Halberstam kind of makes a big deal of this generational gap, pointing to the “friendly adults” who erroneously install “narratives of damage that they [the youth] themselves may or may not have actually experienced.” It’s as if young people are stealing an earlier generation’s trauma, claiming it as their own when really they have it so good. In this bizarrely counterfactual linear temporality, the past is not only past but also dead, and you do not have the right to be traumatized by historical memory, only by things that have literally happened to you—even if you are eighteen and it’s all—all—news to you. We (the older generation) were there, and are over it, and so you (the younger generation) should root yourselves entirely in the ameliorated present and get over it, because it is over.
The result is an odd polemic against coddled millenials and their too-sensitive feelings, as if it were somehow ridiculous to be young and too sensitive, or for that matter, old and too sensitive. This cross-generational call to “get over it” is an example of what Sara Ahmed has called “overing”: “In assuming that we are over certain kinds of critique, they create the impression that we are over what is being critiqued.” It’s particularly perverse to demand that young people be “over it,” when they have perhaps only just left their parents’ homes, and have perhaps only recently come to any political consciousness at all. There’s a very good reason college students aren’t “over it”; they just got there. Have you met a college student? It’s all, all new.
It is its own kind of shock to learn about how you have been historically, rather than personally, hated. It is not about “trauma” but about developing a political consciousness that is also historical, a fundamentally utopian impulse to exist in solidarity with the dead. There is, to be sure, a fine line between identifying with the past and appropriating it, but I think we can allow our students some leeway in figuring out where this line is, and not getting it right every time. Certainly grown-ups need the same leeway.
Read More | “On the ‘neoliberal rhetoric of harm’” | Natalia Cecire | in response to “You Are Triggering me! The Neo-Liberal Rhetoric of Harm, Danger and Trauma“