Last weekend, Los Angeles Times columnist Chris Erskine infuriated millennials nationwide with a tone-deaf article in which he advocated that all millennials take a pledge that perpetuated dumb stereotypes about my generation.
Among the things we must vow to do in order to be officially considered an adult? Not name our first-born child after the car-sharing app Uber because we’re tech-obsessed; avoid wearing flip-flops and shorts to job interviews because every job is seemingly beneath us; and stop texting at funerals because we apparently have no respect for the dead.
Fusion summed up the article best with the headline: “Millennials are gross, angry old man complains.”
I feel obligated to chime in, not just because I’m trying to earn street cred by starting an East Coast-West Coast feud, but also because his pledge is profoundly moronic and unfunny — plus, he’s managed to say nothing new.
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We get it. You think we’re insufferable, entitled, self-absorbed and selfie-obsessed. We’re the worst, according to everyone. We’ve got such a bad reputation that even people who are in the 18-to-35 age bracket of what is considered a millennial don’t want to be called millennials, according to Pew Reseach. Its study says that we’re more likely to be critical of ourselves than any generation before us — maybe because the media hate us so much. You know you’re not the Greatest Generation when Time magazine calls you the “Me Me Me” Generation on its cover, and the sentiment is repeated in just about every American periodical imaginable.
We’ve been dealt, perhaps, the worst hand of cards of any prior American generation. We are instilled with the American Dream, which promised us all we needed to do to live in a big mansion was work hard and earn our keep. But that dream has come crashing down as many realize that just barely getting by financially is the reality of the new millennial middle-class.
Many of us started from the bottom, beginning our careers in a new millennium that has already been battered by economic recessions hindering job growth and stagnating wages. We sent out dozens — or hundreds — of applications hoping that an employer would call us, maybe with a job with an actual salary, not an unpaid internship. Many millennials are also screwed for life as our lifetime earnings will be depressed compared to those of peers who graduate in boom years, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research.
We take on extraordinary amounts of student debt just so we can earn diplomas that cost less for previous generations and were required far less often than in decades past. We earn $2,000 less annually, adjusted for inflation, than workers of the same age in 1980, according to the Atlantic. Moreover, cost of living has increased significantly during the intervening decades, particularly in areas like housing and medical care.
Despite all of this, you’d think our elders would cut us some slack. Generational feuding is a longstanding tradition. But the hostility toward kids these days feels more pervasive than ever before. While the Beastie Boys fought for their right to party, our generation is just fighting to make ends meet while not having a Baby Boomer judge us for posting a selfie on Instagram.
I propose an alternative to the Millennial Pledge for columnists, pundits and other talking heads:
▪ I vow not to make sweeping generalizations about millennials or other future generations younger than I.
▪ I understand that a population of tens of millions of people who happen to be born within a specific time period cannot be summed up in a few paragraphs and doing so will alienate or offend more than a few.
▪ Although I may not understand the interests or behaviors of younger generations, I will accept that their experiences are valid and mocking them publicly will likely subject me to the vitriol and ridicule of the denizens of the Internet.