On internet activism and protests

You’re a famous blogger, and you frequently write about your advocacies in your blog and in social networking sites. Some people, particularly “moderates,” look at the Internet as their preferred mode of activism (sometimes only mode), and shun out street protests. Why do you continue to take to the streets despite already having other venues for protest?

The Internet is a potent and alternative tool for campaigns and advocacies, no doubt, especially among the youth.

We have to remember, however, that majority of Filipinos still do not have access to the world wide web. Ordinary minimum-wage earners, farmers, out-of-school youth, even many among the middle class are not Internet users. We cannot win any nationwide campaign or struggle without them.

Long-lasting social change is not possible without the fundamental and primary participation of the masses. The Internet is not the medium to engage them in, and whenever we try to achieve fundamental changes in government and society, we cannot rely on the Internet alone. It’s naivete to believe that changes can be won on the electronic front.

Street protests are among the most accommodating and reliable forms of protests. It does not exclude anyone from participating. It accommodates anyone regardless of computer literacy, economic or social stature.

History has also proven its potency in advancing the struggle of citizens for changes and reforms around the world. There’s nothing wrong when ordinary university students use the Internet as a venue of protest, and I personally don’t take that against anyone. But, we have to be conscious that it is not the only mode of expressing support for an advocacy or expressing dissent against government policies and actions. There are times, like today, when more is demanded from us, and we cannot afford to be complacent with the kinds of actions we are willing to take.

Tayo ang pagbabago

Someone from Ateneo de Manila’s Matanglawin (student publication) interviewed me this afternoon after my class. It was about my opinion on Ako Mismo. I simply reiterated what I had expressed in my blog entry about the campaign. I’m not, at all, against individual efforts for personal growth and development. I’m not, at all, against individuals obeying traffic rules, being proud to be Filipino, paying taxes or participating in the electoral process by registering and voting, or volunteering for non-government organizations. In fact, I do them too. But let us not foster the illusion that these convenient actions are enough to change Philippine society, suffering from a tragic status quo caused by a ruling order.

What I’m against is the mentality of blaming individuals alone, and just ourselves for the country’s social ills, totally absolving the government that causes such conditions–and worse, branding such acts of holding politicians and administrators accountable as mere pagrereklamo and mindless blaming and finger-pointing. As long as the government is robbing us blind and is tragically failing to deliver social services to the vast majority of Filipinos who need education, health care and economic support, among others, no amount of charity work and volunteerism will be enough to sustain a long-term solution for our people. Besides, you pay for these services with your taxes. We all do. We have the right and the duty to demand what is due us. You do not turn a blind eye when you pay for a donut and you get a munchkin–or worse, nothing at all, and worse, dinukutan ka pa.

Yes, true enough, nasa sarili nga ang pagbabago. I’m not taking that against anyone. Pero may mas malaking sistema tayong kailangang baguhin. Let me post an excerpt from Kabataan Rep. Mong Palatino‘s speech at the national convention of the College Editors’ Guild of the Philippines.

Tayo ang pagbabago

May iba’t ibang inisyatiba upang pukawin ang makabayang damdamin ng kabataan. Positibo ito. Napapansin ko lang na ang binibigyang diin ay may kinalaman sa mga indibidwal na pagkilos ng mga kabataan.

Hindi na ito bago. Noon pa man marami na ang nanawagan ng pagbabago batay sa inisyatiba ng bawat isa. Kahit ang Malakanyang, nananawagan na ang pagbabago ay dapat magsimula sa sarili. Ang mga nasa kapangyarihan ay nananawagan rin ng pagbabago — pagbabago sa gawi, sa puso’t isipan.

Lumang ideolohiya na ito. Sinisisi ko ang dominanteng ideolohiya kung bakit popular ang ganitong mensahe. Di ba ito ang turo sa atin — na basta’t maging mabuting tao ka o mamamayan ay sapat na upang guminhawa ang lipunan. Huwag nang makialam sa pulitika; asikasuhin na lamang ang sarili at pamilya. Huwag nang magrali; huwag nang labanan ang dambuhalang sistema. Magsimula sa sarili. Ako mismo. Magpayaman, mamigay ng limos, magvolunteer, magpintura ng mga bahay. Sapat na ang mga ito.

Samantala, sila mismo — silang mga buwaya na nasa gobyerno — ay patuloy na nangangmkam ng yaman ng lipunan. Habang abala tayo sa ating mga sarili, sila mismo ay patuloy na nagkakalat ng lagim dun mismo sa ating mga komunidad.

Kaya ang sagot ay hindi ako mismo kundi tayo mismo ang magpapalayas sa mga masasamang elemento ng lipunan. Tayo mismo, sa ating sama-samang pagkilos ang lilikha ng pagbabago sa bansa.

Hindi simple ang manawagan ng pagbabago. Hindi ito nadadaan sa pag-iimbento ng mga makukulay na palamuti sa katawan. May sakripisyong kailangang ibigay ang bawat isa kung nais natin ng tunay na pagbabago. May interes tayong babanggain kung seryoso tayong kikilos para sa pagbabago. Makapangyarihan ang interes na ito. Mabagsik silang kaaway. Mapanganib na laban. Kaya hindi uubra kung nag-iisa lang tayong sisigaw ng pagbabgo. Ikaw mismo ay mabibigo. Dapat kolektibo, dapat sama-samang manawagan ng pagbabago. Dapat pagtulungan natin sa ating mga organisasyon kung anong mga mainam na paraan upang isulong ang pulitika ng pag-asa, pagbabago at pakikibaka.

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.

Remembering EDSA People Power II

January 12, 2008. [Actually, hindi ako kasama noong People Power 2]. I am honestly ashamed to remember what I was doing during People Power 2 seven years ago, because I was exactly the type of person back then that I detest today–a prude conservative who refused to join the urban middle-class disruption that was brewing, even in our sheltered Ateneo High School. I honestly can’t stomach the things I’ve written in my “online journal” back then, hence they’re not available in my blog’s present archives. Back then, it became quite fashionable among Ateneans to be joining all those walk-outs and indoor rallies. I refused to believe that my classmates, and most other rich kids in my high school for that matter, knew what they were doing, and I thought it was all just a fashionable lynch mob at the covered courts endorsed even by the entire faculty at that time. I was confident that all along, my schoolmates simply thought it was so cool that we had faculty-endorsed free cuts. Back then, I (already) really disliked Vice-President Gloria Arroyo so much, I would rather that President Estrada stayed in Malacanang than have him replaced with that woman and everyone else who surrounded her. (Boy, what an ominous gut feel).

Back then, I was aware that I didn’t know enough to condemn President Estrada as guilty, so I just stayed home. (Not that I would be allowed to join rallies, anyway). Back then, probably because Loyola Heights and my home were the only environments I was exposed to, and simply because I was just a first-year high school student, I was naive enough to actually subscribe to administration propaganda. I felt like the rallies were all just an elite, middle-class uprising, void of support from the wide masses who adored the President. Tangina, nakakahiya. Naging ganyan talaga ako noon. And right now, I feel like I have switched places with my peers. Those people who questioned me (and there were quite a handful) for not joining the rallies in Ateneo are the ones who refuse to join the present rallies to demand that President Arroyo, who has obviously turned out to be terribly worse, to step down and be accountable for all her crimes. Funny, because they use, more or less, the same reasons I used to have back then. My God, what a paradigm shift. These make me say that there really are some things I don’t understand with some people. With conditions and scandals so much worse now than during President Estrada’s term, what made them join the fury and the mob back then but cannot compel them to do the same now? Hay, how weird some people can get.

Beterano ako ng EDSA2!Seven years “” yes, seven years “” have passed since the four days that redefined People Power culminated in the ouster of the president with the biggest electoral mandate in Philippine history and we in Bloggers Kapihan invite you to remember. Just write about your People Power 2 experiences, post memorabilia like photos and videos. Simply put, we want you to act by picking up a pen or going to the computer to tell your story, your version of what happened on Jan. 16-20 and your dreams for the country. Others for instance, may choose to fast forward to 2008 and assess what has happened to the country seven years since People Power 2. Were we betrayed? Were our efforts wasted by some persons who benefited from it? Is it a national failure, or a warning that a similar fate may befall the incumbent? To make this all worthwhile and useful to ourselves and the world, BK will open a special website at http://peoplepower2.bloggerskapihan.com (please don’t forget to link to it and this post) where we will put your posts and feature the really good ones. Let this be our humble contribution to reviving our pride in ourselves as a people, and to inspiring all of us never to lose hope for the only country we can call our own. Don’t let others to rewrite People Power 2 as if it meant nothing. We made history in 2001 and now’s a good time to remember and to write it the way we saw and see it.