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Generation who? |

Young Star

Generation who?

Samantha King - The Philippine Star

In which every generation sucks, anyway.

MANILA, Philippines - Fact: No generation is homogenous. And yet, it’s a wonder how people continue to insist on sweeping generalizations: Boomers are all spaced-out proponents of free love and anti-conservatism, Gen-Xers consist of disaffected, flannel-wearing latchkey kids who revel in both grunge and geekery. Anyone who says otherwise is either part of said generation (i.e. in denial) or simply uninformed about the unique nuances defining each generation.

It’s a tricky business, the art of generation-defining. You either are or you aren’t; and when you aren’t, then the formula has a chink in it somewhere.

It would be difficult to offer an overview on who the Filipino Millennial is without coming off as simplistic or reductionist; although by inference, and lack of better research from our own backyard, we can probably appropriate descriptions and commentary from the West. Narcissistic, full to the brim with self-entitlement, masters of the selfie and lightning-quick texting, generally confident yet sustained by positive reinforcement, perennially unsatisfied job-hoppers — these are only some of the oft-cited traits of a typical Millennial. Most notably, and as if to cement the fact that our generation — those in their 20s to early 30s — think of nothing but themselves, Time magazine releases an issue about the “Me Generation,” whom they describe in such affable terms as lazy, entitled narcissists who continue to live with their parents, yet are bound to save the world. 

It’s funny, but back in 1999, Time released a special issue venting similar sentiment in reference to the Gen-Xers, commenting, among other things, on their muddled decision-making skills, goldfish-like attention spans, and tendency to preempt bad breakups by deciding against things like marriage in the first place.

With that, one can argue that it isn’t strictly Millennials who have an exclusive claim to narcissism — young people in general tend to gaze at their navels from time to time. But we’ll get over ourselves when we get older, if our parents and grandparents are any examples to live by.

Of course, when you think about it, most of the data that stereotypically “defines” the various generations are often culled from Western sources and their specific cultural markers; factors which would radically affect someone living in the Philippines.

The sociologist Karl Mannheim has forwarded a theory of generations, basically positing that despite the internal stratifications which prevent any generation from being totally homogenous, our social consciousness and maturity are generally shaped by the major historical events of our time. These events can either develop gradually, or else coalesce into a single key event. On a global scale, the common link appears to be the innovations in technology. Technology that has developed at an amazing pace, over time and overseas. It’s the main reason why some of the enumerated characteristics of Western Millennials are applicable to us, at least as far as our use of smartphones, tablets, and infatuation with social media, goes. We’re a generation connected by nothing more palpable than data bytes, and that may just be our most solid rallying point all over the world. But that’s where it ends.

Where the Filipino Millennial is concerned, as an entity moving in her own specific socio-cultural milieu, there’s been stark lack of the defining moment for us. We were too late for martial law, and too young to grasp the implications of EDSA 2. The disparity in social classes means that we can neither claim careless flippancy when it comes to sticking to one job, or renounce religion all together when the going gets tough. To venture a suggestion, however, last year’s most jarring events — such as the pork barrel issue hitting the fan, and the terrifying strength of typhoon Yolanda — are perhaps the closest that we’ve come until now to any major, “definitive” event as Filipino Millennials.

What this means for the kind of collective consciousness our particular generation develops has yet to be seen, but considering the kinds of reactions and responses garnered from the conduit that is Facebook, the outcome appears optimistic. In the wake of so much tragedy and disenfranchisement, disillusion and stirring outrage, people are deciding to grow up. And if there’s anything our generation has been, it’s been helpful and hopeful. Indeed, the first stirrings probably started after 2009’s typhoon Ondoy, which, perhaps owing to its wrath in the capital of Manila, gave rise to the sentiment that the damage could be offset by individual and collective action.

This collective action relies heavily on social media to consolidate people and information, and is driven by nothing more far-sighted than a desire to help with the now, a desire to provide immediate remedy and relief. While this may not be the same as the kind of activism which seeks to dismantle the status quo — something more popular during the age of the Baby Boomers and Gen X-ers — it is the kind of action which helps define the Filipino Millennial today. As for tomorrow, well, let’s leave it to the wisdom of hindsight.


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