Let’s not stand down
We are not helpless.
For so long I thought I was. I have kept quiet because:
What is the point when you can be easily shot down and cowed into submission by very real threats both in and outside social media? When relationships with peers can be tarnished?
In this world where hatred and misogyny run amuck, strongman politics is on the rise, people are murdered left and right, malls spontaneously combust, wars in distant countries destroy lives, where an insidious form of nationalism has crept into the consciousness of many, and where Coldplay concerts cost an arm and a leg, sometimes we cannot help but feel helpless.
We are made to feel powerless—whether by nasty internet trolls spreading fallacious arguments and fabricated news and victimizing us with their sexually harassing comments, or getting our placards ripped by angry pro-Marcos mobs and even policemen. It is tempting to crawl into our dens and live ignorant, quiet lives. Why must we keep pushing back?
This is for those who are on the brink of giving up and for those who are looking for reasons to continue fighting, for those who are weary of explaining, defending, and trying to patiently argue points with family and friends, for those who’ve burned so many bridges just to fight for what they believe in, for those who continue rallying on the streets to protest social injustice, and for those who just want to raise their arms in defeat.
Let’s remind ourselves that we are doing this, not out of vanity or some inane desire to be constantly politically correct, as some of our older critics would like to believe.
We are doing this because we dream of a better world. A world where quality of life matters more than “economic progress,” where we do not have to exchange our inherent human rights with supposed security and a sack full of grain, or an iron bridge.
We are doing this because we want to see a world where women are not made to be objects, battered, harassed, derided, or dismissed by a chauvinist society; where LGBTQs can live and love freely without fear of state-sanctioned oppression and judgment, and where men are our partners rather than our detractors in making this a reality.
We are doing this because we want to see a world where our leaders—if not a Justin Trudeau—are honest, progressive, and can be held accountable for their words and actions; where there is always room for discourse, for constructive criticism, and for meaningful participation.
We are doing this because we do not want to see a world where dictators can be called heroes simply because it is not illegal for them to be made so—where his sons and daughters can creep their way into power once again and blatantly revise our country’s history, and where presidents will allow all of this to transpire just to repay political debts.
We are doing this because we do not want to see a world where being patriotic means to blindly believe and do the bidding of a single person despite his lies, bad faith, and doublespeak.
We are doing this because we are not helpless.
To our antagonists: Call it naivete and flights of fancy. Call it foolishness. Call it a shallow understanding of reality. Crush our hopes for a better future. Say that these fantasies will never see the light of day. Cover your ears and mumble the learned jadedness society has taught you so well—but you cannot take us down.
We are not out in the streets screaming our lungs out, raising our witty placards in protest simply because a man has been buried in sacred soil, or because we just want to cause trouble. We choose to be here because that man you call the greatest president of our time is the antithesis to all the values we uphold—human rights, freedom, equality, justice—and to bury him there would be to bury these values with him.
We are doing this because we want you to listen. It’s not just our history. The world that we envision for us is under threat—by demagogues masquerading as saviors, by liars propagating animosity between fellow citizens, by murderers who have sworn to serve and protect us, by populists legislating laws contrary to our conscience and principles, by greedy families seeking to regain the power they lost. We are doing this for so much more than you would have yourselves believe.
No. The change that we are clamoring for does not include mass killings and the redemption of disgraced dictators. This is not just a protest against what has been but a protest against what is going on and what could still be should we choose to be silent.
This is not about moving on but about moving forward, with the assurance that what we are inching toward is not a repeat or a disremembering of the abuses of yesterday. This is about fighting for justice, so that generations after us will enjoy more liberties just as those that came before us fought and died for ours.
I have seen my fellow youth march in the streets with fire in their eyes, seen them speak out against the claims that they had no agency of their own, heard their cries of indignation on Edsa. I have seen brave men and women calling out online sexual offenders and saying enough is enough, I have heard the bells of the UP Carillon tolling as if to wake us all from this madness, and it has given me a newfound courage to speak up.
There may be some of us who are weary from all that has been happening, but members of my generation remind me me that there is still reason to hope that all these struggles will not be in vain. They show me that they are wide awake and will keep on fighting. In their company I feel powerful—as if revolutions can still be waged, institutions can still be reformed, and leaders can still be held accountable. We have found our voice and we are not afraid to use it.
To my friends, hold on to that dream of a better world. Let us rise from the helplessness brought about by events old and new. Let us revel in the strength that we have found in one another.
And no matter what, do not stand down. Revolutions do not happen overnight.
Karla Michelle Yu, 22, is a research associate at Action for Economic Reforms.
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