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.
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.