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What we talk about when we talk about ourselves

TOFF of the world - Christopher De Venecia (The Philippine Star) - July 30, 2015 - 10:00am

I have two disclaimers to make. One: my editor a few weeks ago put the word “millennial” on our editorial blacklist. “Enough about these damn millennials!” he said. Once upon a time, it was “netizen.” And shortly before that, it was “foodie.” And before that, it was any French word I dropped. It always had something to do with me — ME, ME, ME. The millennial or Generation Me, it seems, is on this season’s creative “sh*t list.” Two: I’m working on a show about millennials (what do you know?) so this rumination cuts both ways. It can either do my baby harm and drag my self-esteem and self-worth along with it, or do it a lot of good, but it’s probably going to do it more harm, before it starts doing it good. That’s the thing with movements. It needs to get its sh*t in the fan before it starts spreading and gaining some traction.     

Among all things Gen-Y, hipster and the newly coined “yuccie” (or the young urban creative), millennial is both a demographic (below 34 years old) and a psychographic (too complicated to qualify). Succeeding Generation X, and before that, the Baby Boomers, millennial is also a label. In the corporatist sense, it is a label imagined and appropriated by companies for its capitalist purposes, such as when Time puts a millennial on the cover, it solidifies the demo/psychographic on the zeitgeist; while we applaud the attempt at cultural demystification and enlightenment, you can’t discount the fact that it is also a business, having and needing to hit its financial targets — which begs the question, is it authentic?

Over the past few years, millennials have been hated upon and marginalized — illuminated not so much for their civic engagement, creativity, passion or love of community, or to a certain extent, love of country, but for the warts that yield ontological sense-making and heated online conversation. Media outlets need to sell. And click bait needs to get its clicks. In a time when attention spans are quick and wonky, and arguments are only as good as the influencers who make them, it’s about the controversy. And if not controversy, the gripe — how the term “millennial” is so overused, and nowadays, kinda gross.

They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions; that the concept itself, while de rigueur, is appropriation disguised as generalization. Such as when fashion, culture, consumer goods or lifestyle brands turn their gaze on this supposed generation that “could save us all,” it’s actually them saying, “Your generation is ripe for the picking” and this generation reciprocating, “I’m all friggin’ yours.”

The millennial, I have come to realize, as much as he/she craves to be understood — as art craves an audience — is also on a mission to understand. It is a generation in the making, and a generation that could save us all because as opposed to absolutes thrown upon us by our elders (“Don’t do this because it’s not how it’s done!”), our generation is more wont to tell the next, “Do this, do that. And here, let me help you understand.” The caveat being, at the end of the day, it’s your decision. And in the prism of substantiation, the non-millennial, in lieu of its Mummudrai (or anti-self, in Marvel-speak), will always want to find out more. Because what they don’t understand, they will question. And what is questioning but a means towards enlightenment.

Over Sunday lunch with the old fogeys (a.k.a. the parental units, one of whom is jurassic beyond categorizing), I talked about the show I’m working on and what it meant for me and my friends. I said that we wanted to have a better understanding of ourselves through the experiences of others. I talked about the generation’s entitlement. Our proclivity towards the arts. I spoke with valor, pride and reassured engagement. I knew something they didn’t — a secret to the universe. They replied very terminally. “Kuys, ano ba yung Millinial?” — spelling and pronunciation notwithstanding. End. Of. Conversation.

Millennial was a concept as foreign to them as a reality for me without social media — and, scarily, a reality for our children without the benefit of print. My parents couldn’t even pronounce it right, less so understand where I was coming from. Yet I persisted: I spoke for the generation, in an attempt at legibility, and against it, in an attempt at reciprocity. I’ve always been the type to call out the Other, but not before I call out myself. It’s called self-awareness — a millennial trait. And so they talked. “My generation was this… and that… Back in my day...” One of them said that their generation was better. I said that ours might be smarter, and after a bit of hesitation, they said that we indeed were. And the conversation unfurled. I knew then that we were probably on the right track.

Millennial is a generation “in the making,” and one that, while it demands to be heard, assessed, analyzed, bashed and talked about — warts and all — also wishes to be understood. And respected. And loved. And accepted. And embraced — most especially by generations that came before them. What are we all but children wanting validation. It’s in attempting to understand the “me” that we have turned our eyes towards the “we” — only to reveal greater things about the me. And the dialectic continues. And maybe that’s the point.

ACIRC BABY BOOMERS GEN-Y GENERATION GENERATION ME KUYS MILLENNIAL MILLINIAL OVER SUNDAY SUCCEEDING GENERATION X YET I
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