You’ve heard the news. Millennials are the worst things to ever happen to the human race. They cannot take criticism, they are lazy, apathetic and irredeemable narcissists.
But that’s just one side of the story. How about giving us a chance to defend ourselves? Here are five things we’re tired of hearing — and why they’re just flat-out wrong.
1. “How come you don’t come home to eat everyday? You don’t care about your parents ah?”
It’s probably true that we come home for dinner a lot less than previous generations. But it’s not because we don’t care about our families.
Of course, there’s an element of pragmatism to eating dinner at home. After all, every meal eaten at home means less money spent on eating out. But to say that we’re all about the money would be a gross mischaracterisation.
According to the National Youth Survey (NYS) by the National Youth Council (NYC), 70 per cent of youth believe that maintaining strong family relationships is one of their top priorities. In fact, more than half the youth surveyed last year reported that they spent more than 10 hours of their time with family every day.
Still, co-curricular activities are getting longer and overtime has simply become a fact of life. It’s becoming that much harder to come home to have a traditional sit-down meal with our families.
But that doesn’t mean we don’t try. Law student Charlotte Wang says her family makes it a point to eat together at home at least once a week in spite of their increasingly hectic schedules. “It’s tough, but we really value spending quality time over dinner,” she says.
2. “Eh boy, how come nowadays you don’t watch National Day Parade? Where’s your patriotism?”
Yet another accusation levelled against our generation is that we couldn’t give two hoots about our homeland. Parents constantly bemoan that their children dream of migrating overseas to seek their fortune and leave them behind to languish all alone.
But this doesn’t seem to be true at all — when asked to rank their national pride on a scale of 1 to 4, Singaporean youth averaged a 3.37, an increase from 3.18 in 2013. The majority of them also strongly agreed that they felt a “sense of belonging” to Singapore and would support the country in times of national crisis.
In fact, some feel so strongly about it that they’re willing to lay down their lives for the country. Take Dominic Miller, for instance. In his National Service, he signed on with the Singapore Armed Forces as a regular, worked his way up from Specialist Cadet School into Officer Cadet School, eventually rising to lead his men as platoon commander. His reason? “If we don’t defend Singapore, who will?”
Also, I can guarantee that you can throw a rock into a crowd of millennials, and hit at least one who knows the lyrics of Kit Chan’s Home. Disclaimer: this isn’t a scientific method by any metric.
3. “Oi, you don’t go and kaypoh kaypoh other people, ah.”
Alright, alright, maybe there’s something to be said for minding our own business — but look where being kaypoh has gotten us. The internet has given us a window into the lives of people not just throughout Singapore, but all over the world. Every day, there’s an immense amount of cultural exchange taking place in cyberspace. Closer to home, we give red packets to our neighbours during Chinese New Year, and crunch on homemade muruku with them during Deepavali. And we all know that deep down inside, we share a common, crippling weakness for ondeh-ondeh.
Think about it: if the bold spices of South Indian curry hadn’t met the succulent Chinese fish head, would the delicious flavours of curry fish head exist today? Isn’t satay bee hoon a perfect example of Singaporean culinary syncretism? Being kaypoh has its perks – chief among them being able to realise and appreciate what other ethnic groups have to offer.
And the youth of today most definitely concur — most of those surveyed in the NYS strongly agreed that they were comfortable being neighbours or working together with someone of a different race or nationality.
“It could be attributed to things like increasing access to the world over time,” says a 28-year-old respondent.
“Seeing alternative lifestyles can really open up someone’s mind to breaking their mental barriers, and living life in a different way.”
The NYS shows that we really are throwing differences in language, race and religion to the wind when we build our relationships. And aren’t those the ideals on which Singapore was founded?
4. “I tell you ah, your generation only think about themselves.”
This is perhaps the accusation that we hear the most. We’re told — almost daily — that we’re mired in apathy for our fellow human beings, we’re selfish and social media is turning us into self-obsessed narcissists.
But the statistics don’t lie. The NYS shows that 65 per cent of youth have engaged in at least one civic activity in the past 12 months. And 40 per cent of them list helping the less fortunate and contributing to society among their top life goals.
Ashlie Chin, a global studies student at the National University of Singapore, took it upon herself to travel to Greece last summer to volunteer for the InterEuropean Human Aid Association (IHA). For a month, she cooked meals for refugees, oversaw the distribution of aid and donations, and helped displaced children catch up on missed lessons.
“I was tired of feeling like I couldn’t do anything about a crisis that I saw in the news every day,” she says. “Volunteering at the IHA was an opportunity to do something I’d wanted to do for a long time.”
How’s that for apathy?
5. “Ya, ok, but y’all still spend too much time on that Instagram thing.”
Ok, fine. Fair point.
... but we’re still tired of hearing it.
This article is sponsored by the National Youth Council.