotions here, but how can this energy be turned into something that transcends one's own self? Politics based on idiosyncrasy is a bad idea. This is the problem of the snowflake generation – and it is not solved through right-wing radical ridicule or left-wing radical moralisation.

Jens Jessen talks in Die Zeit about hypersensitivity as an expression of frustration. The young people advance, so to speak, uncertainty in relation to the future, politics and the labor market. The German cultural critic Georg Seeßlen writes in Jungle World 22.10.15: «The new sensitivity is hardly possible to imagine without the subjective experience of political powerlessness. […] The less big changes are possible, the more sensitive you become in the small things. " Herein lies the approach to political understanding of the new hypersensitivity. The students in Norway, for example, are very real victims of the sharks in the housing market and have to pay significantly larger parts of the student loan in rent than their parents. Where parents, due to high inflation, profited well from interest-free during their studies, the current low interest rate level instead creates bubble tendencies in the housing market, which with full force affects students without resourceful parents. At the same time, it is expected that today's young people will finance parts of the coming wave of the elderly. Here are plenty of reasons to turn hypersensitivity into fair resentment that can and should be translated into political demands.

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Eivind Tjønneland
Historian of ideas and author.

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