Special, sensitive, and woke
You’ve probably heard by now that the Bar exams was moved to next year. After it was canceled last year. And with the longer time for study came the many inspiring statements from everywhere, of going for “greatness,” to study with “purpose” yet with “compassion.” Essentially, it exhorts students to be “confidently beautiful but with a heart.” Or something like it.
This made me think of the James Bond film The Man with the Golden Gun. In the routine briefing scene, M informed Bond that the villain Scaramanga was out to kill him. It was at this point that something piqued my interest: rather than be sympathetic or solicitous towards Bond, M actually told him to either resign or take a sabbatical because, as he put it, he just can’t afford to jeopardize any mission.
When Bond suggests going after Scaramanga instead, M does not praise or give encouragement to Bond. M just dismisses him gruffly. Later in the movie, when something goes wrong, rather than tell Bond everything is OK, to forget it and move on, M cold-bloodedly (and quite famously) tells Bond: “l almost wish that Scaramanga had a contract on you.”
Now, all this is rather interesting because if M had done that to a present-day Bond, who’d likely be a tattooed 20- or 30-something, Bond would run to Instagram (or tweet about “the darkness”), post a selfie of his abs and his unappreciated-by-the-boss look, complain how empty life is, and then — after getting hundreds of FB “likes” — go out and buy a soy latte.
Which reminds me of another marvelous M quote: “Christ, I miss the Cold War!”
Michael Jordan says it best: “A lot of kids today need reinforcement. They need a pat on the back. Back in those days, if you didn’t get the pat, you better pat yourself and keep moving.”
I remember a young lawyer years ago whom I assigned to prepare a brief. The next day saw his work to be completely unsatisfactory and was told so. He replied defensively to “give him a break” as he “worked all night on it and hasn’t slept yet.” It was at that point that I went ballistic. After all, it was still sloppy work!
A lawyer friend working in the HR department of a multinational company: “Just tell any 20-something nowadays, no matter how gentle, of how he or she needs to improve, and you get an HR complaint like clockwork.”
The words of a famous fictional curmudgeon come to mind — Gregory House, MD: “I’m sure this goes against everything you’ve been taught but right and wrong do exist. Just because you don’t know what the right answer is, maybe there’s even no way you could know what the right answer is, doesn’t make your answer right or even okay. It’s much simpler than that. It’s just plain wrong.”
A lot think that students nowadays need to be treated with kid gloves. A little push, a little pressure, and you either get a defensive, sulking student (or a crying wreck) or somebody who’ll organize a petition for a change in lecturers. This should be resisted.
Things have become so soft that law school recitations can’t even simulate legal practice back and forths. As if trial work will be any different. While I’m not advocating a return to the old days when law or medical school recitations got to the point of actual harassment, nevertheless, there is merit in exerting as much pressure on students, all students.
Why? Again Gregory House. When he was asked to lecture and a student started complaining that “You know, it’s kind of hard to think when you’re in our face like this…,” House derisively cuts him off: “Yeah? You think it’s going to be easier when you’ve got a real patient really dying?”
To be honest: I’d rather have a business, medical, or law student have his feelings badly hurt than have a person in the real world lose his livelihood, his freedom, or his life just because a kid couldn’t grow up knowing how to handle pressure or failures.
In the superb “Why Generation Y Yuppies Are Unhappy” (by Tim Urban, Wait But Why and Huffington Post, September 2013), which pinpointed to the logical conclusion of Baby Boomer narcissism transmutating itself to their progeny (“the generation born between the late 1970s and the mid 1990s”) that “they’re special.” Unfortunately, one should only feel special after having done something to deserve it. Actual merit is a good thing.
This rubs against many of today’s youth’s feelings when their expectations are crushed against reality: “the funny thing about the world is that it turns out to not be that easy of a place, and the weird thing about careers is that they’re actually quite hard. Great careers take years of blood, sweat and tears to build.”
Or, as Valmont would say, rather presciently really, kids today “don’t need help, they need hindrances.”
Jemy Gatdula is a senior fellow of the Philippine Council for Foreign Relations and a Philippine Judicial Academy law lecturer for constitutional philosophy and jurisprudence