I’m special but I’m so sad...

was my Trade Tripper column in the 23-24 October 2015 issue of BusinessWorld:

It was family movie night and with a mind to keeping things educational I decided to pass on The Book Thief and instead watch The Man With The Golden Gun. In the routine briefing scene M informed James 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, he actually told him to either resign or take a sabbatical because, as he put it, he can’t afford to jeopardize any mission.

When Bond suggests going after Scaramanga instead, M does not praise or congratulate Bond. But just dismisses him gruffly that it could “dramatically” change the situation.

Later in the movie, when something goes wrong, rather than tell Bond everything is okay and encourage him to move him on, M cold-bloodedly (and quite famously) tells Bond that “l almost wish that Scaramanga had a contract on you.”

Now all this is rather interesting to me because if M had done that to a present day Bond, who’d likely be a tattooed teen or 20s, Bond would go to Facebook, talk about “the darkness,” how empty his life is, post a selfie of his unappreciated-by-the-boss look, and then -- after getting hundreds of Facebook Likes -- kill himself.

Which reminds me of another marvelous M quote: “Christ, I miss the Cold War!”

What’s wrong with kids nowadays? 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, I found his work to be completely unsatisfactory and told him so. He replied defensively to “give him a break”, as he “worked all night on it and hasn’t slept yet.” At that point, I went ballistic. What does it matter if one hasn’t slept or worked to the point of exhaustion? It was still sloppy work!

Which takes me to a lawyer friend working in the human resources (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 another curmudgeon comes 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.”

Thus this memory of conversations I’ve had with other law lecturers. A lot think that students nowadays have to be treated with kid gloves. A little push or 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 forth. As if trial work will be any different. While I’m not advocating that we go back to the old days when law or medical school recitations become so to the point of 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 -- ” then House angrily cuts him off with “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 not knowing how to handle pressure or failures.

In the superb Why Generation Y Yuppies Are Unhappy (Tim Urban, September 2013), which pinpointed to the logical conclusion of Baby Boomer narcissism transmutating itself to their progeny Gen Y’s (“the generation born between the late 1970s and the mid-1990s”) “they’re special.”

Unfortunately, one should only feel special after actually having done something concrete to deserve it. Or as Urban points: “the real world has the nerve to consider merit a factor.”

Which destroys a lot of Gen Y’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.”

Indeed. As Valmont would say, rather than understanding, kids today “don’t need help, they need hindrances.”