Perhaps you've had the good fortune to avoid seeing this column by LA Times word-vomiter Chris Erskine entitled "Millennials, you literally cannot call yourselves adults until you take this pledge." If ever the title of an opinion column foreshadowed Paul Harvey levels of smug, corn-pone "advice" reinforcing Bootstrap Mythology, this is it. I "literally" had to close the browser when I read the title to steel myself before confronting the body of it. True to form, it offered a hodgepodge of Old Man Shouting at Cloud ("I am entitled to nothing."), complaints that apply every bit as well to non-Millennials ("Just once, I will try driving without texting."), attempts at humor that make Family Circus look like a George Carlin album ("I will not consider the cilantro on my taco to be a vegetable."), cheap, tired stereotypes ("If I can't afford car insurance, I won't spend $20 a day on coffee."), and advice that nobody over 35 follows despite constantly giving it to The Youths ("I will not run up my credit cards.") On a scale of 1 to 10, this column is shit.

The author appears to believe that he is on solid intellectual footing because, as a 34 year old, he somehow "is" a millennial, whatever that term even means. The real problem is that this column, like so many opinion pieces that appeal to Common Sense or Telling It Like It Is, is just right-wing moralizing dressed up unconvincingly in a package that is supposed to speak to a broader audience.

Let me humbly propose a pledge that I'd like Mr. Erskine and anyone else with an urge to give saccharine advice to The Kids These Days to take. To be sure, there are some things about the current generation of young'ns worth criticizing; it is demonstrable, for example, that their attention spans are getting shorter and their grades are wildly inflated. But since the author didn't bother to do any research I'll play by the same rules. Whenever you're ready, take the Gin and Tacos "I Literally Cannot Call Myself a Not-Asshole Until I Take This Pledge" pledge:

  • I will not support people who want to start wars
  • I will not refuse to pay for the wars started by the people I support
  • I will demand that my employer treat me better rather than demanding that yours treat you as badly as mine
  • I will stop giving young people advice based on my experiences in 1970
  • I will not pull up the ladder after I board the lifeboat
  • I will not destroy institutions like public education that I took full advantage of
  • I will stop pining for the America of the 1950s, forgetting what it were like for women and minorities
  • I will stop using words I can't correctly define in politics
  • I am not entitled to anything that I actively want to deny anyone else
  • I will not scapegoat the poor, immigrants, or anyone else for my own unhappiness or failure
  • I will consider the possibility that I'm not funny when I tell others to learn to take a joke
  • I will not insist that problems I find inconvenient do not exist
  • I will live with an accept the consequences of the people I voted for and the economy I created
  • I will stop pretending I'm a radical because I had long hair 50 years ago before becoming middle management
  • I admit that things I say are not interesting, relevant, or true just because I say them
  • I will apologize for my part in creating the world I expect young people to succeed in
  • I will not be surprised when my children put me in a home

    When you're ready to do all that, I'll pledge that all I have to do is work harder and I'll succeed as though I live in a vacuum and not in a broken, clusterbang of an economy that previous generations created.

  • 43 thoughts on “TAKE THE "I AM AN ASSHOLE" PLEDGE”

    • Not to defend the guy or his piece that I haven't read, but this is from Erskine's bio on the Times' site

      Chris Erskine's is a humor columnist for the Los Angeles Times

      And I am wagering that his original column was meant to be read as something of a satire, especially when it starts with a first sentence that clearly meant to be read tongue in cheek. But of course sarcasm doesn't translate well to the Internet and nobody can see from the blurry ass photos that he is clearly not 34.

      Ultimately though, it may very well be an old man rant that simply is dressed up as a satire piece in which case, yeah, he really is a putz.

    • Spiffy McBang says:

      A line I read skimming through:

      "Stuff like that. Not exactly James Thurber or Dorothy Parker, but who is anymore?"

      Fuck you. I understand more writing jobs need to be filled than there are talented writers, but don't use that as an excuse to not fucking try, you goddamned hack.

    • Leading Edge Boomer says:

      Chris Erskine is a humor columnist for the LA Times. He is in his 50's (he did not say which millenium he belonged to). His column may have been too subtle for some, but the dead giveaway was his use of "literally" in the headline after discouraging its use. Here's his followup to all the flak he got:

      Ed, do better research. We'd like to hear from you at this site after learning who he is.

    • This article suffers from the same problem as the Daily Currant. It's supposed to be funny, as evidenced by these two bullet points:

      • I will not burn overpasses.
      • If I hate my new job, I will not fake my own death. I will give a full two weeks' notice like grown-ups usually do.

      However, the humor doesn't go far enough to signal the reader not to take it seriously. The former is a stupid dad-joke pun on the previous bullet point "I will not burn bridges." The latter crosses the line into the absurd, but it is the lone unambiguously funny part of the article. One or two obvious jokes does not a satirical piece make, similar to how the lone true fact in an Ann Coulter column doesn't make her honest.

      Mr. Erskine titled his column identically to a column that would be actually whining about (and mocking) us damn kids, and his bullet points contain actual legitimate life advice, so, frankly, he failed at his job as a humor columnist.

      He also wrote a follow-up column about the backlash. He almost wasn't smug about it, but he just had to say, "To me, this is what you get when you raise an entire generation without spanking."

      tl;dr Mr. Erskine sucks at his job.

    • What Leading Edge Boomer said.

      For a site that enjoys some fairly pointless stereotyping of The Olds (e.g. ascribing to them attitudes or conduct found in plenty of age groups), why the extreme chagrin at receiving the same treatment?

      Especially since Erskine wasn't even dishing out the same treatment but laughing at it?

      You may not be laughing with him, but taking it all so irately seems odd.

    • This:

      "In my last column, I offered up a list of what millennials might do to improve themselves. Lighthearted, it started with the admission that I am a millennial myself, a joke the target audience didn't seem to get (I never said which millennium). The piece provoked backlash like I've never seen."

      is from Mr. Erskine's f/u column.

      as is this:

      "No, that's exactly the problem, kiddo. Worse yet, most of you can't seem to laugh at yourselves just a little bit."

      I looked at his photo and see a guy who looks a lot like Ned Flanders and seems just as full of fakeishnessosity.

      Dear Ned:

      A much more appropriate response to the little shitstom that your column generated might have been:

      "I apparently misjudged, badly, my ability to be, like, totally hip. I will work on that aspect of my 'craft'. Iwill also remind myself that the Mark Twain award is something that I should view, when given the chance, as there won't be one in my house, anytime soon."

    • Okay. I recognized the column as humor (or an attempt at it) within the first two sentences. Not particularly artful humor, but nonetheless something written more or less tongue in cheek. It also appears to be typical of Erskine's work in general — I linked to a couple of his other columns and they're the same awkward mix of moderately amusing and old man yelling at clouds.

      In other words, I'm baffled as to why Ed felt it was worth wasting his time writing about, but then we all are prone to reacting to stuff that other people might view as too picayune to bother with.

    • I don't get all the Millennial bashing. Most of the ones I know seem to be very nice people.

      Every generation thinks the one after them is somehow lazier than they are or less moral. I'm sure I could find a quote from Plato or Socrates about "these kids today!" if I looked hard enough.

    • I will stop giving young people advice based on my experiences in 1970 …
      I am not entitled to anything that I actively want to deny anyone else

      That's just crazy talk.

    • Assistant Professor says:

      This sort of reminds me of a PJ O'Rourke piece of the twenty-first century, when the funny had gradually all faded away and all that was left was a Right-Wing Grandpa at the Dinner Table with some sad bits of attempting to be funny.

    • Erskine's article reminded of something, and after some thought and a double espresso I realized that I have read the baby boomer equivalent before, in my mother's Reader's Digest magazines in the 1960s (I must have been a very bored young man back then). Same anachronistic humor, different details.

      But why get upset over it? I never did.

    • Here's a little tip. For satire to work, there has to be some truth to it. It's like when conservatives make jokes about Democrats being Marxists or wanting to invite terrorists into the country as part of multi-culturalism and tolerance. Since neither is true about Democrats, it's not really funny from a satirical point of view. On the other hand, when someone like cartoonist Tom Tomorrow makes fun of Democrats and Obama with his running "Middle Man" comics, this actually is funny satire because it's an actual legitimate gripe against the president.

    • To whomever has been telling guys like Chris Erskine and Richard Cohen that they're actually funny: I know you think you're helping by building up their self esteem, but you wind up hurting them in the end. These poor guys are making idiots of themselves in front of a national audience. It would be sad if they weren't so repellent.

    • PROTIP for the Boomers here who are confused about why Ed dislikes Chris Erskine: Just because someone says that what they're writing is "humor," doesn't mean it is.

    • First, satire is very hard to write without some clear indication that it is satire. When you read Andy Borowitz or The Onion, you know going in what it is. For someone to just spring it on you, doesn't work. Too many people will take it on face value. I know. Many years ago, I wrote a newspaper column. I tried satire. It was a total flop. A lot of people just don't get it.

      Second, what makes this column truly hilarious is that Erskine is betraying how out of touch he is. Talking about Millennials is so June of 2015. Millennials are now the older generation. Their place has been taken by Gen Z, which is the group that marketers are now targeting. They are vastly different than Millennials. For one thing, they are more into acquiring "stuff." You could look it up.

      This is why I got a chuckle when Ed complained about his students. He's approaching them as if they are Millennials. They're not, and their outlook on life is way different.

    • Re: this Chris Erskine dork: If you find yourself having to follow up your satirical article with another one in which you are compelled to explain that you were attempting humor and taunt readers who couldn't find the humor, there can be no surer sign that you are not funny.

      Nevertheless, it's nice to see that the tedious cottage industry/newspaper columnist welfare system of "I'm all out of ideas so I'll write some handwringing dreck that stereotypes twenty-somethings" is apparently still alive and well.

    • It is only satire if it is an exaggeration. It is only funny if it is absurd. Neither of those conditions apply here.

      A male comedian making misogynist jokes may hide behind the fact that, as a comedian, what he says is not to be taken seriously. On the one hand, fair point–we do have some responsibility in how we approach his work (treating Swift's "Modest Proposal" as unironic would be an invalid reaction, for instance.)

      But on the other hand, bullshit. The axioms of "it's funny because it's true" or "it's funny because we're all thinking it" also apply here.

      This column could be a satire of scolding–that is, Erskine could be mocking the old scolds who throw disapproving bromides at their youngers without considering context or their own complicity. That makes sense as a column.

      Except that Erskine never tips his hand. He never throws in a wink to the reader to suggest that he's actually making fun of his peers, and not the Millennials themselves. No, the piece reads, start to finish, as a Cosby-ish "ain't the kids today such a disgrace" hit job–meant to evoke laughter, but APPROVING laughter, from the Erskine generation.

      Erskine's not kidding. He believes all of this stuff. He's chosen to phrase it in what he thinks is a humorous way (and on that note: Jesus, man), but he believes it.

      Fuck that guy.

    • Reactionary assholes never die.

      Unless they have an open or concealed carry accident.

      Which happens too infrequently to thin the herd much.

    • Regardless of whether Ed interpreted the Erskine piece to everyone's liking, I think Ed's bullet list here is fantastic and stands on its own.

    • Thank you, Ed, for calling this asshole out. Plenty have already, and I say the more, the merrier on this one.

      And fuck those of you defending this dipshit. Seriously. Shut the fuck up and get out of the way.

    • I live in LA and Chris Erskine is a fixture in our local paper. Yes, I still receive an actual paper on my doorstep every morning, and my partner and I enjoy passing the sections of it back and forth over coffee before work. We're in our early 50s. Get over it.

      No, Chris Erskine is not particularly funny, but neither is he the horrible human being you make him out to be. He is a gentle soul with a gentle wit, much like Garrison Keillor. If you had been reading his column as I have over the last 20 years, you would have context for who he is, (and he's far from being 34 – he has kids in college) and he writes from actual experience with his own family. He's not ranting about strangers in coffee shops (or students he only sees for an hour a day). He's writing what he knows.

      Ed – I love you and your rants but this time, you are off the mark.

    • "He is a gentle soul with a gentle wit, much like Garrison Keillor."

      I loved, "The Prairie Home Companion" but Garrison Keillor is neither a gentle soul or a possessor of "gentle wit" in the main. He is a gifted writer, a shrewd social critic, a sometimes profane and also, sometimes, sanctimonious. He is rarely boring.

      I found the few things I looked at by Erskine to be the opposite. Maybe he's a nice person, he's not even close to Garrison Keillor.

    • Good choice.

      I'd be happy to read Garrison Keillor on this subject anytime. For that matter he's likely to have covered it on radio or in a column along the way.

    • I'm one of those people who often says "Don't read the comments section" but I think I should amend that to say "Don't read the comments section unless it's on Gin and Tacos". People going back and forth on opposite sides of a topic without getting all crazy. Kudos, you small, small, SMALL sliver of the internet.

    • I agree with Heisenberg: "Regardless of whether Ed interpreted the Erskine piece to everyone's liking, I think Ed's bullet list here is fantastic and stands on its own."

      I think Ed could have come up with his entire bullet list by looking at just one politician: Paul Ryan. If Ryan signed and adhered to Ed's pledge, he would have to change his entire political philosophy. For example, one of the conditions Ryan set for accepting the Speakership is that be allowed "more time for his family." This is from a politician who doesn't believe in paid family leave for others. And he wants to cut Social Security benefits even though he paid part of his college tuition from Social Security survivor benefits. If only he weren't so eager to pull up the ladder after he boarded the lifeboat. Also, Ryan wants to cut other social programs while returning pentagon spending to pre-sequestration levels.

    • If I remember the chart in Fowler's Modern English Usage, the aim of satire is amendment, its province is morals and manners, its method is accentuation, and its audience is the self satisfied. No wonder it is often hard to detect. Not all that long ago a friend forwarded me an article that had horrified her. The US was importing chicken from China, and the birds had been raised on a diet of antibiotics, lead shot and Rohypnol. Concerned, I looked up the original article on the paper's website. To my relief I saw that it was clearly labeled as humor. I probably wouldn't have guessed.

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