Youthful naiveté

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I had let it all pass, the judgments of the youth who had promised their parents good grades, had collected birthday and Christmas gifts, had pledged allegiance to whatever flag (OA naman!), in order to get One Direction tickets. I had watched with fascination really, that long line of teenagers, and the happy wide smiles of those giddy with excitement, the tears of those who failed to get tickets.

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And the singing! Oh the fans singing “What Makes You Beautiful” on nationwide television, as they waited to get their hands on tickets, the wide-eyed kilig that only youthfulness allows.

I thought to myself: well, good for them that they have parents who are generous, that this will mean better grades for the year. Good that there is some sense of earning these tickets, never mind that it might just mean bartering something that should be their responsibility as their parents’ children.

I thought to myself: I loved Menudo about that much, too (and luckily had a ninong who was sound director for their Manila concert—yes, best seat in the house!). And I did spend some good money on the Eraserheads Reunion Concert.

Who’s to say that 1D’s not worth spending on?

Judging fandom
And who’s to say that this is the kind of fandom energy that can —and should!—be channeled toward something else?

Well, the National Youth Commission’s newly appointed Chairperson is who. In a well-timed press release that obviously sought to gather an audience around what was imagined to be a valid if not intelligent response to the 1D hysteria, USec Gio Tingson did some gentle reminding.

“There’s nothing wrong with the youth idolizing artists of their choice, however, we must also be aware of issues that require our shared efforts in solving such as the Yolanda rehabilitation, youth unemployment, access to education, and the like.”

What struck me was how this Youth Commissioner was already passing judgment on these 1D fans, for having lined up and asked their parents for some good money to watch this concert. Judgment was in that parallelism Tingson drew between fandom (idolizing artists) and relevance (awareness about issues). He was saying in effect that on the one hand the youth might be all agog over 1D, on the other they must know of issues like Yolanda rehabilitation, youth unemployment, access to education.

In fact he was saying that the youth must share in the effort to solve these problems.

The glaring omission being: have they not? How can one presume that the youth who lined up for 1D tickets did not actually rise to the occasion of relief efforts for Yolanda victims? How can we even say something like this when we know that it is always students in schools, no matter how big or small, public or private, that go the extra mile needed to gather, pack, send off relief goods to places in need?

Which also brings me to the next question: why must the burden of solving the problem of Yolanda rehabilitation be one that the youth share with this government? It might be said in fact, that the youth—and all of us—have done enough. And the ball has been in government’s court as far as rebuilding in the post-Haiyan context is concerned, given all the aid that it has received from the international community.

And well, given all of that cash in the President’s very own pork barrel, este, discretionary funds. Don’t even get me started on the Disbursement Acceleration Program.

Read your own press releases
And really, why implore the youth to engage with issues of access to education and youth unemployment?

If we are to believe the press releases of the Department of Education (DepEd) for the opening of classes this week, there is barely any problem with education at all. That is, DepEd’s Go Education! promised no more shortages by the end of 2013! That is, no shortage in classrooms, in teachers, in water and sanitation, and in number of seats! Out of 120 congested schools in 2011, there are only 20 congested schools as of 2013! And, my goodness, only one school in Metro Manila implements three shifts!

And unemployment, well, what would you like to hear from the 1D fans, Youth Commissioner? That they will do what exactly to solve the problem of their own possible unemployment when they graduate?

Or wait, do you mean they must engage with the issue of workers’ rights? Because that would be cool, that you ask the youth to talk about the probability that they will graduate only to find a job that will hire them as contractual workers, because that’s always cheaper for the business owner, and means no benefits at all for the employee.

Then again, the Youth Commissioner should really be talking to the Labor Secretary, who has recently said that there is no problem with workers’ rights in the Philippines. This, after the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) declared that the Philippines is one of the worst countries for workers.

Which, you know, any contractual employee has experienced. Certainly something that any Youth Commissioner worth his salt would want to talk about for the sector that he represents.

Eye on the wrong youth
The thing that gets to me about this message from Usec Tingson is how it’s an eye on the wrong youth, and I have a feeling it’s because it’s the easier discussion to have: remind 1D fans about redirecting their energies towards something more relevant.

It seems so . . . innocent.

“This hype over a pop group has actually shown us something positive about the youth—that they can make sacrifices for what they passionately want. Hopefully, with the efforts of the NYC and our partners, this can also be translated into a passion for service and involvement for the benefit of the nation.”

Really now. If you want for this kind of idolatry to translate into an engagement with nation, then the first step is to stop looking down on what the youth is passionate about, who it is they idolize, and work toward actually engaging them in ways that are not about press releases and riding on the 1D wave.

Also, stop thinking that this is your market, the youth with parents who could spend for 1D tickets. These fans are already told by their private schools, their community churches, their own parents, to rise to the occasion of a nation in need.

Instead, why not try the fans of Anne Curtis on for size? These are the masses who have been manipulated by the media empires into thinking that they must spend their good money on a concert where being untalented and absolutely off-key is the point. This is fandom that’s about idolizing someone who makes a killing out of spectacularly bad singing and selling the superficiality of body, in lieu of talent.

You want fans for change? Change Anne’s fans! If the Youth Commissioner wanted to be relevant those are the fans he should be talking to, as it is Anne and her media companies that he should be taking on.

Not One Direction. Nor the group’s fans, who will only see them once in their lives. And which fans will most probably grow up to be productive and relevant citizens of nation.

I mean, I loved Menudo. And look at how I turned out. Haha.

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