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Pop and politics: The Me generation takes a stand |

Modern Living

Pop and politics: The Me generation takes a stand

PEPE DON'T PREACH - Pepe Diokno -

If coverage of recent events is to be believed, politics has once again seeped into pop culture. Like movements of the ‘60s and ‘80s, kids seem to be informed, involved, and impatient — aching for change and unashamed to show it.

These are the stories: university students support Jun Lozada. Young people are key to Barack Obama’s US presidency. Rock stars hold concerts for Darfur. Climate change documentary wins Oscar.

But is this all just media hype?

In the late ‘90s, when the first batch of baby boomer spawn reached their teens, the world saw a generation of narcissists. Social networks, mobile phones and iPods created a peer group so aware of and involved with themselves, we call them Generation Me.

Or, has it since magically morphed into Generation “We”?

Politics “Canoodling” With Pop

If it has, the culprit is that politics has seeped into social networks, mobile phones and iPods. What we’ve seen over the past year — at least on the international stage — is a solid effort by leaders to reach out to young people.

There’s the CNN-YouTube debates, where kids sent US presidential hopefuls video questions. YouTube has recently even added a function on their website that allows users to donate directly to the candidates.

The list goes on with Live 8 and Live Earth. And there’s Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with John Stewart, on which Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Pakistani leader Pervez Musharaff, Bolivian prez Evo Morales, and former Mexican head of state Vicente Fox have all been guests.

Senator Chiz Escudero campaigned online. There are also reports that Jun Lozada wants to start touring schools.

The Vote Is Sinking

These, though, shouldn’t come as a surprise. National statistics data shows that just under half of our population is young. And, around the world, the Me Generation has reached the voting age. So, it makes perfect sense for politicos to rally the world’s juveniles into action.

But here is the problem: young people aren’t budging.

Registration for the 2007 SK polls was significantly inferior to that of the barangays — something even the Comelec isn’t used to seeing. What’s more, reports say the last Senatorial elections had what was possibly the lowest turnout in six years.

University student council races are also posting record lows this semester. And those school-based “rallies for truth and accountability” — which we see so much of these days — are only being attended by a small fraction of the total student population.

In fact, a recent PulseAsia survey said that an overwhelming 84 percent of Metro Manila residents are inclined to join mobilizations on current issues.

Now, what does this all mean?

Politics Of (In)Action

The figures paint a picture of a generation that has a high interest in political issues, but a low propensity for political action. “Action” as defined traditionally, of course — meaning mobilizations, elections, etc.

In fact, there is a concrete representation. Ron Paul is a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination. He generated a lot of buzz last year after leading all the other presidential hopefuls in web searches and YouTube subscriptions. And in December, he set a fundraising record, raising $6 million over the Internet in 24 hours — the largest in US political history.

But so far, he has won only 21 delegates for the nomination. His rival, Arizona Senator John McCain, has won 1,325.

All of this can mean two things: one, the Me Generation may just turn out to be a group of armchair adventurers — spectators to the world’s struggle, but never participants.

Or perhaps there is a new kind of political action, one which we haven’t considered, but is increasingly becoming the occupation of today’s young.


The universe needs heroes, and the story of an informed rogue generation with the power to change social order is too good to bury. The media may be hyping the current peer group a tad too much — but has the Me Generation really taken a stand between pop and politics, and, if so, what side of the fence are they on?

It is possible that there is no fence to begin with, and that there is no line between pop and politics. We may be headed toward a society wherein political issues are also social issues — as they should be.

This is possible because this generation’s concept of politics is changing. It is no longer uncool to be privy to issues. And the fact is, kids don’t live in a bubble. A lot of young people have a lot to say about what’s going on these days — and you can hear them: in blogs, forums, status messages, and IMs.

Sure, they aren’t out on the streets. But maybe they’ve seen a different path.

As to what that path is, though, we may know soon enough.

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