The values of young Filipinos
A giant of a man, bearded and wearing a mask of death, wildly played a spiff on his guitar. The bassist swung his head round and round, his long hair making fractals in the air. The drummer, as if in a trance, gripped by fever and delirium, beat on the drums as if Armageddon had arrived.
The soloist roared into the microphone, sounding like a wounded rhinoceros. Back-up singers wailed like banshees as they assaulted the eardrums of everyone within a half-kilometer distance.
Some who were dressed like robots or samurai warriors danced with spastic, jerky movements, shouting, waving, jumping up and down. The kids all joined in a synchronous rhythmic movement that invited corresponding movements in others.
The audience, hundreds of them, were crammed into an auditorium in an atmosphere of collective enthusiasm and uninhibited expression of emotions. They exhibited an effervescence that generated a sense of communal solidarity.
They were all very young, hair of garish colors that can short-circuit the optic nerves. They were clad in anime and cosplay costumes, webs of glittery fabric crafted with so much creativity and forethought. Many were armed with gigantic weapons made of styrofoam and paper mache. They then paraded on the stage for the best costume contest.
It was another cosplay exhibition, which I often attend. And as I stood there stunned, ear-drums ringing, I asked myself (the only white-haired guy in an ocean of teen-agers) what will happen to these “aliens” when they grow up. What values will they espouse? What kind of values should parents, priests and teachers propose to these millennials?
This is a generation who pride themselves on their ability to distinguish right from wrong, develop their own distinctive moral framework and have a strong commitment to justice, according to a 2011 McCann World Group survey of 7,000 young people from different countries all over the world.
The survey showed that only 6.3 percent of the respondents wanted to be famous. Their top wishes for the future were to maintain good health (40 percent), be successful in their chosen career (40 percent), meet their soul mate (36 percent) and look after their family (34 percent). Their values are connectivity, truth and justice.
The generation gap
If all you see are the rings in young people’s noses, their tattoos and orange-colored hair, if all you hear are teenagers screaming at gyrating pop idols, associate them at once with drugs and free sex, you might not associate them with the results of the McCann World Group survey.
Apart from anime and cosplay exhibitions, I often attend concerts of pop stars with hysterical teenage fans of Korean singing groups like Girls Generation and Shinee. I prefer to listen to Gustav Mahler, but I endure the singing of Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande just to know what are the top 10 hits on MYX.
I chase after gaming contests that feature online role-playing games like Dota2, League of Legends and Clash of Clans. I chase after launchings of books published from Wattpad novels like Ang Diary ng Panget.
All these forms of mortification I do so that I can talk to teen-agers in their language. I can talk to the boys for hours about the score of Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors in their game against Le Bron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers. I can also talk to the girls about Taylor Swift and Candy Crush. Most of them are worried about privacy and bullying on Facebook.
Many of them have transferred to Instagram, Twitter and other social networks, because they say their grandparents already have Facebook accounts.
Believe me, if you get them to talk to you for more than a few minutes, Filipino teen-agers are closer to the results of the McCann survey than you can ever imagine. I predict that there will be several hundred thousand of them going in January to meet their greatest idol – Pope Francis.
These young people are now fundamentally shaped by their relationship with technology. Technology has become so intrinsic and fundamental to them that many would sooner give up one of their human senses than give up the connectivity of their apps, cellphones and laptops. Most of them would have these digital devices near their bodies at all times of the day.
It is technology that shapes the attitudes of these digital natives towards community and truth and allows them to re-conceive justice in a global context. They are smarter than their predecessors, more tolerant of diversity, and value freedom of choice. They want to have fun, even at work and school. Speed is normal and innovation is part of their lives.
And so, parents have to bridge the generation gap and try to understand how technology is shaping the values of their kids, for better or for worse, so that the family can stay together.
The primacy of values
As we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family and face another new year, we have to ask what values young people should prefer to enhance satisfying ways to live, values that enrich their experiences so that they can live the more abundant life (Jn. 10:10) in a rapidly changing world. What can parents do to help them examine and clarify their values?
Pope Francis has repeatedly said that the world is going through not just an economic crisis but a crisis of values. What values can young people choose that can help thrive and build sustainable and prosperous societies for the 21st century?
In the young people’s dizzying chase for material things and the good life, their senses might become numbed, their instincts dimmed, and their thinking corroded with hectic activity in the drive to have more and more. There is a great danger that young people will come to espouse values that do not lead to their wellbeing.
Parents have to guide young people to come face to face with the dark side of their frailty and their aloneness to discern the spiritual dimension of contemporary world events and enter new realms of awareness about what life is all about and what their place is in an evolving universe.
Parents have to discuss with teen-agers the dark side of human nature, our selfishness and greed, our refusal to face insight. It is in the realm of values that parents should help their teen-agers search for the values that can provide answers to the problems of Filipino society— poverty, drugs, crime, teen-age pregnancies, alcoholism, depression and suicide.
If young people do not dare to journey into their inner world and confront their transitoriness and frailty, they will never find out who they really are.
Young people’s values guide the activities that decide what kind of world they want. They have to make decisions about what a human being should become, what kind of values will promote this becoming, what kind of world they want to live in, and what legacy they would like to leave behind.
As thinking creatures endowed with freedom, we can imagine the consequences of values that we espouse; as moral creatures, we must act on that knowledge.
And so parents must educate their children to espouse values that can help build a world that can promote the wellbeing and happiness of every human being in this evolving universe.