On “Ako Mismo”

Ako Mismo

I signed up for this, with all the buzz it has created this weekend. But I was quite disappointed by the things people have been committing themselves to doing. Sure, by all means, let us pay our taxes, register to vote, obey traffic rules, sweep the floor, pray, smile at others, be nice, be proud to be pinoy! Aba, dapat lang. Isn’t that what one is supposed to do regardless of any campaign for social change? Isn’t that what we are already doing? Let’s not stop doing it, fine. But please, it reeks of great naivete to think that doing things we are already doing will change Philippine society.

I don’t wish to offend anyone. I have friends from many advocacy campaigns of this type. But let me explain my reservations whenever I’m invited into these campaigns. My problem with “Ako Mismo” and the dozens of other “I” campaigns that have been initiated (and have flopped) these past years, is that it fosters an illusion that mundane individual efforts to do good, and nothing more, is enough to change society. These are well meaning campaigns, but I don’t think they actually call for positive action or call for change. These are calls for neutral action–to do things we’re supposed to be doing anyway.

What I think is dangerous about campaigning for this is that it neutralizes a person’s capacity to do more than what one is supposed to do in the first place. It’s like, fine, just pay your taxes, smile at people, sweep your backyard, do things within your comfort zone and that’s enough to change society. It’s not. Let us not justify the laziness or the inability of the middle class to get out of their comfort zone to change society.

These are the types of campaigns, believe it or not, that people in power or in government and big businesses employ to maintain the status quo, simply because doing ‘simple everyday good things’ do just that and nothing more. It effectively cloaks their part in the equation as to why we are where we sadly are. It makes you forget their role in sustaining the rotten order of society. It makes you think of questioning their policies or their authority as simple pagrereklamo. And worse, it demonizes those who do that. “Forget about the corruption and the repression we commit, just do your own little nice things!” And even worse, it blames the individual Filipino for all the problems he is experiencing!

If the campaign was “Tayo Mismo”, I would’ve considered it worthwhile. Pero hindi talaga, this is all about the individual, the me, the I, the ako. Notice how it’s become a trend these days–all these campaigns that begin with “I”. Its always about the individual. It’s never about the collective. It’s never the “We”. Collective action is too dangerous for the status quo. It’s all about pacifying the individual to be content with the things he already does and to buy a dog tag, a t-shirt, or a bracelet to show it off.

Millions of Filipinos are poor not because you don’t smile at others, or you don’t obey traffic rules. Millions of Filipino farmers don’t own the land they till not because you buy imported products. Millions of Filipinos are jobless not because they are lazy or they are not proud to be Pinoy. Millions of Filipinos are uneducated not because you refuse to become a teacher. It’s not about the individual you! Hence, you smiling, obeying traffic rules, buying Filipino, being proud to be Pinoy, though they are nice little actions, will not change the prevailing order maintained by the same people employing these “I am change” campaigns.

Really, there is no net effect if you commit to doing something you’ve already been doing, or you should be doing in the first place regardless of any social problem. It’s a neutral force. We stay where we are. Do something more. Do something out of your comfort zones. Social change is never comfortable. Do something collectively. Do something with other sectors of society. Social change is never about the individual doing things for personal growth and expecting the rest of the process to fall into place. Ang mali-mali lang talaga ng pagsisi sa problema ng bansa sa individual Filipino. We are not just challenging the individualistic problems of hopelessness or apathy. We are challenging a systemic order that maintains the sad state of affairs we all find ourselves in.

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