Chris Erskine’s millennial pledge, re – written for everyone

‘Get lost in your world’ by Lee Calderon.
‘Get lost in your world’ by Lee Calderon.

Last week, LA Times humour colum­nist, Chris Erskine — whose humour nobody seems to get — wrote a piece titled, From one mil­len­ni­al to oth­ers, take this pledge. It was a typ­ic­al, inter­net – style list post sprinkled with some humour, and laced with a lot of ste­reo­typ­ing and pat­ron­ising. And the inter­net did not take kindly to it.

Aside from the fact that list posts like Mr Erskine’s have little busi­ness being pub­lished in a print news­pa­per, the art­icle man­aged to garner atten­tion from a lot of people, includ­ing one of my favour­ite pub­lic­a­tions, The Guard­i­an. And in spite of the back­lash it received, the art­icle did carry some pledges worth con­sid­er­ing.

It is the mark of an edu­cated mind to be able to enter­tain a thought without accept­ing it.

Under­stand­ably, Mr Erskine’s column was sup­posed to be a humor­ous take on earn­est advice, but the unre­mark­able humour over­shad­owed everything else and even birthed a hasht­ag on Twit­ter: #mil­len­ni­alpledge.

So here is an improved list of pledges mil­len­ni­als will do well to take — this time com­ing from a mil­len­ni­al, unlike in the case of Mr Erskine’s column. But the catch is that non – mil­len­ni­als will bene­fit just as much from these and ought to take them too.

1. I am entitled to nothing (and will not expect to be repaid in kind)

Mil­len­ni­al or not, nobody is entitled to any­thing. The concept of enti­tle­ment argu­ably comes from the fast – paced life­style built around the inter­net, where one gets what one demands, instantly. But Gen X is neither an angel nor immune to the psy­cho­lo­gic­al effects of the inter­net. Enti­tle­ment best be con­sidered mean­ing­less, or, bet­ter yet, shunned alto­geth­er. So also the act of expect­ing any­thing in return for your actions.

This one might seem a tad harsh — on the bright side, it is the harshest pledge you will find; the rest are much more leni­ent.

2. I will show up on time

As many baby boomers have delayed their appoint­ments with me as have mil­len­ni­als. Time and punc­tu­al­ity is not the bane of any one gen­er­a­tion. And neither are older people always punc­tu­al, nor are young­sters always late.

3. I will eat/​drive without texting

40-year-olds in cars are just as guilty as 18-year-olds of tex­ting at traffic lights or, worse yet, while driv­ing. Con­versely, just as many 18-year-olds are inno­cent as 40-year-olds — you get the idea. The argu­ment can be made for everything on this list, so I will digress.

In this day and age, it is import­ant to dis­con­nect. When was the last time we sat under the stars? When, indeed, was the last time we unplugged from our gad­gets? A little time away from tech­no­logy, a sort of tech timeout, is good for every­one. (Read Will deFries’ art­icle in Post Grad Prob­lems for a point-wise rebut­tal to Mr Erskine — be warned, the lan­guage flows unres­trained.)

We are what we repeatedly do. Excel­lence, then, is not an act, but a habit.

4. I will learn to laugh at everything, especially myself

Sound advice: take note, older adults who are grumpy. Laughter is the best medi­cine because it relieves your stress and helps you bet­ter focus on the prob­lem at hand and solve it more effect­ively once your mind is clear.

It stumps me over and over again how LA Times plans to cater to any audi­ence with art­icles which go so far as to gen­er­al­ise an entire gen­er­a­tion. In addi­tion, as Hil­lel Aron, on LA Weekly, help­fully points out, there are just a hand­ful of non – white colum­nists on LA Times’ large payroll, and only about six women, in a city which is half Latino by race and half women by gender.

The Millennial Takeover (Infographic)
Cred­it: Visu­ally.

5. I will look people in the eye

You can claim the young­er ones nev­er do this and the older ones always do, but that claim is base­less at best. In gen­er­al, how­ever, look­ing people in the eye is a beau­ti­ful way of liv­ing. One can­not explain in words the bene­fits of this, but it gives you a bet­ter idea of the oth­er person’s thoughts, helps bet­ter inter­pret their actions, and adds an undeni­able sense of real­ity to the whole scen­ario.

6. I will not burn bridges

There are two mean­ings to this idiom, both sim­il­ar but with small dif­fer­ences of their own: to burn one’s bridges can mean to take per­man­ent decisions that you can­not change in the future; it also means to end your rela­tion­ship with oth­ers on an unpleas­ant note in a way that pre­vents the pos­sib­il­ity of you ever work­ing togeth­er again.

Whichever Mr Erskine was refer­ring to, he was right. Burn­ing bridges is gen­er­ally not a good thing; refrain from it.

The roots of edu­ca­tion are bit­ter, but the fruit is sweet.

7. I will pick my battles

From exper­i­ence I can say without a doubt that fight­ing can quickly become a habit. Before you know it, you will start to take everything as a battle to be won. But even if you are yet to reach that level, remem­ber that let­ting go even when openly con­fron­ted is the choice of a well – formed mind.

Cer­tainly not always, but you will soon find that most of the time win­ning a battle of words or wits is rarely worth it. Ask your­self, to what end are you fight­ing? To prove to someone else what your belief or opin­ion is? Is prov­ing your per­son­al opin­ion to anoth­er indi­vidu­al worth it at all? Should they not have respec­ted it in the first place? And on and on it goes. On those rare occa­sions when it is worth it, fight decently. A major­ity of the time, you do not have to.

8. Nothing is beneath me

Stud­ies show that mil­len­ni­als are gen­er­ally more open to things: from wider spec­trums of sexu­al­ity to dif­fer­ent types of jobs. That is not to say people with a superi­or­ity com­plex do not exist. They do, but the gen­er­a­tion as a whole is headed in the right dir­ec­tion.

Be open to everything, to doing everything. In addi­tion, nev­er cri­ti­cise someone who chooses to do or to not do some­thing. Sup­port them or keep mum.

Any­body can become angry – that is easy, but to be angry with the right per­son and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right pur­pose, and in the right way – that is not with­in everybody’s power and is not easy.

9. I will remember Aristotle (and morals in general)

This is where I take the liberty to broaden a point made in the ori­gin­al art­icle. Aris­totle, if he lived today, would be just as quot­able as he was back around 350BC. He would also be rak­ing in massive num­bers of re – tweets. But it is not just Aris­totle: words of wis­dom are almost always true. They are the voice of exper­i­ence and we would all do well if we paid a little more atten­tion to them instead of learn­ing the same things the harder, longer way.

(Hav­ing spoken of Aris­totle, we can hardly go on without men­tion­ing some of his extremely quot­able lines. All the quotes you find peppered around this art­icle belong to Aris­totle. The man was a geni­us by any meas­ure.)

10. I will do nice things, I will live each day, and I will sleep each night

Once again, sound advice com­ing since gen­er­a­tions — the first part of it any­way. To live each day is to exper­i­ence every moment, some­thing we can­not do in our rush hour lives over­run with gad­gets. This is where the won­der­ful tech timeout comes in: if not the whole day, at least you end up exper­i­en­cing part of the day whole­somely. And gad­gets pre­vent cosy sleep at night; for this point, you can sit back and let sci­ence speak for itself.

A friend to all is a friend to none.

As I asser­ted in my last art­icle about cri­ti­cising and review­ing (cur­rently unavail­able to read, this art­icle is now part of a private archiv­al) that unload­ing buck­ets­ful of neg­at­iv­ity rarely does the trick. And this is exactly what Mr Erskine’s column did: a lot about where mil­len­ni­als fall short as if they have nev­er done a single com­mend­able thing. Had the man men­tioned the pos­it­ive side of things, even fleet­ingly, his art­icle would not have received the back­lash it did.

How­ever, look­ing past the obnox­ious stand he took against mil­len­ni­als, there are some points in Mr Erskine’s list worth con­sid­er­ing ser­i­ously. The catch, though, is that these points have little to do with mil­len­ni­als alone. They are for every­one. It’s simply a pledge that can enrich anyone’s life.

Done reading?