by Vincent Silarde
So according to some random social media rant I read (not for the first time) somewhere, I am one of those irresponsible and misguided parents/adults who go to rallies with children in tow. And now there’s this news that according to cops, I am also a human rights violator for doing so. The current state discourse accuses me of bad parenting for bringing my child to a protest rally which, many are led to believe, are senseless and violent activities harmful to minors. While I admit that I am in fact a lousy parent sometimes, I don’t believe that making a rally buddy out of my daughter amounts to negligence. On the contrary, it is with the best intentions (because good faith already sounds like a dreary cliché) that my wife and I decide to go to a protest rally as a family. Allow me to explain why.
All year round, naysayers try to discredit the legitimacy of mass actions on account of it being violent, senseless, and obsolete. Every time I hear this, I can feel all the cells in my body erupting into a collective “DUH!”. But I don’t actually say “DUH” as I get the impression that most people who profess strong opposition to protest rallies have not actually been in one and their impressions of it are mostly informed by biased and uncritical media reportage and a faint sense of history. They fail to consider, for instance, that most of the basic human rights we enjoy today were fruits of people’s painstaking struggle.
And because people who diss protest rallies were not in attendance, they are not aware that these events, which the media frequently depicts as some lumpen and counterproductive activity that just causes traffic, are actually moments filled with art, imagination, good vibes, learning, humanity, and love. In here, we hear the story of exploitation of people who happens to be excluded also from social media where most of us enjoy the privilege of gratuitous ranting and self-promotion. My wife and I believe that it is important for our grade school child to hear all these so that she would be aware that out there in the big world, poverty and injustice are not just activist propaganda but real problems that lead to the suffering of families just like her own.
Protest rallies are also art fairs and music festivals attended by many of our best artists and cultural workers. Last SONA, Pinoy rock luminaries The Jerks and Datu’s Tribe shared the stage with punk bands, rap artists, and street performers on Commonwealth Avenue. Scriptwriter Ricky Lee was also there. On several occasions, I also saw Monique Wilson marching on the streets before giving a moving performance of Do You Hear the People Sing from Les Miserables. This is very important for us because while we do not oppose to our child’s choice of Katy Perry , One Direction, and Miley Cyrus, we find it our responsibility to show her that art and music have forms and uses other than hedonistic pop merchandises.
Lastly, we take our child to protest rallies because we believe she needs to experience this to realize that there is an alternative to the dreams and desires promoted as natural and honorable by the dominant culture. Many of us are too preoccupied with constructing and pursuing individual dreams that tend to consume our humanity and dissuade us from the urgent and logical task of dreaming collectively as a species and society. We are consistently and deviously led to believe that we should work our assess off to acquire penthouses in condominiums with pretentious names; vacation homes in staid resort communities that have more yayas, gardeners, delivery boys, and security guards than homeowners most of the time; big cars which make short, ugly, and pompous jerks feel and look (at least in the eyes of gold digging and equally pretentious chicks) pretty and super; overpriced meals in overrated restaurants; memberships in exclusive golf and country clubs erected on lands that used be home villages of poor farming and fishing communities.
Very little attention and action is paid to our supposedly shared responsibility of ensuring, first and foremost, that no one should go hungry, live under subhuman conditions, be prevented from swimming at the beach on account of non-membership or non-ownership, or die because he could not afford to live. So some of us end up climbing social mountains and look utterly pathetic. Bootlicking and ass-kissing are ensconced as time-honored traditions and virtues. We forget that instead of striving to be the best and fastest social climbing bastard, we have a choice to destroy or level the mountain to the ground.
And the system has even succeeded in making more money for the already tremendously wealthy out of our insecurities and anxieties. Financial institutions make huge profits from the business of selling mutual funds, car loans, life insurance, education plans, health insurance, etc because we have resigned to the idea that basic social services such as universal health care, public education, social security, mass transit, among others, cannot be institutionalized as a right instead of a privilege.
It is in these protest rallies which oppose the privatization of hospitals and contractualization; call for the increase of workers’ wages, national industrialization, end of human rights violation, job creation, genuine land reform, protection of the environment, among many others, that we are able to, in our humble way, encourage our child to refuse to “live in a world of comforting illusions.” And unless I see for myself that these protest rallies have ceased to become the edifying and inspiring activities I’ve known them to be, I will continue to be there with my family, arms raised, fist clenched, and chanting IPBK Ibagsak!