Get real millennials, ‘doing good’ was a thing long before you existed

Written by
Emma van der Meulen
On
July 8, 2019

Millennials and purpose. Two words that you can commonly find in the same texts. As a woman born in 1993, I find myself and my friends questioning our behavior and looking for our place in the world. We want to do good, and be good people. But how to do so? I remember how one friend got an internship at an oil company, reasoning that ‘if you want to make a change, that is where you should be’. A mutual friend found it morally reprehensible to work for a company that inherently harms the environment. Recently, I found myself with the same friends at an Italian restaurant where one friend was already full before finishing his ham pizza. It looked very tasty, but as someone who is not a fan of the meat industry nor food waste, I was in doubt whether to eat it or not.

Globalization and industrialization, ‘greed is good’ and the ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ seemed to make sense not so long ago. But my generation more and more resists to act only for the sake of economic growth, especially if it harms society or our planet.

With so many of my generation on a quest to contribute to a good cause, it is no surprise that purpose-driven companies like nlmtd attract many millennials. Just like myself. Does that make us unique? Well, no.

It might seem so sometimes in comparison with the former generation, but we are not the first nor the only ones that want to do good. Not too long ago, from the sixties till the eighties, many people including my parents demonstrated for peace and against war. They did so because they wanted their protest to cause a positive change which (at times) did occur. If we go even further back in time, we see many philosophers trying to answer, or at least provide guidelines, for the age-old question of what is good. If you allow me to take you on a millennial summary of philosophy, it might provide us with some interesting perspectives.

Socrates thought that good is doing good, living according to virtues. He believed that non-virtuous behavior came from ignorance, and those who did wrong knew no better. Similar with Socrates, Kant focused on actions. A difference is that he was convinced that people can know what is good. This through the use of the so-called categorical imperative. This is the concept of imagining that your action would become a universal law; and asking yourself whether it would be acceptable in that case.

Other philosophers like utilitarianist David Hume focused not on actions themselves but on their result by arguing that doing good is to maximize good for as many as possible. ‘Good’, according to them is just a simple calculation. Hume would probably suggest me to eat that ham pizza slice that would otherwise be wasted. (This is, unless all these charming Italian restaurant owners would notice all that meat being wasted, reduced their meat orders, resulting in less animals needed and less CO2 production – but this train of thought could fill a whole other blog).  

To make things a bit more complex, there is a concept above ethics called meta-ethics, whereby it is the question whether we can actually judge on what is good or bad, and how.

Back to 2019 we can conclude that we are definitely not the first, nor the only ones that want to do and be good. But does that matter? We can make use of the thinking of the old philosophers, both to understand our current way of making ethical choices and to guide us in the future. Especially since we live in an era were exponentially more knowledge is available and connections are infinitely more easily made. And since we are young, most of us have the energy and passion needed to change the world.

We might not be the first ones that want to do good, but we have more ingredients available to us than ever before to allow us to do good. Then let’s do just that!

On
July 8, 2019

Get real millennials, ‘doing good’ was a thing long before you existed

Millennials and purpose. Two words that you can commonly find in the same texts. As a woman born in 1993, I find myself and my friends questioning our behavior and looking for our place in the world. We want to do good, and be good people. But how to do so? I remember how one friend got an internship at an oil company, reasoning that ‘if you want to make a change, that is where you should be’. A mutual friend found it morally reprehensible to work for a company that inherently harms the environment. Recently, I found myself with the same friends at an Italian restaurant where one friend was already full before finishing his ham pizza. It looked very tasty, but as someone who is not a fan of the meat industry nor food waste, I was in doubt whether to eat it or not.

Globalization and industrialization, ‘greed is good’ and the ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ seemed to make sense not so long ago. But my generation more and more resists to act only for the sake of economic growth, especially if it harms society or our planet.

With so many of my generation on a quest to contribute to a good cause, it is no surprise that purpose-driven companies like nlmtd attract many millennials. Just like myself. Does that make us unique? Well, no.

It might seem so sometimes in comparison with the former generation, but we are not the first nor the only ones that want to do good. Not too long ago, from the sixties till the eighties, many people including my parents demonstrated for peace and against war. They did so because they wanted their protest to cause a positive change which (at times) did occur. If we go even further back in time, we see many philosophers trying to answer, or at least provide guidelines, for the age-old question of what is good. If you allow me to take you on a millennial summary of philosophy, it might provide us with some interesting perspectives.

Socrates thought that good is doing good, living according to virtues. He believed that non-virtuous behavior came from ignorance, and those who did wrong knew no better. Similar with Socrates, Kant focused on actions. A difference is that he was convinced that people can know what is good. This through the use of the so-called categorical imperative. This is the concept of imagining that your action would become a universal law; and asking yourself whether it would be acceptable in that case.

Other philosophers like utilitarianist David Hume focused not on actions themselves but on their result by arguing that doing good is to maximize good for as many as possible. ‘Good’, according to them is just a simple calculation. Hume would probably suggest me to eat that ham pizza slice that would otherwise be wasted. (This is, unless all these charming Italian restaurant owners would notice all that meat being wasted, reduced their meat orders, resulting in less animals needed and less CO2 production – but this train of thought could fill a whole other blog).  

To make things a bit more complex, there is a concept above ethics called meta-ethics, whereby it is the question whether we can actually judge on what is good or bad, and how.

Back to 2019 we can conclude that we are definitely not the first, nor the only ones that want to do and be good. But does that matter? We can make use of the thinking of the old philosophers, both to understand our current way of making ethical choices and to guide us in the future. Especially since we live in an era were exponentially more knowledge is available and connections are infinitely more easily made. And since we are young, most of us have the energy and passion needed to change the world.

We might not be the first ones that want to do good, but we have more ingredients available to us than ever before to allow us to do good. Then let’s do just that!

Posted by
Emma van der Meulen
On
July 8, 2019