Velez: Selfies in rallies, why this millennial apathy?

FOR heckling the anti-ASEAN protesters up on his office and posting his feat online with a selfie complete with a millennial peace sign and wide smile, Eljohn Mark Licup is now an online sensation.

His post has been shared over 40,000 times, garnered 177,000 likes and still counting. It also earned criticisms from netizens sympathetic with the rallyists, who turned his selfie into memes carrying poems and quotes of thinkers from Brecht to Zizek who criticized this kind of apathy and attitude.

I am cautious about writing about this dude. After all, Eljohn is a private citizen, a young man who might just be displaying his millennial/ post-millennial attitude of taking things lightly. So for him, that rally against Trump and against ASEAN was just a prop to air his biting one liner. When a protester with a microphone asked have we gotten jobs that the government promised, he shouted "MAGSIPAG-APPLY KAYO! HIRING KAMI!" (Go apply for a job! We're hiring!)

I'll talk about this attitude that's prevalent among millennials and post-millennials. Social awareness among this group is gone. In its place is social media apathy and attention-seeking. It's a kind of attitude that is centered on the self, empowered by the smartphone (such an ironic name for a device) to push the need for attention through garnering likes and comments. No matter how trivial or serious the circumstance, the attitude is to strike a pose and say I'm in the middle of this and loving it.

But Eljohn's pose and post, and the comments it gathered is something else. It's a display of insensitivity to make fun of protesters who were blasted with water cannons and sonic boom device that may cause damage to hearing, is just plain insensitive.

To merely brush the rallyists as lazy for not applying for work displays an ignorance of our current state. As one netizen points out, that vantage view of the privilege fails to see that poverty is tied up to a system that makes them poor. A system where education is a privilege, people are just part of a supply chain for contractual work, and communities can be demolished to be replaced with malls, subidvisions and factories.

It's a wonder how this "educated" youth attuned to trends and theories fail to grasp the issues surrounding ASEAN or for that to the struggles of the poor, farmers, Lumads and Moro in people in Mindanao who are displaced in this grand scheme of economic cooperation and integration. It's been easy for them to brush the protesters as "bayaran" without looking at the historic validity of rallies and movements in correct injustices.

One activist quoted a quote from a nun, Sr. Emelina Villegas, ICM, who said and I translate: "Sometimes those who are so engrossed with 'selfies' will nurture a very self-centered view, that they do not feel or see the people around them."

Does this show millennials and post-millennials are really tuned out of the real world? I don't think so. Because if there is an Eljohn displaying apathy, there is also a Shibby de Guzman among today's youth who gives a damn. Shibby is the 14-year old St. Scholastica student, whose presence at the Marcos' burial earned her recognition as one of Time Magazine's 30 most influential teens of 2017. On earning that spot she said joining the rally "was an opportunity to do good. It was the right thing to do."

Between Eljohn and Shibby is a choice. Between apathy and awareness, between popular and political, between self and society.

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