What Was the Deal with the ‘Millennial Pledge?’

So let’s talk about this article.

If you’re lucky enough to have missed this, a Baby Boomer-generation columnist for the LA Times recently wrote an article about a pledge Millennials need to take in order to become proper adults. If you’re familiar with attitudes by some Baby Boomers toward Millennials, you’re probably getting a sinking feeling in your stomach. At best it can be described as unfunny clickbait; at worst it represents a more satirical form of the sneering contempt some columnists have displayed for Generation Y. The pledge consists of pieces of advice that range from fairly sensible, to condescending, to moronic, to downright goofy. The response has been pretty much what you would expect and not entirely unwarranted.

Have you signed up for the “Millennial Pledge” yet? What’s that? You have no idea what the “Millennial Pledge” is and even the very idea of something called the “Millennial Pledge” sounds like the vaguely incoherent ramblings of a veteran newspaper columnist scrabbling around for something to send to the copy desk by deadline, because the desk really needs something now, like NOW, please?

Shots fired.

I was initially ready to unleash both barrels on this self-anointed shepherd of us Millennials with plenty of soapboxing and maybe a few shots at Baby Boomers, but after I took a step back I thought I’d do something more constructive. Namely, trying to figure out what the hell the ‘Millennial Pledge’ was supposed to be, because author Chris Erskine doesn’t seem to know half the time.

The article starts off with “I admire and adore the millennials. Obviously, it’s because I am one.” Okay, so joke article. Right? Except immediately afterwards, a few of these pledges strike me as fairly reasonable.

“I will not shun comedians or college commencement speakers just because I don’t agree with them.” Fair enough!

“I will learn to laugh at everything, especially myself.” How this applies exclusively to Millennials is anybody’s guess but I’ll take it. Then we take a left turn and start with the usual done to death Millennial jokes:

“Each year, I will pen at least one thank-you note, using what’s left of my cursive writing skills.” Worthy of an eye roll, but I suppose there’s nothing wrong with trying to emphasize personal handwritten notes (how many people still care about those is another issue). Though at this point things start getting weird:

“I will not spend an entire weekend exploring my own mouth with a coffee straw.” Okay, Chris, comedy 101: Jokes have to make sense. Assuming this was even a joke. I’m having trouble telling by now. Then we go from bad to worse:

“I will not use pepper spray to season a burrito.” Not even dignifying this one with a response.

After several more pledges of varying degrees of silliness the article just sort of stops, rather than ends. On a personal level, while I was mildly annoyed at few of the insinuations this article is just too silly to take seriously. Conversely, the actual messages that might have some merit are sandwiched between pledges to not use pepper spray to season a burrito. I can only assume that this was a weak attempt at using parody to convey more valuable messages.

Fortunately, Chris decided to do a follow up after the expected blowback that clarified his article, and not in a way that made much more sense. If anything, reading this gives me the distinct sense that he has a chip on his shoulder similar to the writer of that Fortune columnist I liked to earlier.

“It was meant more as a gentle nudge toward adulthood than a call to arms.” Leaving aside how condescending this is, I’m not sure what advising people to not spend weekends exploring their mouths was going to accomplish when it comes to encouraging the embrace of adulthood.

Speaking of chips on shoulders, he pre-empts a lot of his more mocking responses with “To me, this is what you get when you raise an entire generation without spanking.” Well, apparently you also get a generation that sacrifices, volunteers actively and is more fiscally responsible (contrary to popular myth) so I’m having trouble figuring out why this is a bad thing. Then the response turns into full on E-penis comparison: “The oceans are cleaner, the roads safer, the economy more diverse. And, oh yeah, it was boomers who invented your precious iPhones and personal computers.”

I think that quote ends anything worthwhile we might get out of either of these pieces. So to conclude, Baby Boomer columnist with chip on shoulder makes poor attempt at humor, Internet collectively mocks it, columnist doubles down, and LA Times gets space filled and generates tons of delicious clicks. Fin!