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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

THEY are regarded as cynics for seeing always the negative side of things. They think that they are a bunch of killjoys who do not know how to enjoy life. They are regarded as the sour-grapes who will ruin your party. But where does social hope for salvation emanate if not from the doomsayers who warn us of the impending deluge?

I am standing up for my activist friends who I believe represent the last ounces of redemptive promise for this benighted land. They receive almost no appreciation for the work they do, and instead are ridiculed by the so-called thought leaders. Their ideas are considered arcane and out-of-touch with reality when the unchanging reality, time and time again, validate the activist’s positions.

We are no longer an agricultural economy and most of the poor are in the urban areas nowadays, the anti-activists say. There should be new methods of seeking change from within the system. Besides the state is not a monolithic structure but is actually malleable to civil society influence.


But what has been the evolution of political struggles in the past decade? We have seen civil society swallowed up by the same age-old feudal interests. Former stalwarts of civil society, now undersecretaries of a government that remains beholden to landed, big-comprador and imperialist goals.

There should be critical engagement with government, they say, and work toward reform within the system while not losing sight of the goals for large-scale social change. They do not realize that the system works on them like a silent ethical disease. A government position now, a slight lifestyle change from being a university professor to government bureaucrat, and before they know it they are brokering mining deals that cause the displacement of indigenous peoples amid a war in the hinterlands.

Between those who posture as pro-people while ensconced in their airconditioned offices enjoying long languid lunch breaks, I would rather stand with the organizer of communities eating on the same plate as the poor fisherfolk suffering from the overfishing of big trawler companies.

Between those whose idea of activism is to present the nation’s structural inequities before foreign audiences abroad for funding while denigrating the people’s movement for pursuing the resolution of such inequities’ structural roots, I would rather stand with the untenured academic who persists in exposing the unchanging realities.

Between those who cry for peace yet flinch and look away before the cruel violence of the State, I would rather stand with the human rights worker who is conscious of the imbalance of power in the rural countryside and takes the side of the weak who have taken it upon themselves to fight.

I feel sorry for those who find themselves in the unfortunate position, by demographic accident perhaps, in defending the current disposition because of personal interests. There is a car to maintain, and vacations to undertake after all.

More than a decade ago, it was all the rage in the academe to separate the ethical demand in our public and the private lives. Now, they are reaping the folly of such misguided posturing. They have mistaken self-serving pragmatism for political astuteness. Now, they find themselves in a box reserved for them by the accommodating neoliberal system, squawking like caged parrots for the dominant order, all idealism and hope turned into a cynical bile that they throw toward those who have opted to stand firm.

So who is jaded now? Is it the activists who in the midst of summary executions, enforced disappearances, and state surveillance muster within themselves a kind eternal hope even if the price they pay are their very own lives? Is it the activists who, with their intelligence and talents, and force of will, can actually become the object of popular adulation but instead opted to work silently, nameless and unrecognized?

The activist does not have the monopoly over goodness and heroism. But they represent a segment of our population that have eschewed knee-jerk Christian guilt responses to the ills that face our nation in favor of a deliberate and sustained attempt to solve these problems at their roots.

Activists are not jaded nor are they cynical. They are actually the most hopeful, most persevering, army of Filipinos working toward the resolution of our problems as a nation. Some people are just envious of the activist’s steadfast resolute to not compromise when all their lives, they have mastered the art of selling out.

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on April 22, 2014.


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