Good evening! 2 AM here (but I’ll probably schedule this to come out sometime around 11 AM) but I recently read a post that’s been making me think a lot lately, so I thought I’d talk about it before going to sleep.
It’s this open letter on the New Boston Post titled “An Open Letter to College Crybabies from a CEO”. The CEO in question is Kyle S Reyes, who is the head of The Silent Partner Marketing, a (family-owned and operated) marketing firm.
In the letter, Reyes makes the case that millennials today are coddled, entitled children who run off at the first sign of a challenge and want nothing but the easy way out of things. He graciously proceeds to advise these crybabies with harsh lessons from the real world to slap some sense into them.
Now, I’m a millennial, and upon reading the title and first few lines of the letter, I felt that feeling of indignation and outrage that Reyes claims I am so vulnerable to, so I swallowed my pride and read the rest to see if maybe he had a point. I did, and I figure I should write my own letter to Mr Reyes, so here goes:
Dear Mr Kyle S. Reyes,
Your article is very problematic. Some of it is good advice, but there’s a tonne of conflation of different issues. You kind of create this imaginary ‘college crybaby’ who has all the negative traits you hate and imply that every single millennial is like that. I’d like to take some time to respond to some of the things you bring up.
To start, here’s a quote plucked straight from your post:
“You’re studying and learning during the Industrial Revolution of our generation. It’s exciting. It’s encouraging. It’s liberating. And yet somehow, it’s also leading to your wussification.
Before you get all offended and run to your “safe place,” understand that I pulled that word right out of one of your trusted resources of knowledge – urbandictionary.com.”
First of all, if you’re going to write a letter to college students in the hopes that they actually listen to you, perhaps it’ll help if you don’t condescend so sickeningly to them. You and I both know that Urban Dictionary isn’t a ‘trusted resource of knowledge’, and if you sincerely think it is, we have bigger problems than your letter. I’m sure you were young once, and remember all the times you shut off the advice an older person gave you because they failed to respect you as an intelligent human being capable of nuance. And I’m sure I’ll grow old one day and make the same mistake to the 20-somethings of 2050, but until then my job is to call you out when you’re doing it.
Also, those “safe spaces” you mock aren’t really these great evil cesspools of censorship and wussy-enabling. They’re just places where extra effort is made to ensure that people don’t make sexist, homophobic, or racist comments, something which you as an employer wouldn’t tolerate in your environment anyway (and if you would, again, we have bigger problems than your letter).
Moving on to your points:
“1. The Business World Doesn’t Give A Damn About You”
Wait, no, okay, that’s actually good advice. Thanks!
“2. The Only Safe Place Is Your Home
In the real world – and especially the business world – we’re going to challenge you. We’re going to push you. We’re going to demand that you consider other perspectives. We’re going to rip your ideas to shreds from time to time. And we’re going to insist that you play nicely with others to find ideas that actually work and implement them.”
Yeaaaah, see that part where you say “we’re going to insist that you play nicely with others”? That’s literally what a safe space is all about. Mr. Reyes, I live in a country where you get silenced by legislation for being a certain sexual orientation, or by society for being a woman. Women in my country get death and rape threats and are constantly victim-blamed for rape and domestic abuse. Where it’s technically illegal to be an atheist under certain circumstances. Transgender people get thrown in jail and sexually abused.
Even as a heterosexual Christian male who faces none of these problems, I wish these people had safe spaces to talk about their ideas without fear for their safety. You’re American, freedom of speech is one of the fundamental rights granted by your constitution. Safe spaces allow for that, because these discriminated voices would otherwise be quashed. Surely you can appreciate that? I certainly would if I had anything like that back here.
“3. There’s No Such Thing As “Free”
I get it. You’ve been told that money grows on trees, that education should be free for all and that everything in life should be handed to you on a silver platter.
But welcome to the big kids’ playground. You want that health insurance? It’s going to cost you. Oh, you don’t want it? That will cost you too. You want an apartment? A house? A car? Believe it or not, you need to actually come up with some money for that! Oh, and you can quit your whining about taxes. Because SOMEONE has to pay for all of that “free” stuff – and now it’s you, sucker.”
Back at it again with the condescension! That aside, are you seriously telling me that the idea that maybe education and healthcare should be treated as a basic right instead of a paid-for luxury is outrageous? In the 21st century?
Look, I’m not American so I don’t have personal experience with it, but the health system in your country sounds pretty screwed up. Lots of people are working 120 hours a week and they’re bogged down by health insurance premiums, and they can’t get a better-paying job or find advancement because in the modern economy, you pretty much need a degree for any job and university is priced well out of the range of lots of people. Most of the people who want free education and healthcare are usually willing to pay the taxes to provide it to younger citizens as they get older and more established.
Your government doesn’t provide free healthcare, but pays more on healthcare per citizen than so many other countries that do. I don’t get why you’re so proud of paying for healthcare, when it’s something you shouldn’t have to pay for, because the USA is already paying so much for yours.
Lots of countries (see: Germany, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Estonia, Argentina, Denmark, repeat ad nauseum) provide free education, because lots of governments see it as an investment in their people and workforce. You hardly see anyone characterizing the German people as a lazy bunch. And besides, how is not wanting to be tossed head-first into crippling debt an indication of laziness or entitlement?
But most pertinent of all is this; how does someone’s political views on these issues affect their personal work ethic? There are bound to be both slothful and hard-working people occupying every nook and cranny of the political spectrum, and it seems intellectually lazy to lump all people of a certain disposition into one category and say “Oh, you think free education is a good idea? You must be entitled!”
“4. If You Don’t Want To Be A Victim, Then Don’t Be
In college, any time your feelings were hurt, you were a victim. If you were challenged, the challenger was a “bigot” and you were the poor person who had their feelings hurt. Here in the real world, we expect you to be challenged and to understand that humility is just as important as bravado. Selflessness is more important that selfishness. The content of who you are as a person is more important than the color of your skin or your socio-economic background or your sex or your weight or your religious affiliation.”
That’s a wonderful sentiment, that last line especially. Most reasonable people would agree with it. But you see, the thing is that legitimately victimized people generally don’t want to be victimized. Bigotry, sexism, racism these are all things that are embedded within social structures that have existed for a long time, and when college students get upset about it, spread awareness and organize rallies or protests, they’re not just ‘getting offended’.
These kids are taking their passion and energy and applying it to something in the hopes that they’ll change the world for the better. They are demonstrating the exact kind of initiative and go-getter attitude that employers say they like. You can’t say that these are the exact same kids who are entitled, lazy, and not willing to work for what they want.
“5. Success Is Hard Work
We’re not going to give you five breaks a day. You’re going to have to work nights and weekends from time to time. You want to make “the big bucks”? Then consider a nine-hour workday to be a part-time job. You’re most likely NOT going to graduate college and find a six-figure job. Hell, you’re going to be lucky if you find ANY job … and you should be grateful when you find it. Grateful … and prepared to work like a maniac to get ahead.”
And I don’t necessarily disagree! Times can be very hard, and loads of times you just have to do work that you’re not a big fan of, for long hours and on weekends to get where you want to be. But I think a lot of people confuse ‘trying to get a fair deal’ with ‘entitlement’. You’ve said it yourself, the business world doesn’t give a damn about millennials. Who else is going to look out for them if not themselves? If a company makes you work extra hours that you don’t get paid for (and you’re not the owner of that company), how likely is it that the company is going to reward you for your hard work with more opportunities?
Now, if this hypothetical millennial does in fact suck at their job, then all righty, they have no right to negotiate these things. But when you’re brought up in a culture that repeatedly drums in your head that “the business world doesn’t care about you, the corporate machine will chew you up and spit you out and throw you under the bus as soon as its convenient for them, you can only rely on yourself in this world”, is it no wonder that some millennials are a little more aggressive in negotiating for what they believe to be fairer work circumstances?
I can see how an employer might interpret that as entitlement (especially because you’re receiving the short end of this arrangement), but to me that seems like a natural effect of American corporate culture.
So, to close, I can’t speak on certain terms about the growing entitlement of the youth of the USA. It may be happening, but in my opinion it’s pretty much a “our youth are degenerates” narrative that’s been told since the time of the Ancient Greeks.
What I can say is that your letter, unintentionally or not, perpetuates certain harmful and counter-productive attitudes about millennials, ones that aren’t necessarily true. I don’t know if you’ll ever see this, Mr Reyes, but I hope you do and let me know what you think. A discourse would be very interesting.
Jack Kin Lim
P.S. It’s really weird how you say “I remember the stress of college. I get it, it’s tough” at the beginning of your letter, and then “Revel in the time you have at the world’s most expensive daycares” by the end. Surely you’re not old enough to be forgetting things that quickly?