Humans have engaged in warfare for 10,000 years. Contrary to what some might believe, this does not mean that modern humans have always been warlike, as the species is 200,000 years old. However, today, warfare is as commonplace as celebration, and arguably, more commonplace than peace. As awful and destructive as war is, it allows an interesting phenomena to occur, and this has occurred for millenia.
They are born, they are made, they triumph, they fall, they become heroes, or they die trying. Every generation from the very beginning of recorded history has professed the lives and power of warriors. From ancient Grecian gladiators to modern-day athletes and military personnel, war has been glorified and played at for centuries. This all seems a dour and disappointing account of the human condition, but only on the surface. I do not doubt there are people who revel in violence and war; we see and hear about those people everyday. Yet, there are others that take to that warriorism for good reasons, and this is an interesting balance.
In today’s world, we are constantly bombarded with news of the cruelty, prejudice, and hatred. Some blame this on the human tendency to react actively or violently. If this is true though, why are there good people who fight wars? Why are there honorable people who make a living fighting on global television?
There is a human imperative to compete and to protect. Sometimes this translates into combat sports and warfare, and this stems from something very particular and very real: Warrior rhetoric.
What I mean by warrior rhetoric is the manner in which these ideas of action in various forms are portrayed between people for the sake of putting forth an image of strength, courage, power, and warrior spirit. I recently watched a movie that put this clearly into perspective for me. The story of Jim Braddock in Cinderella Man clearly defines this warrior
rhetoric and the genre of sports and war movies shows how people are so inundated in this culture.
In Cinderella Man, Braddock was a successful boxer during the late 1920’s and early 1930’s. We’ve seen tons of movies about boxers, football players and other athletes throughout the years. But what makes Braddock special? It’s not that he was the heavyweight champion, it’s not that he came back from an injury to do it, it’s not even that he picked himself up by the bootstraps to take care of a family during the Great Depression. It’s that he embodied the warrior spirit and that’s what makes him a person that people want to know about; it’s what makes his story such a good movie. I highly recommend seeing the movie.
Another interesting cultural phenomenon that we see today is seemingly completely unrelated. I’m sure we’ve all seen or heard recently all the talk about the overwhelming “entitlement” complex exhibited by the millennial generation. Those of the older generation, and some millennials, say that the current group of people under 35 are entitled and lazy. That they expect to just be able to live with their parents for years after they turn 18 and have everything taken care of with no cares in the world.
While others say that, no, they aren’t lazy, they are responding to their environment. People claim millennials are entitled because of the “participation trophy” mentality. Basically, all millennials think they should be given whatever they want, or get recognition when all they did was try, but maybe not succeed. The push back against this argument is that millennials are choose to live at home, and ask for so much financial help because of the state of our economy.
In the “good ole days” families could have one income, two to three children, a car payment, and house payment and still be in the clear financially. Today though, it sounds insane to me that a family of four (with parents around my age) could live off of one income, with all the bills that come with living. Not to mention, if we are making the kind of money that would be necessary to make that happen, we’re probably swimming in student loan debt.
So, are we lazy? No, we’re drowning. Are we entitled? No, we’re fed up and ready to fight.
We’re ready to go to war.
In times like the recent election, the many protests and riots are one such example of this. I count myself as a middle-ground political affiliate. I want what’s best for everyone. So when I see those people protesting, I understand why, and it’s not because they are crybabies. When I listen to those who are speaking against the protests, I understand why, and it’s not because they’re racist bigots.
However, this conflict is a telling connection between two cultural phenomena that shouldn’t necessarily be connected. The view of millennials as lazy and entitled doesn’t really jive with a sense of warrior culture. But I think that’s exactly what we’re seeing, and it has to do, somewhat, with the digital environment.
When information becomes available at the touch of a button, when someone’s opinion can be seen and heard by millions just by posting it on social media, people gain a lot of power. They gain power of knowledge and they gain power of voice. As the internet gets bigger and more important in our culture, this power will only grow.
We as a generation are tired of being called lazy, and tired of living in a world where we are stressed and put down and have to claw, fight, and work our way toward anything we want, and then we still may not get it. We have a platform that finally allows us to learn, grow, and unite. No matter how people may see it, this is exactly what warriors do. When times get hard, and nothing goes right, warriors fight and do what they is necessary to make things better, whether it’s for them, their families, or for everyone. Jim Braddock fought for himself and his family, but it was a nation in turmoil and defeat of the Great Depression that felt his victories with him.
That’s what we have to gain in this generation: a better life, a better culture, a better economy. The digital environment makes that not just possible, but attainable simply because change doesn’t occur without people to fight for it.
We’re warriors, and we’re ready to act like it.