It really must be the moment for dramatic change. Last week, a young man was looking at the pyramid of the Philippine population, looking at the poor at the base, and said, “Tito, let’s flip the pyramid, let’s flip our order of priorities.”
The other day, another one told me, “Tito, I want to write the obituary for poverty among Filipinos and corruption in government,” and he believed it.
Definitely, more people are less afraid to think out of the box. Change is happening by the day, and happening much faster. The funny thing is that it does not seem so if we look at the news, if we listen to the noise, if we witness the minority negative dominate the majority attention. But make no mistake about it—change is happening fast, graphically and dramatically.
There is a paradigm shift, and the shift is not that new anymore. The turn of the wheel was becoming quite noticeable about twenty-five or thirty years ago, when commercial advertising began to focus more and more towards the younger sectors of society. Truly, commercial advertising must be the most powerful propaganda machine in the world. It is committed, it is expert, it is constant. And it spends money like nobody’s business.
We make a lot about the kind of resources and expertise that goes into elections. But they pale compared to what many societies spend for advertising. In the United States for example, advertising expenses must be in the $300 billion range—and that is annual. That’s about 13 trillion pesos a year. Filipino firms must be spending in the 50-billion-peso range annually when there are no elections. In 2016, advertising expenses will shoot up with candidates spending most of their campaign funds on advertisements.
Imagine these huge amounts of money and the expertise behind the marketing and propaganda efforts now focusing on a younger market, much younger than what we might expect. After all, grandchildren can greatly influence what their grandparents buy for them, from food to toys—and cellphones, too. A million call center agents are predominantly young and aggressive spenders, not savers, of their incomes. And the younger generations are also more entrepreneurial, with more and more of them shying away from 9 am – 5 pm jobs to go on their own.
In other words, Philippine society is getting younger, Filipino spenders are getting younger, and the older generations are actually getting more dependent on their children—for advice or for money. Things have flipped dramatically from when I was growing up in the 50’s, and there is only one thing that has yet to make the same impact—youth in political action.
Actually, the youth of 50 years ago were more politically aggressive, or angry. Pre-martial days had the youth more involved in protest action than today. In fact, many of the present-day advocates and the others they directly influence had started in those turbulent times. That is why the non-involvement of the youth today in political action and political change should raise serious questions from change and reform advocates. If the youth now are more independent and active in social and business activities, so much so that they are the primary focused targets of enormous advertising research and expenses, why are they less involved in elections and political reform efforts?
I think that in-depth sociological findings will surprise politicians and political advocates. The youth of today are more wired to what is happening because of communication technology, primarily mobile interconnectivity, the internet and social media. We cannot say that they are apathetic to their environment when they are more dynamically involved in everything else. There is a disconnect somewhere, and not a small one at that.
We have a powerful youth sector who are now the largest electoral base. Their involvement in the political arena, however, tells me they are rejecting the traditional invitation for political reform and action. They do not agree poverty, not with the environment of corruption in the government sector. They do not agree with the political influence of traditional politicians, but apparently, they do not agree either with the way political advocates and reformists are going about their agenda. It seems that those who want change in the political arena need to change their attitudes and methodologies just as much as they want to change others.
The preponderance of negativity and belligerence turns off the younger generations, and it is not surprising why. What is more surprising is that self-claimed change seekers and agents remain obstinate in using obsolete ways to draw the young into their causes. And the youth, from 5 to 45 years old, largely reject the old ways, the old style. If society does not notice it as much, it is because the young would rather tune out and focus on what they want rather than take to the streets, or to social media, and protest in anger and frustration.
Younger Filipinos who comprise the majority are upbeat, or seriously try to be. Their orientation is hope, or fun. The future to them is imagined to be brighter, and the way to that better future is not one of conflict or negativity but adventure and creativity. The drive for change is not any less strong, but it shuns the confrontational.
To sum it up, in my view, the idealism of the young—as in other generations at their youthful years—is as vibrant and dynamic today. But that vibrancy and dynamism has a buoyancy, has a nobility, more than a growl. Our children and grandchildren have a range of options, from attitudes they can adopt to enterprises they can be involved in. Their spirit is not as cooped up as ours than despite the continuing poverty and corruption around them. And this new spirit is why the pyramid can be flipped, why obituaries for poverty and corruption can be written.
Jose Rizal was right about the youth as the hope of the motherland. He should have lived in our lifetime because the youth he saw have arrived.