What is a Karen?

A Karen is

  • white
  • female
  • usually older than 30
  • so obsessed with herself that she doesn’t want to undergo even the mildest discomfort for the sake of the greater good
  • will throw a tantrum if she doesn’t get what she wants
  • is so entitled that she has ridiculous expectations when it comes to customer service
  • always expecting extreme consideration while being extremely inconsiderate herself

These days you can see pop up videos with ladies labelled ‘Karen’ throwing the most infantile kind of fits all over the place. Ladies thrashing stands with face masks. A lady refusing to wear a face mask in a store and reverting to an instantaneous sit-down strike. She ends up blocking other customers. The store employee is remarkbly friendly and respectful, but she remains obstinate.

Interesting is that she screams that she is a citizen of the United States.

Is this a synonym for someone who believes she enjoys limitless personal freedom protected by some higher power?

I live in Slovakia and to this day I haven’t met anyone who refuses to wear a face mask. Sorry, I have. But he is from the Netherlands. Ok, apart from that guy I can say people don’t cause any trouble here. In fact, people around here have been so disciplined the entire time that Slovakia has kept its covid cases remarkably low. My home country Belgium reacted too late. When Slovakia had already put strict measures in place my mum could still go to her hairdresser, no face mask required. After Belgium passed similar measures I heard her give examples of how people circumvented those measures. I heard no such examples in Slovakia. At least one Belgian friend is against wearing these masks and was almost arrested in a Belgian train.

It’s easy to think our world has gone bat shit crazy, but I think that’s partly because everything we do now is filmed and immediately available online. Am sure there were plenty of crazy people alive before internet became such a central part of our existence.

Still, this particular behavior strongly reeks of narcissism and hyperindividualism. Perhaps these invidiuals feel unseen and do something obnoxious to become visible. In our culture not many people matter. Only the hot, the young, the rich and the talented. Maybe these ladies suffer in obscurity and then simply snap. If you have been fed on a pop culture diet that celebrates the power of the individual and you yourself experience a predominant feeling of powerlessness I get that you explode one day. Maybe these Karens are the female and far less violent variant of lone gunmen shooting up people at the mall (also almost always white).

In the west there is very little concern for the greater good. There is no idea that the collective matters. People just zoom in on their own experience and want to have everything easy all the time. It’s a kind of stubborn focus on invidiual hedonism. Except that very few people are experiencing any real, meaningful pleasure in the west. There’s something very suspicious about pleasure seeking individuals in the west. It’s almost like they live pleasure as an imperative.

They are having pleasure for the cameras. For the viewer. For an imaginary audience. The activities they engage in are pleasurable because of the idea that somebody will see them, not so much because of the intrinsic pleasure in those activities.

It’s been said before, but we have become addicted to attention. Maybe we already were in some way before social media, but thanks to social media you don’t have to have to produce or create anything worth remembering to get that attention.

Who wants to practice playing the guitar for 10,000 hours if you can get your attention fix by filming some fitness routine we have all seen way too often and uploading it to Instagram?

What keeps western society together is consumerism, the market and luckily still some values about how the weak deserve help for example. This help is then often provided in the form of money. There is a strong general idea that human life is sacred, but at the same time there is also the very strong general idea that individuals should be as free as possible. Of course there is plenty of room for a conflict there.

Nobody wants to live in a totalitarian state, but most of us would like to live in a state where everybody cares about each other. Except that not many people want to make the actual effort that goes with caring.

I assume that things already go wrong in childhood with parents who don’t give their children what they really need and tend to use the child to satisfy the needs of the parent. This combined with a lack of a clear common goal and belief system as a society creates individuals who go through life expecting the world to be there just for them.

In a world where you are bombarded with messages about how the ideal person should be, look, act, shop it’s almost inevitable to end up with feelings of depression or megalomania. The two possible negative responses to feeling not good enough.

Sometimes I think we are all starting to behave like we are the main character in a Hollywood movie. In reality we end up playing the part of a mostly impotent mini-villain. Not even realizing what we need anymore and focussing on trivial stuff to manifest our identity and defend our tiny bubble in this world.

As mentioned earlier I do think that these cases get more attention than they should because of social media. In the land of social media people with very little going for them sit around waiting to jump at the next person showing a moment of weakness to make fun of.

I think the way forward for humanity is to consider what we can mean to other people. If we are not looking for a way to help others we are just being tourists in this life. It may be tempting to go through life as a gloating observer, but it has nothing to do with true happiness, it’s just a coward cop out with the ‘cool’ halo of cynicism.

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