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Enemy of the young

"Not someone bigoted, please."

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. is known for his unguarded remarks on social media, but this time he managed to use Twitter to show his biased and unfair generalization of young people.

Reacting to a news report about a private hospital administrator’s request that President Rodrigo Duterte replace Health Secretary Francisco Duque III with someone with “a fresh mind,” Locsin wrote on Twitter:

“Not someone young, please. They can be pretty stupid believing that enthusiasm makes up for lack of experience, intelligence, education. They will act cute before the cameras but they won’t get anything done because they won’t be respected by the rest of government and society.”

Everybody is entitled to his or her own opinion, of course, but Locsin must remember that he is a Cabinet official representing our interests before the international community. He must at least try to sound as though he gave his utterances a bit of thought. For someone not young, spontaneity could be a mortal sin.

Then again, it’s these candid statements that provide us a peek into a person’s mind. This single tweet of just under 280 characters highlight how the secretary regards Filipinos who hold the most promise of turning around this benighted land.

Mr. Locsin’s tendency to generalize is astounding. He lumps together all the young people in a single pronoun – “they” – and claims to know what they believe. He insists he knows what they will do in front of a camera. He predicts their failure, because he claims to know the minds of the rest of government and society who will not respect them.

Then again, the secretary may still be bristling from the Twitter backlash he received last year after he used gutter language in addressing a young journalist who had the temerity to report on President Duterte’s absence in one of the Asean meetings during a Thailand summit.

Locsin’s “Uh, did you get the putang*na I sent you?” prompted countless “OK, boomer” replies from social media users, imitating a 25-year-old parliamentarian from New Zealand who put her heckler of a colleague in his place.

No one age group has a monopoly on stupidity, Mr. Secretary. Even Cabinet members who are senior citizens try to act cute in front of the cameras. But many young people actually get many things done, because they eschew the folly of their older predecessors, rely on data and technology tools before making decisions, and refuse to be dictated upon while maintaining the Filipino value of respect for their elders.

These leaders, contrary to Mr. Locsin’s sweeping, all-knowing statement, are respected by the rest of us, because their authority comes not from their titles or affiliation with the powers-that-be, but with their fresh mindset and innovative approaches.

Former United States President Barack Obama spoke virtually to graduating high school students earlier this month. The pandemic revealed the truth, Obama said, that [older people] do not have all the answers – indeed, some of them, with fancy titles and important positions, are not even asking the right questions.) “So, if the world’s going to get better, it’s going to be up to you,” he told his young audience.

He added that they should not accept “No, you’re too young to understand” or “This is how it’s always been done.”

There are many bright ideas and promising minds out there. These would help us crawl out of this health crisis and chart a better normal for our country. We just have to find those we can trust. And no – not someone bigoted, please.

Topics: Editorial , Enemy of the young , Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. , Health Secretary Francisco Duque III
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