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by Mong Palatino
Two generations have dominated and are still dominating the early years of the 21st century. To borrow a few terms from American pop sociology, these are the baby boomers (our parents) and the millennials (our children). We stand in between these two generations which are separated by half a century. We act like a bridge that links the senior citizen baby boomers and the teenager millennials who continue to interact with each other despite their age gap in order to survive today.
The baby boomers grew up in the turbulent years of the 1960s and early 1970s with many of them becoming anti-war activists and hippie rebels. Their radicalism pushed the civil rights movement into the mainstream and ushered the golden age of militant activism. But it also triggered a reactionary backlash in the 1980s that came to be known as neoliberalism. During this time, many of the baby boomers have become middle-aged professionals who replaced their limitless dreams of changing the world with the yuppie goals of owning a sports car, a house in the suburbs, a high-paying career, and a God-fearing family. But like economic bubbles, these middle class fantasies turned into nightmare when the proud baby boomers suddenly found themselves losing their homes, their jobs, and their life savings in the past two decades.
Today, they are already in their 60s yet they are forced to delay their retirement to pay for their health care and mortgage. They compete for jobs that give low wages without benefits; and they are desperately fighting to remain productive and relevant since there are no more unions that will fight for their welfare.
Meanwhile, as the aging baby boomers struggle for subsistence in the selfie world, the millennials are infecting society with their youthful exuberance and naïve outlook in life. Like all the young people before them, they are still imbued with a rebellious spirit which is reflected in dizzying creative outbursts. But they were born at a time when excessive individualism has become the norm and self-centeredness is no longer seen as a sinful virtue. The young baby boomers thrived as a crowd while the millennials are always seeking recognition as trendsetting individuals.
[quote_center]Everything and everyone ends up being digitized today, and the millennials think it is fun without being aware of its thrilling impact on life in this world.[/quote_center]
The youth today are clueless about the power and relevance of the many since they grew up during the methodical destruction of collectives in society while the power of the one was being elevated as the supreme philosophy of our time. Sadly, this crass individualism is reinforced by the ubiquitous use of information technologies. Digital natives are so enamored with their app-hungry gadgets which prevented them from experiencing a more meaningful interaction with other members of the community.
Everything and everyone ends up being digitized today, and the millennials think it is fun without being aware of its thrilling impact on life in this world.
What, then, shall we call ourselves – we who are no longer young but not yet old? We who dread the passing of the old world, we who disdain the reckless rise of the young, and we who claim that the future is ours for the taking. Are we doomed to affirm the legacy of the baby boomers while confronting the raging cultural revolution that will ultimately benefit the millennials? Is this our curse? We seem to be in the interregnum between great upheavals. Perhaps our historical role is to connect the old and new worlds.
We bridge the generation that experienced the horrors of war and the generation today that plays virtual wars. We were told by our elders to revive the affluent past yet we experienced only the fading away of this world. Our young could only refer to it as the mythical gilded age. Nation-building was the task of citizens who belonged in a collective (family, union, cooperative, club) but today it is supposedly the combined achievement of anonymous citizens. The mysterious “invisible hand”, it seems, has prevailed over the clinched fist at the moment.
Our formative years were influenced by the omnipresent electronic media, and we thought we were the prophets who will herald the explosive growth of the mediaverse. We were nourished by the language of the old media and quickly learned the codes of the new media. But the millennials showed greater hyperactivity and natural adeptness in using the social media. When we were young, we used the typewriter bequeathed by the baby boomers whereas the millennials are using smartphones to process information. Even the desktop (that wonderful, complex machine that made our college years very productive) is now considered by the very young as an ancient computer model. The baby boomers are trying to be lola techies but at least many of them are still asserting the superior way of enjoying life in the real world as opposed to finding pleasure through simulation and automation.
[quote_center]When we were young, we used the typewriter bequeathed by the baby boomers whereas the millennials are using smartphones to process information.[/quote_center]
In the Philippine context, it seems inevitable that our bridging role would appear to be political. We didn’t directly experience and witness the brutalities of Martial Law but our parents did. And despite their best efforts to hide from us what was really happening during that time, we internalized the rules of dictatorship through the behavior of people around us. We entered school while society was recuperating from the deadly blows inflicted by the Marcos regime. We can never testify about the human rights violations perpetrated by the state in the 1970s but we can attest how the repressive regime affected the lives of ordinary people and how it unleashed an irreversible damage in society.
It is our duty, therefore, to preserve the stories of traumatized survivors and tortured victims of the violent Martial Law regime. And we must share this narrative to the youth who learned about the history of Martial Law only through badly-written textbooks and slanted news reports. Indeed, how can they believe the First Quarter Stormers that Marcos was a horrible leader when those who him were either incompetent, corrupt, and dictatorial? If we fail to make them understand what it means to live under military rule, they will be vulnerable to the neo-Marcosian propaganda that we need an authoritarian state in order to impose discipline, order, and progress in the country.
[quote_center]It is our duty, therefore, to preserve the stories of traumatized survivors and tortured victims of the violent Martial Law regimesucceeded [/quote_center]