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Don’t blame us

/ 12:24 AM August 26, 2016

“How did we raise such a huge know-nothing generation?” Ninotchka Rosca wrote recently, in a comment on a meme about millennials and martial law. Millennials have become an easy target for everything that’s wrong with society these days, whether it’s indifference to the state of the country, or a general ignorance about the gravity of martial law or a number of current issues crossing our Facebook feeds. We find ourselves blamed quite often, for example, for the fact that Bongbong Marcos got anywhere at all during the last elections.

We have been accused of everything from indifference, through simple misinformation, to willful ignorance. It’s easy to see why. For instance, a video made the rounds during the election season showing a handful of millennials shocked by the stories of martial law victims. The kids in question had had so-called classic misconceptions about the Marcos “golden years”—misconceptions of prosperity, discipline and peace, comparable with American nostalgia about the Kennedys’ Camelot. These misconceptions were quickly shot to hell by the quiet voices and haunted expressions of the martial law victims seated in front of them.

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There’s something satisfying about watching kids undergo such a rude awakening. It makes it only easier to blame them for everything else that’s wrong: an overdependence on social media for validation; the ignorance and self-absorption of a group that has never had to toil for its independence and freedom of speech; the lazy self-assurance of a generation to whom technology has granted the privilege of instant gratification. Still I have had to repeatedly argue that the video is not representative of millennials or our knowledge base. In fact, if anecdotal evidence is anything to go by (and these days on social media, apparently anecdotes and Mocha Uson quotes are the only evidence worth anyone’s time), I can confidently say it isn’t. I’ve never met anyone my age who seriously believed anything positive about the Marcos legacy, and the most impassioned Facebook commentaries against Ferdinand Marcos’ burial in the Libingan ng mga Bayani have been penned in disgust by people my age.

But what are anecdotes compared to hard facts?

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Unfortunately for millennials like myself, hard evidence is difficult to come by in the Philippine battle of social media politics and online social justice. Writers like Boo Chanco were quick to point out earlier this year that Social Weather Stations surveys showed martial law babies, and not millennials, comprising the majority of Bongbong Marcos’ supporters. We don’t have the numbers to support any other conclusions; there are no well-conducted studies on how many of us have been “misled, mistaught, misinformed” (as Rio Renato Constantino wrote in an InterAksyon commentary recently), and even less data on who was responsible for the misinformation.

We are not incapable of learning, nor are we incapable of appreciating the basic liberties that we take for granted and that our parents had had to actively fight for. In the same way that millennials have been at the forefront of worldwide, sweeping movements when it comes to rights and representation of women, LGBT communities, persons of color, and the differently abled—in the same way that Tumblr and Facebook have created ripples that have shaped social policy and dismantled systematic discrimination—Filipino millennials are equally capable of fighting alongside our elders, and sometimes with much louder voices and a more tech-savvy approach to data collection and protest organization. Do we need an age-stratified breakdown of the attendance at the Luneta gathering against Marcos’ burial in the Libingan before we get to say that we millennials have also been part of the fight for social justice?

Prof. J. Prospero de Vera of the University of the Philippines has been quoted as saying that millennials don’t have a memory of martial law: “The administrations that came after Marcos did not systematically ingrain in the minds of Filipinos what happened during martial law—it’s too late to do that now.” That’s an unfortunate attitude to have, especially when you’re talking about a generation that has had to learn more technology and digest more changing information than any that preceded it. Nobody needs the smug self-satisfaction of our elders who think they know better than the next millennial. What we need is education, and a willingness to engage in battle with logic and evidence rather than with accusations ending in “-tard.”

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TAGS: ‘millennials’, martial law, misinformation
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