I recently had a conversation with my family about the use of social media, the political moderation of content and the different views of this subject according to our generations... Then I re-visited this very old post (written in 2013!), and thought it was good to share it again, perhaps we can open up more this discussion? Hope you like it.
A few years ago, while visiting my grandparents in Belgium, I spent an hour and a half listening to two old men in a cafe, they spoke French and I -trying to practice my language skills- sat quietlty while sipping a beer, they discussed every single one of the young people that where passing by. As if they were judges in a catwalk they criticised the colourful outfit of a guy, the alternative hairstyle of a girl, the ethnic features of a young man who, according to the elders, argued “he should not be from here, but clearly from somewhere in Africa”.
Then they continued discussing the use of mobile phones, social networks and how they have “brainwashed” my generation. They concluded that the government should do a better job monitoring the “derailed youth,” “that generation of barbarians,” “foreigners and strangers,” because that kind of actions could prevent crime, the decline of employment and the excessive crossing of migrants into the country. The following 20 minutes they talked about the football national team, of which I am sure 70% is from "somewhere in Africa." After a while of getting lost in translation, I decided to head to the park to reflect on everything I just heard.
The young people of today, some better than others, know that the State and rich corporations could be buying information and monitoring our conversations (which frankly makes me more afraid and aware of what I share and how I share it), but still we use the wonderful tools of the net to buy and sell stuff, to work, to connect, to share. We base our lives in this intangible network sponsored by globalisation while the elderly do not understand the need for wireless internet, much less the manifestation of our personality through our personal fashion.
There is discomfort in discussing politics and global life between these generations. For the older generations we come across young naive souls who go off to see other countries, lost in our own egocentric and short lived lives. For us younger peeps, thanks to travel, we talk about solidarity beyond the borders of a nation, of a religion or of the colour of our skin, we are seen as crazy libertines who have tattoos and torn clothes. On the other hand, we were taught to respect our elders, we must only respect and listen to our elders arguing how the idea of joint nations is “silly,” how migration is “barbaric” and how “absurd” tattoos look. And we remain silent, because our parents taught us to respect, but above all, because it is useless to discuss such issues with people who grew up in a pre-globalisation, pre-internet, pre-countries without borders era. Young people understand that the elderly grew up at a time when, like us, they had to respect the elders, and their elders taught these elders certain perspectives that were also formed by the limits and master structures of the State and religion.
How many soldiers in their old age refuse to know “the other side of the story” because their governments taught them that the most important thing was nationalism, that it was an honour to die for their country?
If they asked me for which country I would die, they would put me in a real pickle because I -like many other “young people”- am a daughter of globalisation.
I want to make it clear that with this last sentence I don’t mean to agree with many global and neoliberal processes, but that I grew up in a world that was crossing new technological, social, philosophical and artistic boundaries. A new renaissance in which young people, with the help of our parents who lived the movements of the 60’s and 70’s (the Berkeley Movements, women’s liberation and the sexual revolution), are breaking the old paradigms that our grandparents cannot understand with the same flexibility. Perhaps this will happen too with even younger generations and mine, although I hope not!
For todays’ young adult it is a barbarism to think in terms of a specific identity, for us who live in liquid times (Bauman, 2000) with urban tribes and hybrid identities (García Canclini, 2005), nationality is shared in terms that do not refer to borders, but to perspectives. For us sexuality is richer when is varied, the skin is more beautiful when painted, and the cultural richness is more interesting and exiting when mixed.
Now that there are several politicians in positions of power who prefer to isolate their nations for fear of the “Other,” as young people we should not continue to make the same mistakes that our grandparents and great grandparents committed, we must change. We must continue to break paradigms, to innovate and above all, to understand these almost invisible margins of globalisation and take advantage of them. We must stop following obsolete old patterns that discriminate the unknown.
We must learn, to get to know the unknown, to preserve our roots with love, and adapt to live our global identity.
Some cool reads:
García Canclini, Nestor (2005) Hybrid Cultures: Strategies for entering and leaving modernity. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Bauman, Zygmundt (2000) Liquid Modernity. Cambridge: Polity Press.