The youth is all about the future. This is why the ‘Never Aqain’ rhetoric of the anti-Marcos camp all but fails to resonate amongst the Philippines’ youth. That’s unfortunate for candidates and parties that have their so-called platforms firmly-rooted in the past. Young Filipinos, quite simply, do not care about the past, perhaps, rightly so, because there is not much about the past that is under their control.
Indeed, many of those who throw hissy tantrums about the ‘victimisation’ of Filipinos by the regime of former President Ferdinand Marcos (FM) are, themselves, part of the very generation that ran the Philippines to the ground. They are the very Filipinos who foolishly held on to long-discredited notions, like (1) the idea that a ‘lack of freedom’ is behind the Philippines’ chronic backwardness, (2) that the Philippines can easily descend into ‘another dictatorship’ if people are not ‘vigilant’, and (3) that the Philippines can only move forward if ‘long-overdue justice’ is served.
It is important to note, however, that whatever “sins” the Marcos family is supposedly guilty of is no different from the sins of the oligarchy that remains firmly entrenched in Filipinos’ social, economic, and political life. Perhaps there is much about what the government of FM allegedly perpetrated while holding the country in the grip of Martial Law to account for. But how is this different from the same thievery and injustice perpetrated by post-1986 governments and oligarchs?
It is thanks to this very important aspect of how the Philippines failed to change under the watch of the old Yellow Guard that the Philippines’ youth are now standing immune to the poisonous propaganda that persuades us to think that Martial Law remains the singular cause of all the Philippines’ troubles. Indeed, much of the poison of the Yellow rhetoric has long since expired. And those who take up the new “cause” to “educate” Filipinos about Martial Law are simply an unappealing lot in an age of social media-savvy and telegenic influencers.
The sight of a throng of old farts forming the majority membership of groups like the Campaign Against the Return of the Marcoses to Malacanang (CARMMA) is, by itself, a public relations fail. Such movements simply cannot compete for young eyeballs who are drawn to fresher ideas and fresher faces. Indeed, even whilst the first campaign video of Liberal Party candidates Mar Roxas and Leni Robredo crashed and burned, they had the right idea nonetheless — that the way into the hearts of the Philippines’ youth-dominated base of voters is through a forward-looking message.
It is now evident that the Philippines’ young voters cannot be underestimated. They are no longer beholden to the emo rhetoric of 1970s- and 1980s-vintage political chatter and are open to new ideas and new approaches. The first real presidential debate in a long time organised by the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) and sponsored by TV network GMA-7, for example, was one of those exercises that attracted strong viewership and sparked valuable social media engagement amongst young Filipinos. As a result of the event, young Filipinos were able to associate ideas to faces. It whetted the appetite of the electorate for more intellectually-stimulating exercises and less of the brain-dead sloganeering and placard-waving style of ‘activism’ of bygone decades.
In short, it’s time Filipino politicians and ‘thought leaders’ stop insulting the intelligence of the Philippines’ young voters and start making more modern sales pitches that appeal to young sensibilities. Old fossils whining about old uncollected debts make good curious sideshows but aren’t exactly easy on the eyes and ears and, certainly, not the sorts of subject matter that rake in television ratings and social media “likes” and “retweets”. Images of gray-haired folks shuffling around in 1970s-era outfits waving placards with messages rendered in that cliché style of lettering made to look like they were written with a blood-stained brush no longer fly.
It’s time for real change — not just in thought but in messaging style.
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