Are we too young, or old enough?
Over and over again, I have been told the phrase, “Matanda ka na.” You’re old enough. You’re old enough, so you should take care of your younger siblings. You have to be the responsible one inside the house. You have to decide what career you want to do for the rest of your life. You can get arrested. You can get a job. You are old enough to do whatever you want…
That is what they say — when it’s convenient for them. When they need to ask you favors, or when they want to show you off.
You’re old enough. That makes you feel good, that sense of freedom. You expect to be respected as a grown-up. After all, it’s how you should be treated.
Alas, that’s not how it is. It doesn’t matter if you’re old enough to think for yourself. The moment the way you talk and act doesn’t line up with their ways, suddenly it’s “Masyado ka pang bata.” You’re too young. You’re too young to understand how this world “really works.” Too inexperienced. You don’t have our wisdom. No, you don’t get to say that’s right because I’m older!
That’s what we end up hearing. It is exhausting to hear the same old things from the older generation. While it is true that they have lived more years, being older doesn’t mean one is better or wiser. Maturity and growth don’t necessarily come with age. As with knowledge. In a fast-changing world, it is completely understandable why some elders feel the need to have a sense of superiority over young people. But their constant belittling and invalidation of how we think and feel do more harm than good.
“You don’t know anything about the world, you’re too young. Take it from us, we’ve been where you are, be smart.” These are what they would say when I repost things that are critical of the government. I am old enough to be legally committed to a person for the rest of my life, but apparently too young to say anything about social injustices. “You’re young, you shouldn’t stress out too much,” they say, when I am angered by the incompetence of our politicians. I am told I shouldn’t care about these things, that I should focus on my future. But this IS my future.
People love to spout Rizal’s quote, “Ang kabataan ang pag-asa ng bayan.” But if the youth is the hope of the nation, shouldn’t we have a say in things? Why do the old ones invalidate our thoughts and feelings, when they are just as valid as any other Filipino’s? Every decision the old people in suits make dictates the life of the next generation. Yet the youth are not in charge of their future. The youth are being invalidated, brushed off, but they also suddenly become “old enough” when it serves their elders’ purpose.
Many old folk treat our age according to their convenience. They only respect us when they need us, and push us back when they don’t. It is tiring to be told that we are not old enough to speak out.
It is tiring to see them make mistakes that we have to pay for eventually. The older generations made irreversible decisions that contributed to the problems we are currently facing. Environmental activists have long been campaigning for sustainability in our way of life. Instead, politicians routinely brushed them off. “Climate change doesn’t exist,” they said. They didn’t act on it, and now we’re trying to. But no matter how much we try, ultimately we don’t have the power and resources yet to create lasting, impactful change. That responsibility rests with the elders, who then condescend to us by calling us “hija” and “hijo,” as if that is a good rebuttal to our points. As if my age makes facts false. Stop it. Don’t call us that.
Yes, I am only 20 years old. I understand that you’ve lived far longer than me. But the world is no longer the one you grew up in. Every generation has its own problems and toxicities, so no generation is superior to another. Our rebellion, if you call it that, isn’t against you. Our rebellion is for the injustices that are still prevalent, and problems that threaten to harm us into adulthood.
We are not against you. We are with you in desiring a better place for all of us to live in. We are trying to take charge of our future. All we ask is for you to respect us, like you expect us to respect you. If the youth aren’t allowed to think for themselves, how will they learn?
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Daphne S. Sagun, 20, is a BA Communications student at Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila. She lives in Tondo, Manila.
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