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  • Dan Albert S. de Padua

Who Do These Millennials Think They Are?

They call me by my first name without my permission! Do they think for some reason that they are ENTITLED to do that? It might have been OK if I had given them my name to write on a coffee cup, but no.

They contact me for business matters through Facebook messaging! I don’t require signed letters on actual paper, but they couldn’t be bothered to send a professional email with some kind of salutation and signature? They need to realize that when Zuckerberg invented Facebook in 2004, I was already a vice president, and to me Facebook is a leisure time distraction like a video game or sudoku.

Seated around a conference table, not one of them gives up his seat for the assistant vice president who walks in! I interviewed a millennial about this incident later, and she said, “Well, [the AVP] was late.”

It’s almost enough to make me want to pull out my belt and whip some respect into them for all the AVP’s who have earned their seat at the table and for all the older people who are, well, old. I bet the members of the Supreme Court, who are around my age or older, will understand the need for corporal punishment in this case and cut me some slack for humanitarian reasons under the Enrile doctrine.

Who are these millennials anyway? According to Philip Bump whose research appeared in The Wire and The Atlantic, all those who were born between 1982 and 2004 belong to the millennial generation. Therefore, today’s teenagers and twentysomethings are in the group, and the oldest legitimate millennials today are thirty-four years old. Practically all millennials are also said to be digital natives, that is, they grew up with the internet, mobile technology, and social media. They are the only ones who understand Snapchat.

In the Philippine context, millennials did not experience any part of martial law and if they were around in 1986, they were too young to understand EDSA. They know Herbert Bautista as a mayor, not a member of the Bagets cast. Very few of the male millennials were required to take citizen military training; and no millennial has ever watched U.P. win a UAAP basketball championship.

The New York Times summarized the traits associated with millennials: “a sense of entitlement, a tendency to overshare on social media, and frankness verging on insubordination.” The New York Post said they are “tender and delicate.” The Pew Research Center found millennials to be more into music and pop culture than the other generations they surveyed.

Ahh, in other words, they’re young.

I remember a time when I believed the whole world was out there waiting for me to conquer it. We didn’t have Twitter and Instagram, but we had CB radios and the big red payphones that ate up ten centavo coins. I never used my boss’s first name in public (I still can’t do it), but I questioned his decisions every day. It’s what a young gun does. In fact, I think the day I stopped doing that is the day I became middle-aged.

If there is something different about the millennials’ youthfulness, I doubt that it’s their fault. Millennials didn’t sprout out of a crack in the pavement as fully formed human beings. They are products of their environment, of a licentious culture and an upended world of achievement. Significantly, they were brought up by us baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) and gen x-ers (born 1965-1984). Maybe we could demand more respect if we had done more that was worthy of respect. Or maybe we should have expected more of them. If we’re looking for the reasons behind their faults, we might as well look for the excuses for our own failures.

The root of this overweening sense of entitlement might be in the constant adulation that was given to the millennials as kids. In my day, there was only one honor student per class per year. In the 90’s, we gave recognition and awards to more than half of each class. Recently, I read about medals and certificates being given for color recognition, for reading Bible passages aloud, and for moving up to the next grade. If we shield children from failure, if we package the unremarkable as outstanding achievement, if we keep praising everything that they do, is it any wonder that children grow up thinking they deserve to be heard all the time, to be accepted everywhere, and to be rewarded at every turn?

Then, there’s the unwarranted familiarity. My parents survived World War II and the occupation of the Philippines by a foreign power. As children they learned to bow from the waist or risk being slapped by an enemy sentry. I realize now that my father was being lenient with us when he allowed us to speak to him directly without prefacing each sentence with a Sir. Although I never consciously resolved to be more tolerant than my parents, when my turn came to raise children, I did believe it was my duty to give them a life better than mine. Looking back, I see that I encouraged impertinent behavior because it seemed to show that my relationship with my kids was better than that of my parents with me. I used to call my son Pare. Why is it not cute now that he and his cohort of millennials want to call me Dan?

But I’m not ready. I can’t quite make the transition from bashing the millennials to celebrating them in the space of a few paragraphs. Maybe we can approach this slowly, step by step. I will try my best to be less shocked and appalled by the conduct of millennials if the millennials can be a little less arrogant about their intention to change the world. I can respect their youth and recognize their blamelessness if they can acknowledge that we changed the world in our own way long before they did.

Who are these millennials? They’re our sons and daughters after all.


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