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The #WOKE Generation

Internet-born Centennials are bringing their battles offline

Updated

Text by Terence Repelente

Illustration by Nikka Saz

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It’s been almost five decades since musician, poet, and author Gilbert “Gil” Scott-Heron released his best-known song “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” which he wrote when he was only 21 years old. The spoken-word funk song became one of the movement-wide anthems of a famous black-nationalist and socialist organization, the Black Panther Party.

Today, while the television awaits its obsolescence, making way, at first slowly and defiantly but with more and more resignation, for smart phones, tablets, and other on-the-rise touch-screen devices, the message in Gil Scott-Heron’s song remains relevant.

Each generation is born with its unique material condition, in which the individual relationships of the people within them vary from nation to nation, from class to class.

Today, we have Generation Z. An entire generation baptized using the hegemonic waters of neoliberal culture, drowning in the sea of Internet-era alienation and exploitation. But while the dominant current strongly pushes right, some Centennials are subversively swimming left.

THE PROGRESSIVE FORCE

The active involvement of students and the youth in mass movements isn’t new to us. As in the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989 in China, the May 1968 protests in France, and the 1970 First Quarter Storm in the Philippines, young intellectuals of today, the Generation Z (who are still mostly students), are already rallying in solidarity with and behind workers, laborers, and other oppressed classes, fighting for genuine democracy and justice. Just recently, 14-year-old Shibby de Guzman, a student at St. Scholastica’s College, Manila, was recognized by TIME Magazine as among the World’s Most Influential Teens of 2017. Shibby, with fellow student-activists, protested the burial of the late president Ferdinand Marcos and the extrajudicial killings or EJKs happening around the country.

Like Shibby, 13-year-old Carhrihl Aguilar, 17-year-old Angelica Somera, and 18-year-old Mark Dave Astrolavio are also student-activists. They are members of the League of Filipino Students (LFS), an anti-imperialist and anti-fascist national democratic mass organization.

For Carhrihl, activism is the way to change society. “Layunin ng aktibismo na mapalaya ang sambayanan (Activism aims to free the society),” she said. “Gusto nito na baguhin ang lipunang nabubulok, kung saan maraming napagsasamantalahan, maraming nagugutom, at maraming walang trabaho at lupa (It wants to change the rotting system, where the majority is exploited, hungry, jobless, and landless).” According to her, she doesn’t only fight for her own democratic needs, but for the democratic needs of the oppressed masses.

For Dave, a Grade 12 (STEM) student of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines, “Lahat tayo ay dawit sa tunggalian ng mga uri (No one is exempted from class struggle). Lalo na ang generation namin na biktima ng K-to-12 (Especially our generation who are the primary victims of the K-to-12 Basic Education Program).” K-to-12, according to Dave and Carhrihl, is a neoliberal attack on the Filipino youth because it commercializes education, turning our schools into privatized factories of cheap, semi-skilled, and docile laborers, which are desperately needed by foreign corporations.

This is mainly the reason, for Angelica, her fellow Centennials need to resign from the practice of slacktivism. “Lumabas tayo mula sa apat na sulok ng silid-aralan, sa labas ng social media (Let’s get out of the four corners of our classrooms and outside social media),” she said. “Hindi lang dapat sa Internet naririnig ang boses ng mga kabataan! (Our voices shouldn’t only be heard on the Internet!)”

MATERIALISM NOT IDEALISM

“Rally kayo nang rally! (You know nothing but to rally!)” Or “Do you even know what you’re fighting for?” Or “You’re just full of idealism because of your age.” These are everyday sentiments hurled toward young activists like Carhrihl, Dave, and Angelica.

“Nung una, akala ko rin puro rally lang ang ginagawa nila (At first, I also had this idea that all they ever do is to participate in rallies),” Angelica said. “Pero ngayong nasa LFS na ako, masasabi ko na kahit kalian hindi kami humawak ng mga placards o streamers at hindi kami sumigaw sa kalsada nang hindi namin alam kung ano ang sinasabi namin (Now that I’m a member of LFS, I can attest that we have never held any placards or streamers, we have never shouted calls in the streets unless we know why we are shouting them).”

It isn’t idealism if it’s based on facts and real material conditions. During a basic integration in an infamous hacienda in Central Luzon, Dave first saw how feudalism still exists in the Philippines, and how it puts Filipino farmers, the largest sector in our agricultural country, in grave conditions. “Na realize ko na tama ang landas na pinili ko at makatwiran ang lumaban kasama ang mga magsasaka at ang lahat ng pinagsasamantalahan (I realized that I chose the right path, and that it is only rational to fight with the farmers and all the exploited masses),” he recalled.

In a world dominated by an oppressive system, a person’s hunger for change cannot be invalidated by their age. “Kahit bata ka pa, may karapatan ka na makialam sa mga nangyayari sa lipunan (Even if you are young, you have a say on what’s happening in your society),” Carhrihl said. “Kahit nung nasa tiyan ka palang ng nanay mo, nagiisip na ang kapitalismo kung paano ka pagkakakitaan at ngayong matanda ka na, pinagsasamantalahan ka pa rin (Capitalism had already thought of ways to make profit out of you even when you were just in your mother’s womb and now that you’re older, you’re still very much exploited). Walang sense na sabihin mo sa isang tao na bata pa siya para labanan ang sistema kasi wala sa edad yun (Telling someone that they’re too young to fight the system is senseless because age clearly doesn’t define one’s desires to change it).”

Maybe it’s time to forget what you’ve read about this generation being apathetic, apolitical, and disconnected from reality. While everyone’s busy watching videos on YouTube, checking Twitter, or scanning Instagram, some of these “kids” are conducting educational discussions with workers in picket lines, creating progressive art with farmers in haciendas, and integrating with indigenous peoples and national minorities in the countryside, calling for the end of imperialism, bureaucrat capitalism, and feudalism, while slowly pulling the rest of the Centennials with them. Gil Scott-Heron remains correct, “the revolution will be live.” Not on Facebook Live, though. Not anywhere on the Internet (Error 404). The revolution will be offline.

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