Peeking into 2019

by Jose Ma. Montelibano

Jose M. Montelibano

There are many among my generation, the baby boomers, who ask with trepidation what the future holds for our country, people, and especially the younger generations. The trepidation is there because of some negative trends that have arisen from the explosion of social media and technology in general. Technology often means progress because it has faced dramatic changes in manufacturing, finance, infrastructure, agriculture, and even in the service sector. However, technology has also disrupted the old order and made obsolete much of what was familiar and reliable to the older generations. In armaments and explosives, for example, technology has given extremists terrorist power they never had before.

Change has characterized the world in the last several decades. What had been tradition and sacrosanct for millennia was, in a wink of an eye, so to speak, has been dismantled before our eyes. The older generations have been forced to adapt, even worse for many because technology demands it. When business and production went digital, the work lifestyle drastically morphed from the old to a new that still is continually unfolding. Much else followed because business is the most powerful societal driver until a war overtakes a country. It is a business that demands new and newer technology. We who are already uncomfortable with too much technology that took over too fast cannot arrest its advance anymore. Our own children and grandchildren are technology’s most ardent users; there is no way to slow it down.

Technology is power, raw power on neutral mode. The creator and user of technology can program or utilize power for production or for destruction. Because change that has revved up its speed for all existing generations today, it is natural that speed is too fast for the older ones and maybe not fast enough for the teenagers. The older generations, therefore, have apprehension for two reasons: first, they are uncomfortable with new technology and, two, they are unable to see the near future with a clear view. Unpredictability is unsettling for a generation that has developed strong comfort zones. Young people may enjoy discovery and surprises. For their elders, that can be disruptive.

Violence seems to be old as man and history, even just for the last several thousands of years, is littered with wars that outnumber years. Violence, therefore, is not a product of technology. But reporting about violence is technology-driven and we have unending sources of news that cannot help but show the violence of various forms. Because communication technology has exploded what we call media from the old tri-mode – print, radio, and television – to cable and social media that are really non-stop and can be indulged by individuals and not just by institutions, what is happening anywhere can get to us 24/7. That gives us more negativity and aggression to chew on even if, by percentage, violence and negativity may have been as much in the old days. After all, chismis has been a concern from ancient times.

I have also noticed that the apprehension of my generation and the one immediately after ours, or people around fifty years old and above, is articulate much more than those younger than us. Many complaints involve the pattern of media to give undue attention to either the negative or behavior that is sensational. The fear of older parents and grandparents is the quality of that general atmosphere which is heavily influenced by media, both traditional and social or digital. The older generations cannot seem to imagine a better world than what was familiar and comforting to them. They project their fears although it seems that the younger generations, the millennials, did not share the level of apprehension of their parents and grandparents. What is confusing to the older sector is simply normal to the younger set.

Peeking into the near future will deliver contrasting results between the young and the old. What is trepidation for one may be exciting for the other. In the Philippine scene, the contrast may even be sharper between the rich and the poor as well. Due to material and technological progress, there is a corresponding social transformation. The poor may still be poor and their opportunities for advancement may still be limited, but there is a consistent direction towards liberation from an old caste system that gave them fewer rights than the rich minority. The OFW phenomenon has also allowed tens of millions to rise above their inherited material status and is slowly but steadily shifting the economic configuration in the Philippines. The gaps are there, but some of them are now smaller and continuing to do so.

In the overall, we may be in a most critical period in our history as a people and country. Several factors are contributing to dramatic changes. These changes may not be abrupt enough for those who want change but they are rapid enough in comparison to the last 500 years. Because the changes are really happening, there are, of course, various reactions to them, some very positive and some very resistant. In any manifest curve in the collective behavior and environment of a people and nation, there is tension and pressure. I believe this is where most of the apprehensions come from.

At the same time, this is also where the anticipation and optimism are fed. Those who demand change the most because of their historical pain and constriction smell that there is something new in the air. Where they were in darkness and immobility, technology is breaking many of their old chains. And no matter the condemnation and partisan bickering among leaders of society, many from the majority bottom may, in fact, wish that the bickering among members of the ruling class result in self-destruction.

The trepidation will persist where it now resides. The apprehension will intensify where it is now present. But the eager anticipation for a new world of discovery and creativity will grow as well. And by the law of nature, the younger generations will dominate from attrition, from technology, and from aspiration.

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