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Commentary

Sea change

/ 05:03 AM July 07, 2019

A sea change is taking place in certain parts of the world.

From Hong Kong, where a fight against an extradition bill that would allow its citizens to be repatriated to the People’s Republic of China, to Istanbul, where a populace has pushed back against the increasingly authoritarian regime of Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan by electing an oppositionist mayor, to Prague, where Czechs are demanding the resignation of their Prime Minister Andrej Babis in the largest demonstrations since the 1989 Velvet Revolution, a growing sea change in the global landscape appears to be brewing.

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Where before populist regimes — the likes of America’s Donald Trump, Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro, Hungary’s Viktor Orban and Britain’s Brexiteers — were making unprecedented gains, today there is a more defiant greening of the old continent, and a palette of different political colors have surfaced on the global stage.

Here in the Philippines, a seemingly smoldering sea change in the country’s sociopolitical landscape seems to be taking place, near-imperceptible perhaps, but as eloquent as the loss of fear. Our young in this country, which gave birth to the idea and reality of people power, is not immune to the events that bombard their screens daily on social media. Our young can see how outrage becomes courage almost overnight, not because a change of mindset takes place quickly but because, like a small gathering storm that stalks fisherfolk when they set out to sea, the dark signs are there but are only visible to those willing to listen and learn. And then comes the eventual reckoning.

Those of us who witnessed our people’s outrage during the dark days of martial law, shrouded in subdued sorrow that erupted into an outpouring of rage when Ninoy sprawled in a pool of blood on the tarmac, knew that it was only a matter of time before people finally woke up from a nightmare that had been peddled as a Marcosian “golden age.” It was, indeed — but only for those who happened to be the designated cronies of the conjugal dictatorship.

Take the case of Joshua Wong, the 22-year-old firebrand of the 2014 Umbrella Movement of Hong Kong. That movement initially faltered and failed in its aim to reject a system where Hong Kong’s leader is designated by China rather than by the Hong Kong people themselves. But rather than give up, people hunkered down for the more daunting challenges ahead; they drew strength from their repeated setbacks.

Less than an hour after Wong was released from jail at the height of the most recent Hong Kong protests, he joined his compatriots in their hundreds of thousands in singing the hymn “Hallelujah!” which had become the anthem of the street protesters.

Here at home, the sons and daughters of fisherfolk in different parts of the country — incensed by the insensitive, incompetent and incoherent manner by which the Duterte administration has addressed the injustice committed against the Filipino fishing boat rammed by a Chinese vessel in our territorial waters — will never forget or forgive the craven stance taken by this government.

As a new Congress convenes, our newly installed leaders have their sights on plum posts and the trappings of office. But our young must see through the games that power and politics play. They must see further beyond.

There is a sea change taking place at home and abroad, and our young are not exempt from the winds of change that they can feel in their brave bones as they witness their peers struggle in fraternal movements of resistance.

Here at home, our young can either take to the streets, network by means of social media, organize relevant sectors of society or mobilize advocates of diverse causes to fight back against the climate crisis, the killings of the mostly poor, the proposed charter change aptly dubbed “con-ass.”

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We are today a people in distress, left adrift at sea — with a President who acts in an exceedingly obeisant and unpresidential manner alongside an arrogant foreign secretary who regularly tweets undiplomatically. The situation is untenable. Our dignity is not for sale; it is nonnegotiable. It is a moment the youth of the land must seize.

Take heed. A sea change is taking place. Transform outrage to courage.

* * *

Ed Garcia is one of the framers of the 1987 Constitution and a teacher and mentor to the young.

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TAGS: discontent, Ed Garcia, Inquirer Commentary, Joshua Wong, populism, Rodrigo Duterte
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