I was recently making a purchase at a small gift shop when I happened to hear the conversation of a couple of other customers. They appeared to be looking at one of those cutesy signs with catchy slogans that are the bread and butter of such shops.
“You’re a snowflake,” the first woman read. “You’re a snowflake?” Puzzled, she paused and then began to laugh. “Oh!” she explained to her companion, “It’s saying that you’re a snowflake because you’re beautiful and special.”
The pair continued to chortle over the fact that the statement, “You’re a snowflake,” isn’t exactly the compliment the sign intended it to be. In fact, the term snowflake has become an outright insult, often applied to young people who can’t hold their own in the world, but are easily offended, anxious, and self-absorbed.
But according to The Telegraph, today’s young people are getting downright tired of being referred to by this derogatory title. In an ironic twist, these alleged snowflakes can’t stand the title because they feel it will lead to increased mental health problems for their peers:
“[R]esearch by insurance firm Aviva found that 72 per cent of 16-24 year-olds think the term is unfairly applied, while 74 per cent think it could have a negative effect on young people's mental health.
The figures also show that young people are more likely to have experienced stress, anxiety and depression in the last year.
Almost half of adults between 16 and 24 said they had experienced stress or anxiety, compared to just over a third of all UK adults.”
To be sure, mental health is not something to be taken lightly. At the same time, the overwhelming tendency of these alleged snowflakes toward insecurity, stress, anxiety, and depression should cause us to ask how we arrived at such a state.
That question was anticipated roughly 70 years ago by University of Chicago professor Richard Weaver. Weaver described the individual we now call a snowflake as someone who “suspects evildoers and takes the childish course of blaming individuals for things inseparable from the human condition.” Weaver goes on to say:
“The truth is that he has never been brought to see what it is to be a man. That man is the product of discipline and of forging, that he really owes thanks for the pulling and tugging that enable him to grow – this concept left the manuals of education with the advent of Romanticism.”
Weaver explains that this state of non-existent manhood, or maturity if you will, has come about because of parental pampering, a lack of value for hard work, and a disinterest in religious principles. In other words, today’s snowflakes are having trouble coping and are plummeting toward mental illness because they don’t have a purpose in life.
“How obvious here is the extinction of the idea of mission. Men no longer feel it laid upon them to translate the potential into the actual; there are no goals of labor like those of the cathedral-builders. Yet, unless man sees himself in relation to ordinances such as these, what lies ahead is the most egregious self-pampering and self-disgust, probably followed by real illness.”
In the last several decades, parents have been counseled to groom their child’s self-esteem; society has insisted that kids are too busy to be introduced to hard work; and many have taken a hands-off approach to the moral upbringing of young people, complacently reassuring themselves that it’s good to let kids “choose their own way.”
But has such an approach ushered in this snowflake generation? If we want to raise adults free from self-pampering, disgust, and mental illness, would our best course of action be to reintroduce the core foundations of life – family, work, religion – to the up-and-coming generation?
Annie Holmquist is editor of Intellectual Takeout, an online magazine and sister publication of Chronicles.