21st Century Greek Chorus: The Wailing of the Karens

Do you remember reading the old Greek plays? There is always a group of people on the edge who act as the voice of what everyone is thinking. There Greek writers have been cherished for so long because they were really on to something. That voice of what “people” think–the combined opinions of the guy down the block, my cousin, my brother’s friend and that thing I heard on the news the other day.

It affects me. I pause in my choices as I remember others’ opinions.

The modern manifestation of this idea is social media. All the socials will tell me what opinions to have on topics I haven’t gotten around to thinking about.

These some social medias have come up with the modern Beelzebub: Karen

Apologies to the many nice women named Karen. But this Karen archetype is the woman who has lived her life successfully and knows how things work. Most especially she knows how the world should be run and how she is to be treated. It is widely understood that she is going to talk to the manager about what needs to be changed. The customer service she received may indeed be past repair, but she will take the time to inform the manager what needs to change so that this establishment can be brought up to the standards that allow her to bestow her patronage on it the next time.

This archetypical woman has gone through life and learned things. She is no passive participant; she has found her voice and can use it whenever necessary. Maybe a little more than necessary.

Karens do a lot to keep the world running smoothly. And the world ain’t running so smooth right now, have you noticed?

The ascendancy of the Karens, as I see it, was about 4 years ago. They knew the workings of the machine and could nudge it back into smoothness.

And at the beginning of the Covid lockdowns most of their knowledge was still valid. But 18 months ago was the end of an era.

Remember when we could laugh at those crazy baristas at Starbucks who would misspell our names in bizarre fashion? Karen would have talked to them about it.

But now? My local Starbucks doesn’t have that kind of personal detail to write my NAME on a cup. I’m asked to order with the app and not go into the store without an appointment.

Wait no, that was last month.

Now they have a trainee and they are out of Sharpies since the shipment hasn’t come in for the last two months. I don’t think the trainee is going to learn the signature name-reinterpretation tradition of baristas from decades past.

The wheels fell off. That trainee is not gonna stick around too long. The hard-won wisdom of Karen is EOL.

End of life. This era is becoming. What it is become remains to be seen. But I do foresee a great weeping and gnashing of teeth for those who had risen to prominence during the era previous.

Yes, I admit. I am one of those. I have talked to a manger once or twice. I mourn the decay of a once orderly system of existence.