I don't disagree with the general thrust of what you are saying, particularly after carefully reading your definition for "wimpiness," but I also think a huge part of what you are calling "wimpiness" is a rational collective response to the very real collapse of systems of reliable, long-term meaning-based reward (religion is one example you mention). Does it make sense to use a noun that indicates a deficiency of character to describe a phenomenon that might be better understood as a rational reaction to a change in context, and/or environment? I don't think so. I'm worried it falls into the same trap as many of the articles you cite here, describing individuals of a particular generation as essentially whiny babies without asking how conditions have changed to make their behavior make sense. I think you are going to put your finger on a lot of SUPER interesting things through your writing, but why frame it as causes for this thing called "wimpiness"? The lens feels limited because it's already bought into the idea that the world is essentially a collection of individuals who are influenced mostly by their own character, which is inside them.

Finally, I want to suggest one other possible reading of the things you outline here: is it possible that what we are seeing is not the loss of courage so much as the loss of collective systems of meaning, in the sense that courage is always read upon a backdrop that we AGREE is worthy? What I mean is, if someone fights off zombies to protect their baby, we all agree that's courageous because we all mostly agree that babies are valuable, and being a good parent is great. But I think another thing that's happening is that people are starting to care about things that are more and more niche. And what may look like wimpiness to you or me may just be someone being courageous about something very, very specific.

Said in other words: how do we talk about someone else's "ambition" without having some external sense of what it's worth being ambitious ABOUT? I know folks who I consider VERY ambitious because they're doing their best to live according to their own values, but this sort of complex engagement of their own values means that they are what others would describe as underemployed, perhaps delusional, and doing something "small." Can we talk about ambition without the spectre of competition? Maybe we can't. Maybe that's a problem.

Just some thoughts I wanted to share. I think the general phenomena you are describing here, especially at the end of your article, are very real and worth studying. But I think framing your inquiry in relation to some sort of collective moral deficiency might be falling into a trap.

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Jun 14, 2022Liked by Molly Mielke

Thank you! It was a good read. "To speak our minds, align our beliefs with our actions, and aim really, really high, we need reasons outside of ourselves. Not flimsy award or accolade-shaped reasons — but sturdy, deep-rooted, grounding reasons like relationships and responsibility." Yes! Have been mulling over this for a long time and each time I question if commitment and deep conviction can come from projects and pursuits that sit apart from responsibility. I lean towards being "useful" and of service though a perennial challenge has been that to be useful, I need to first be legible and that requires that I file off certain edges and choose certain labels. I struggle with that. It's a tricky game.

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Could you expand on what you mean by "therapy culture"? I had my first extended foray into therapy this year. I definitely have some skepticism about how much I can change certain behaviors, but it was largely helpful in helping me understand why I struggle with some aspects of human relationships (e.g. attachment theory to be helpful). I have noticed a wide variance in how people engage with therapy, so I'd love to understand how you think therapy culture is related to wimpiness.

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My god was this refreshing to read!

Thank you 💛

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