In Case You Missed It: YOLO


Every week in In Case You Missed It, Mike Haverty devotes closer analysis to relevant items in the past week’s news.

We’ve been making fun of Erwin McKiness for the last four months. We didn’t know a name, what he looked like, where he lived, where he wanted to live instead, his parents, their fights, his loves, his mistakes, his friends, his enablers, his own struggles–the vapid and the gargantuan, the public and the private–but we knew that someone would be the inevitable product and punchline of YOLO because the best jokes have too much truth to stay “just jokes.” Now that there’s a face to the joke, the only course of action left is to shrug our shoulders and say “yep, that happened.”

Now for a Newsweek impersonation: (ahem) Where do we go from here? Not far. YOLO kids will continue yelling YOLO, and everyone else will still hate it, and we’ll all continue to make our own problems. YOLO in the truest, existential sense remains powerful in a vacuum from human interpretation. The phrase already carries the connotation of procrastination and deflection, seizing the night and ruing the day. It’s romantic to teenagers, suicidal to everyone older, and this is why it’s a phrase receiving so much ire. We’re seeing the worst things happen to kids who don’t know better, an exaggerated gap between YOLO kids and everyone else. THESE KIDS will DIE because they are DIFFERENT AND THRIVE IN SELF-DESTRUCTION. IMPOSE CURFEWS. STALK YOUR YOUNG. EVERYONE IS DRUNK DRIVING YOUR CHILD TONIGHT. CALL THEM NOW.  YOU ONLY PARENT ONCE.


Jeremiads have no room here. Scorn and aggravation will do nothing. A kid, an aspiring rapper, was in a car filled with drunk friends. I’ve always had a problem with the idea that everyone becomes a saint after death. The logic is that no animosity can be directed toward the dead because it’s a combination of “talking behind one’s back” and “tarnishing a legacy.” Two big no-nos.  This is not about how their life, but this is about how they died. They were being stupid. They were being fucking idiots. They are still people. They will continue to be the joke.

Erwin McKiniss and the four others in that car committed suicide, and thank God they didn’t take any other people out with them. The hyper-parental Newsweek-thinking region of my brain labels it with the puke-generating buzzword “YOLO-assisted suicide.” YOLO belittles the burden of life we all avoid by self-destruction and self-medicating. It’s a terrific “fuck you” to everything pressing. It’s a broken way of living, but not a rare one. We are surrounded by a commitment to avoidance. We are passive and scared. Most people are guaranteed hard lives that seem unimaginable to keep fighting for every day without a vice threatening to consume them. That’s not exactly a Drake lyric, but that’s why YOLO is important. It has become a dark truth: we are humans, and if we cannot be happy, we will try to destroy ourselves. We need a way to feel better about all that, even if it has to be ripped from a Drake chorus and thrown around with neon-shirt panache. Now we have embraced it. At such a wide acceptance in the U.S., YOLO functions as a grotesque parody of humanity’s death drive. Grotesque, as it’s profitable. Parody, not satire, because that happened.