As I wrote last week, the 2010s was a decade of discontent and distrust, of doubts and despair, all amplified by governments and corporations using new information (and disinformation) technologies.
Now, more than ever, we need mid-level activism that goes beyond personal new year resolutions and instead tackles, with doable targets, our own backyards: our homes, schools and offices.
More than lifestyle changes, we need to look at lifeline resolutions.Without losing sight of the need for personal action as well as structural change, here are some ideas for lifeline resolutions, coming out of my experiences as a parent and an educator:
Resolve to make our parenting more conscious about developing critical thinking and discernment, especially in identifying fake news and disinformation.
Resolve as well to instill values around nurturance and empathy, justice and peace. We want both sons and daughters to be assertive and to speak up, but we also want to warn them against hubris and arrogance and to be kinder when voicing their views, especially on social media.
Remind them of the public nature of these platforms, and how quickly rants can turn viral. I wrote some weeks back about how cyberbullying, often developing out of self-righteousness, killed one of our UP students who was targeted by shaming mobs.
Let’s move to workplace discrimination. Have office staff come together to talk about what they can do to fight discrimination in all its forms—gender, sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity, even personality differences? Avoid political correctness and deal with the basics: Do we respect each other’s humanity?
Discrimination keeps us divided and silenced, allowing politicians impunity.
The environment offers the most areas for mid-level activism. In particular, we need lifelines to deal with the climate emergency.
Get offices and schools to implement a ban on single-use plastic, a major contributing factor to climate change. If you have a restaurant, offer a discount for people who bring their own nonplastic food containers, utensils, etc., down to the last straw, pun intended.
Let me shift to a traditional favorite cause: supporting scholarships. Don’t think the problems are over with free tuition for most students in UP and state universities and colleges.
At UP Diliman, we still provide food and financial assistance to students whose allowances are inadequate for basic needs.
Think of lifelines for crucial points in academic life, like offering small grants for students’ increased expenses in their last year, what with theses and dissertations, recitals, field work.
When students take a leave of absence in their third or fourth year because they can’t cover those expenses, and start working outside, I know the risks are high that they will not return to finish their degree.Sign up for programs and training around psychosocial lifelines.
At UP Diliman, our PsychServe program has “psychological first aid” training programs to help interested faculty and students learn how to detect early signs of psychological problems.
A newly graduated engineer once shared how he “saved a life”—a close friend who, he noticed, was behaving strangely. He made sure the student would attend classes, helped with the academic requirements, and got to graduate together with this friend.
The psychological first aid program had primed him to detect a sign that something was wrong with his best friend: The friend wasn’t brushing his teeth!
I thought sadly of a different situation during a college commencement, when one student went up the stage carrying the framed photograph of a classmate who was not going to graduate… ever.
I look to the millennials and Generation Z to create more lifeline projects.
I read about a Spanish lifeguard company sending personnel to Greece to accompany boats of “illegal” refugees making the perilous journey from North Africa to Europe. One lifeguard, Carlos Parra, was interviewed for The Guardian, and he related how refugees would sometimes jump into the sea 200 meters away from the shore. An accompanying photograph showed a more modest but still giant leap from the boat to the shore.
While these dangerous boat journeys have declined, Parra still volunteers for the lifesaving work a fortnight a year. He describes his work as a “grain of sand.” We all contribute something, minuscule as it might seem, but that still enables ourselves, and others, to make giant leaps of faith, giant leaps to freedom—as we do today, into this new decade.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.