An Open Letter to “An Open Letter to College Crybabies from a CEO”

Good evening! 2 AM here (but I’ll probably schedule this to come out sometime around 11 AM) but I recently read a post that’s been making me think a lot lately, so I thought I’d talk about it before going to sleep.

It’s this open letter on the New Boston Post titled “An Open Letter to College Crybabies from a CEO”. The CEO in question is Kyle S Reyes, who is the head of The Silent Partner Marketing, a (family-owned and operated) marketing firm.

In the letter, Reyes makes the case that millennials today are coddled, entitled children who run off at the first sign of a challenge and want nothing but the easy way out of things. He graciously proceeds to advise these crybabies with harsh lessons from the real world to slap some sense into them.

Now, I’m a millennial, and upon reading the title and first few lines of the letter, I felt that feeling of indignation and outrage that Reyes claims I am so vulnerable to, so I swallowed my pride and read the rest to see if maybe he had a point. I did, and I figure I should write my own letter to Mr Reyes, so here goes:

Dear Mr Kyle S. Reyes,

Your article is very problematic. Some of it is good advice, but there’s a tonne of conflation of different issues. You kind of create this imaginary ‘college crybaby’ who has all the negative traits you hate and imply that every single millennial is like that. I’d like to take some time to respond to some of the things you bring up.

To start, here’s a quote plucked straight from your post:

“You’re studying and learning during the Industrial Revolution of our generation. It’s exciting. It’s encouraging. It’s liberating. And yet somehow, it’s also leading to your wussification.

Before you get all offended and run to your “safe place,” understand that I pulled that word right out of one of your trusted resources of knowledge – urbandictionary.com.”

First of all, if you’re going to write a letter to college students in the hopes that they actually listen to you, perhaps it’ll help if you don’t condescend so sickeningly to them. You and I both know that Urban Dictionary isn’t a ‘trusted resource of knowledge’, and if you sincerely think it is, we have bigger problems than your letter. I’m sure you were young once, and remember all the times you shut off the advice an older person gave you because they failed to respect you as an intelligent human being capable of nuance. And I’m sure I’ll grow old one day and make the same mistake to the 20-somethings of 2050, but until then my job is to call you out when you’re doing it.

Also, those “safe spaces” you mock aren’t really these great evil cesspools of censorship and wussy-enabling. They’re just places where extra effort is made to ensure that people don’t make sexist, homophobic, or racist comments, something which you as an employer wouldn’t tolerate in your environment anyway (and if you would, again, we have bigger problems than your letter).

Moving on to your points:

“1. The Business World Doesn’t Give A Damn About You”

Wait, no, okay, that’s actually good advice. Thanks!

“2. The Only Safe Place Is Your Home

In the real world – and especially the business world – we’re going to challenge you. We’re going to push you. We’re going to demand that you consider other perspectives. We’re going to rip your ideas to shreds from time to time. And we’re going to insist that you play nicely with others to find ideas that actually work and implement them.”

Yeaaaah, see that part where you say “we’re going to insist that you play nicely with others”? That’s literally what a safe space is all about. Mr. Reyes, I live in a country where you get silenced by legislation for being a certain sexual orientation, or by society for being a woman. Women in my country get death and rape threats and are constantly victim-blamed for rape and domestic abuse. Where it’s technically illegal to be an atheist under certain circumstances. Transgender people get thrown in jail and sexually abused.

Even as a heterosexual Christian male who faces none of these problems, I wish these people had safe spaces to talk about their ideas without fear for their safety. You’re American, freedom of speech is one of the fundamental rights granted by your constitution. Safe spaces allow for that, because these discriminated voices would otherwise be quashed. Surely you can appreciate that? I certainly would if I had anything like that back here.

“3. There’s No Such Thing As “Free”

I get it. You’ve been told that money grows on trees, that education should be free for all and that everything in life should be handed to you on a silver platter.

But welcome to the big kids’ playground. You want that health insurance? It’s going to cost you. Oh, you don’t want it? That will cost you too. You want an apartment? A house? A car? Believe it or not, you need to actually come up with some money for that! Oh, and you can quit your whining about taxes. Because SOMEONE has to pay for all of that “free” stuff – and now it’s you, sucker.”

Back at it again with the condescension! That aside, are you seriously telling me that the idea that maybe education and healthcare should be treated as a basic right instead of a paid-for luxury is outrageous? In the 21st century?

Look, I’m not American so I don’t have personal experience with it, but the health system in your country sounds pretty screwed up. Lots of people are working 120 hours a week and they’re bogged down by health insurance premiums, and they can’t get a better-paying job or find advancement because in the modern economy, you pretty much need a degree for any job and university is priced well out of the range of lots of people. Most of the people who want free education and healthcare are usually willing to pay the taxes to provide it to younger citizens as they get older and more established.

Your government doesn’t provide free healthcare, but pays more on healthcare per citizen than so many other countries that do. I don’t get why you’re so proud of paying for healthcare, when it’s something you shouldn’t have to pay for, because the USA is already paying so much for yours.

Lots of countries (see: Germany, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Estonia, Argentina, Denmark, repeat ad nauseum) provide free education, because lots of governments see it as an investment in their people and workforce. You hardly see anyone characterizing the German people as a lazy bunch. And besides, how is not wanting to be tossed head-first into crippling debt an indication of laziness or entitlement?

But most pertinent of all is this; how does someone’s political views on these issues affect their personal work ethic? There are bound to be both slothful and hard-working people occupying every nook and cranny of the political spectrum, and it seems intellectually lazy to lump all people of a certain disposition into one category and say “Oh, you think free education is a good idea? You must be entitled!”

“4. If You Don’t Want To Be A Victim, Then Don’t Be

In college, any time your feelings were hurt, you were a victim. If you were challenged, the challenger was a “bigot” and you were the poor person who had their feelings hurt. Here in the real world, we expect you to be challenged and to understand that humility is just as important as bravado. Selflessness is more important that selfishness. The content of who you are as a person is more important than the color of your skin or your socio-economic background or your sex or your weight or your religious affiliation.”

That’s a wonderful sentiment, that last line especially. Most reasonable people would agree with it. But you see, the thing is that legitimately victimized people generally don’t want to be victimized. Bigotry, sexism, racism these are all things that are embedded within social structures that have existed for a long time, and when college students get upset about it, spread awareness and organize rallies or protests, they’re not just ‘getting offended’.

These kids are taking their passion and energy and applying it to something in the hopes that they’ll change the world for the better. They are demonstrating the exact kind of initiative and go-getter attitude that employers say they like. You can’t say that these are the exact same kids who are entitled, lazy, and not willing to work for what they want.

“5. Success Is Hard Work

We’re not going to give you five breaks a day. You’re going to have to work nights and weekends from time to time. You want to make “the big bucks”?  Then consider a nine-hour workday to be a part-time job. You’re most likely NOT going to graduate college and find a six-figure job. Hell, you’re going to be lucky if you find ANY job … and you should be grateful when you find it. Grateful … and prepared to work like a maniac to get ahead.”

And I don’t necessarily disagree! Times can be very hard, and loads of times you just have to do work that you’re not a big fan of, for long hours and on weekends to get where you want to be. But I think a lot of people confuse ‘trying to get a fair deal’ with ‘entitlement’. You’ve said it yourself, the business world doesn’t give a damn about millennials. Who else is going to look out for them if not themselves? If a company makes you work extra hours that you don’t get paid for (and you’re not the owner of that company), how likely is it that the company is going to reward you for your hard work with more opportunities?

Now, if this hypothetical millennial does in fact suck at their job, then all righty, they have no right to negotiate these things. But when you’re brought up in a culture that repeatedly drums in your head that “the business world doesn’t care about you, the corporate machine will chew you up and spit you out and throw you under the bus as soon as its convenient for them, you can only rely on yourself in this world”, is it no wonder that some millennials are a little more aggressive in negotiating for what they believe to be fairer work circumstances?

I can see how an employer might interpret that as entitlement (especially because you’re receiving the short end of this arrangement), but to me that seems like a natural effect of American corporate culture.

So, to close, I can’t speak on certain terms about the growing entitlement of the youth of the USA. It may be happening, but in my opinion it’s pretty much a “our youth are degenerates” narrative that’s been told since the time of the Ancient Greeks.

What I can say is that your letter, unintentionally or not, perpetuates certain harmful and counter-productive attitudes about millennials, ones that aren’t necessarily true. I don’t know if you’ll ever see this, Mr Reyes, but I hope you do and let me know what you think. A discourse would be very interesting.

Kind regards,

Jack Kin Lim

 

 

P.S. It’s really weird how you say “I remember the stress of college. I get it, it’s tough” at the beginning of your letter, and then “Revel in the time you have at the world’s most expensive daycares” by the end. Surely you’re not old enough to be forgetting things that quickly?

 

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Zakir Naik and Amos Yee: Complicated Questions About Free Speech

Or: An Examination of My Inability to Come Up With Catchy Blog Post Titles

Note: Quoted profanity and descriptions of somewhat disturbing acts are contained in this post. Also, this is gonna be a long post. If you have a problem with that, then, y’know, don’t read so much of it at once.

Happy Sunday! I really do wish I could post more often, but between my job, other commitments, crippling laziness, and amazing procrastination powers, it seems like I only get to write stuff when I’ve decided on a good day to shirk my other responsibilities. Anyway, I hope you guys have been doing well.

You know the news lah. Zakir Naik, Indian Islamic evangelist and self-proclaimed expert on comparative religion came down to Malaysia to give a series of talks, and I believe they’ve just concluded a few days ago. Around the same time frame, Amos Yee returned to YouTube after a four-month hiatus with a video titled “Response to the Common Bullshit of Christians” (his previous video was titled “MASS COMM STUDENTS ARE RETARDED!!”)

These two people are interesting, because they make extremely inflammatory statements about religion, are easy to be offended by (and who doesn’t love being offended? I for one am addicted to that feeling of righteous anger when you see some plebeian on the internet say something silly) and they really push the boundaries of what we generally consider to be the acceptable limits of free speech.

Now, guys, you know my biases as a Malaysian and someone attempting to be a devout Christian, and if you didn’t before, I guess you do now. But before we get into questions about free speech, I have to tell you my opinion of the two people themselves, because that informs a lot of my world-view and I think it’s intellectually honest to put it all out there. Intellectual honesty is pretty important to me, and you’ll probably agree, especially if you’ve actually listened to these two.

Zakir Naik

I don’t know how much of an expert he is on Islam, but I’ve seen him talk about Christianity and goodness gracious is he mistaken. He uses really fuzzy logic and spouts verse after verse as an attempt to prove his point, paying little attention to the context of the verses themselves. He tries to make the case that even the Bible does not support the idea of Jesus Christ’s divinity (plot twist: it does).

Zakir Naik attempts to woo unbelievers to his faith not by espousing its strengths or virtues, but by painting a ridiculous picture of other faiths to make fun of. He misrepresents and lies about other religions to make his more palatable, which is not only completely unnecessary but also really harmful, because like, y’know, people might actually listen to him and believe the crazy stuff he says about Christians and Hindus.

He also supports the death penalty for homosexuals and apostates who speak out against Islam, both of which I am diametrically opposed to, so yeah la. I don’t think anyone should ever advocate the death of another human being, especially not on the grounds of religious belief or sexuality. Doesn’t seem like a wholly unreasonable thing to me to not want someone to die just because of things like that.

Amos Yee

Man, this guy is a piece of work. He is a petulant child who thinks that swearing somehow lends credence to his arguments. He is six months away from being a legal adult but still talks like a 12-year-old (or at least, like me when I was a 12-year-old. I know, I was a pretty shitty 12-year-old).

I don’t even know where to begin. Amos’ largest problem, in my opinion, is the belief that he is a lot smarter than he actually is. We all get that, I know, but in him it’s like his brain doesn’t have that switch that most of us have, the one that occasionally reminds him that he’s not a genius. As an example, in his latest video, he says of Christian beliefs: “I will fuck them up with the clarity and sting that you revere of yours truly.”

Like, seriously dude? Come on, that was so arrogant and self-centred and pretentious, I think I may have become physically ill from the cringe that line induced.

He then paints this incredibly stupid view of Christians and religious people by talking about some of the ‘bullshit arguments’ that they supposedly espouse, ignoring that there are tonnes of different types of Christians in the world and they all have very different opinions. Y’know, like people tend to have.

Add to that a few salt-and-pepper shakes of intentionally offensive behaviour (humping a cross, ripping pages out a Bible, and exclaiming “Now, let’s strap these Christian scum to the ground and fuck them in the ass!” followed by grunting noises) and you pretty much have the complete package.

The boy is just, well, boring. I really hope the arrogance and pretentiousness is some kind of act. It wouldn’t help his case a lot, but it would at least sort of distinguish him from the millions of teenagers who are euphoric in their own intellectual enlightenment and rebelling against those evil religious people. It’s such a used and tired narrative, that of the fedora-wearing, neckbeard sporting atheist who just has to tell the religious people how wrong they are.

Gosh, I mean, I know he’s doing it for the attention, but goodness me, couldn’t he do something a little more entertaining to watch? Amos is not a dumb person, but he’s not the fount of wit and knowledge that he thinks he is.

Okay, now for the actual stuff that I wanted to talk about

Heh, sorry about the extremely long prefaces, but yeah, kinda necessary for what we’re gonna talk about. Both Zakir and Amos have faced issues with governments wanting to control or restrict what they say. Zakir with the PDRM calling up a ban on his coming here (a ban that was quickly reversed after he agreed to change the topic of the lecture) and Amos with, well, that fiasco after he published a video criticizing Lee Kuan Yew.

They both bring up this really really interesting question; how far should the government go in restricting free speech?

We have to acknowledge, first of all, that limitations to free speech are necessary, and all governments do it. You can’t use your freedom of speech to yell ‘fire’ in a crowded theater, for example, or tell someone you’re a Nigerian prince who needs a small payment of a few thousand dollars to unlock your vast bank account. The limitations of freedom of speech lies in the harm principle; that governments should only intervene if someone’s actions risk causing considerable harm to others.

The question then becomes “Are Zakir Naik and Amos Yee propagating hate speech?” It’s an interesting argument that can be made. Zakir calls for the death of homosexuals. Amos rips up Bibles and jokes about raping religious people.

Now we gotta ask, “What is hate speech?” The most common definition is speech that directly incites violence against a particular ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, or national and religious group, but lots of countries have extensions to that. For example, it’s illegal to deny that the Holocaust happened under German law. Malaysia has the (rather controversial) Sedition Act. These are all laws designed to keep public order, to prevent sectarian divisions from creating civil unrest.

Is Malaysian society ready for an extremely high degree of free speech? I don’t know, we certainly have incredibly high racial and religions tensions that are made all the worse when people like Zakir Naik misrepresent other religions. But then again, are we willing to take the risk of allowing the government to dictate what ‘bannable speech’ is? Corruption and abuse of power by authority figures are very real fears in the Malaysian psyche. It’s entirely possible that a government perverts its mandate and starts going after anyone who speaks ill of the current ruling party. That’s something that quite a few critics already believe has happened, and who can blame them?

Now, every time freedom of speech appears in conversation, there’s always that one guy who recites the quote so often misattributed to Voltaire:

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

That’s very noble and all, but how many of us really believe that? As an apostate, it takes phenomenal strength of character to literally be willing to die for the belief that Zakir Naik has the right to say that you should die. Similarly so if you’re a Christian fighting for Amos Yee’s right to hump and defile your holy symbols. Where do we draw the line?

Yes, I’m aware that I’m asking many more questions than I’m answering. But the truth is, I don’t know where we draw the line. And the fact that there is no clear right or wrong about this issue may just be the scariest thing about it.

 

A Response to Mariam Mokhtar’s “A superior Malay … is an Arab”

So, The Heat Malaysia featured an article by (who I assume to be) guest writer Mariam Mokhtar. She’s pretty prolific, with her own website and articles/opinion pieces featured in a bunch of news portals. Go click on this link above and then come back.

Done? Cools.

Okay, if you were too lazy to read the whole thing, Mariam basically is writing about the modern Malay fascination with Arab culture. I’m sure you’ve seen examples of it. Lots of people are emulating the clothes, rituals, habits and speech patterns (using the Arabic names for holidays like Hari Raya, for example). There’s also a pretty heavy focus on religion in many of these cases. Mariam argues that the adoption of this culture is making Malay people intolerant and arrogant towards non-Malays and patronising towards Malays who choose not to adopt those ‘Arabic’ aspects.

But here’s my problem. She does it terribly.

Ms Mokhtar, if you’re reading this, know that I have no hard feelings on you personally, but your opinion piece is honestly quite horrifying to read.

She starts off with an anecdote that goes:

“Until the 1990s, a Malay boy would  usually reply that his ambition would be to become a doctor, a lawyer or an engineer. Today, a sea [of] change has occurred.

A child social worker said, “These days, many Malay boys aspire to become ustaz. They appear to have no other ambition, or interests.””

I don’t know who this child social worker is, but they’re a horrible child social worker. I thought people in that field were supposed to encourage kids to achieve their dream? I mean, who are you to say that taking up a religious profession means a lack of ambition?

She goes on and gives a list of occupations that she thinks are more ‘beneficial’ (engineers and scientists, lecturers and trade workers) and compliments those people for wanting to help their communities, as if those in a religious profession are lazy and ignorant themselves.

Come on, Ms Mokhtar, I’m sure you know better than to generalize an entire group?

But wait.

She then writes:

“Many Malays today, are intolerant and arrogant. They claim superiority over other Malaysians, but when it comes to meritocracy, they suddenly cry foul, and blame the non-Malays of denying them of their rights. […] Today, the Malays have allowed the insidious Arabisation to creep into their everyday life, and dilute their own culture. Their children are given Arabic sounding names, which are difficult to spell and are almost unpronounceable. […] Why does the Malay man not ride his camel to work, rather than terrorise other road users with his kapchai or Proton?”

You have got to be kidding me, right? Calling an entire culture ‘insidious’? Making fun of their naming conventions? Using ridiculous stereotypes like ‘Arabs ride camels’? I’m sorry, which group of people are you calling out for being intolerant of other cultures again?

And here is where the nail in the coffin lies, guys. She ends her piece with this stunning work of journalistic talent:

“The Saudi Arabians depend on Pakistani and Bangladeshi menial labourers. We, too, depend heavily on Bangladeshi workers.

If he’s not careful, the ‘superior’ Malay will be an Arab… or perhaps a Bangladeshi.”

Give this woman a Pulitzer Prize, folks! I’m going to ignore the incredibly obvious question of “How is that at all relevant to this discussion?” because that would be too easy. How on Earth could you be so condescending to foreign workers? If ‘superior Malays’ are not ‘careful’, they’ll end up like Bangladeshis?

How do you mean, Ms Mokhtar? Do you mean to say that they will begin to work extremely hard? Do you mean to say that they’ll be willing to travel thousands of kilometres, going through isolation in a foreign country in hope of a better life for their family? Or perhaps you wanted to say that they’d face persecution, abuses of their rights, and offensive opinion pieces put out on The Heat Malaysia treating them like the butt of a bad joke?

No, Ms Mokhtar, I don’t believe you meant to say any of those things. You were just trying to make a cheap shot at the expense of one of the most marginalized communities in Malaysia, and while trying to prove how ‘intolerant and arrogant’ a certain group of people were because they adopted Arab culture, you proved that a person could be just as intolerant and arrogant and condescending without adopting it.

I have friends from many different national backgrounds, I am happy to say. Some of them are from the Middle East, some of them are from Bangladesh. They vary in educational qualification and income levels, but the most important thing is that they vary at all. They’re not some homogeneous, faceless, monolithic group that it’s okay to make fun of.

Your opinion piece was basically the equivalent of saying “Don’t be intolerant… because everyone knows only Arabs are intolerant! And don’t even get me started on the Bangladeshis!” I hope you realize the problem with that statement.

I’m sorry, but I’d very much prefer to live in a Malaysia where we celebrate a variety of different cultures, Arab, Malay, Bangladeshi, what have you. The day when a group of ‘Arabicised’ Malay people start giving me flak for being Malaysian-Chinese, then maybe I’ll write about that, but I sure as heck won’t be putting down entire cultures and groups of people while I do.

New Blog!

That’s a title I’ve typed out more times than I’d care to admit, and probably more times than is healthy. You know, I’m somewhat obsessed with the idea of starting new blogs, posting in them for a bit, and then deleting them and starting again.

There’s just something refreshing about new blogs. Like a cycle of death and rebirth. I kind of like the idea that the stuff I wrote is now gone forever, but that a record of the stuff I’m writing now exists for as long as I want it to.

Or maybe I’m just super fickle and fond of over-thinking things, haha.

This blog, by the way, is probably gonna be used as a way for me to extend my Facebook rants without annoying my friends too much. There’ll be some overlap with the stuff I post there, but I’m thinking this would be where I put the ‘expanded’ version of those mini-essays I write sometimes.

Gotta do something with your time, right?