It’s been almost a month since we elected our new set of leaders. Although we kept our hopes up, the 2019 midterm elections was dramatic and exhausting. The results led us to vent online, but it also engaged us in going outside our comfort zone when it comes to activism.
We can’t deny that some things went wrong, and we’re going to have to deal with the repercussions eventually. “The social, political, and economic issues—the rising prices of basic needs, unemployment, inaccessible education, and health care, extrajudicial killings, and many more affect [us] in [our] everyday lives, regardless of [our] choice to be political or not,” non-profit organization Sining na Naglilingkod sa Bayan (Sinagbayan) says.
“[T]here is always an opportunity for us to direct these frustrations into something productive if we choose to.”
It’s so easy to get discouraged and disillusioned when injustices like this year’s elections happen. But as communities like Sama-samang Artista para sa Kilusang Agraryo (SAKA) urges, “[t]here is always an opportunity for us to direct these frustrations into something productive if we choose to.”
We’re the hope of the nation, after all. We better start walking our talk. That’s why we asked young activists from SAKA, GABRIELA Network of Professionals, Sinagbayan, and Kabataan Partylist on how we can engage more in political discussions outside the social media sphere.
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You gotta do your research. Go beyond the headlines and big names. (We had 62 senatorial candidates to pick from, you know.) Verify common beliefs because they may not actually be true.
Evaluate different sources—media bias is real, plus there’s fake news galore. “Palaging magsuri, dig deeper into things. Mas kritikal, mas maganda,” advises Julianne Marie Leybag of GABRIELA Network of Professionals. Do they act on their promises? Who’s funding this campaign? Is the economy actually improving? Don’t forget that things change all the time (looking at you, party-switching balimbing), so keep updated.
Check your privilege out the door
Don’t let discovery stop at your comfort zone. This is a diverse nation encompassing varied walks of life, and we’re all in it together. “The youth should ask questions but should not limit seeking these answers online or inside the four walls of the classrooms,” advises Sinagbayan. “They should immerse themselves in the marginalized communities in order to learn their true situations. Seek the truth.”
Inclusivity is not some trendy social justice concept. While forming your position, think about the issues you personally care about and synthesize what you know with the unfamiliar experiences of the underprivileged. Democracy means we have the freedom to choose our political stance. So own it and commit to it.
“Palaging magsuri, dig deeper into things. Mas kritikal, mas maganda.”
Talk about it
Don’t underestimate the power of debates. It’s a perfect opportunity to share your opposing views and engage in a different one. What’s the minimum takeaway? Better awareness of opposing beliefs. And the best? Words turning to collaborative action. There are public discussions that involve the youth like Disgruntled Young People, which sets up various discussions on various issues.
Hit up the powers that be
Ever thought of talking to politicians directly? If you have something substantial to say, it’s worth a try. Reach out to local officials directly. The Senate website lists individual phone numbers and email addresses for a reason. Although social media messages may be convenient, telephone calls and emails about your political concerns won’t hurt anybody (except bigots).
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Put yourself out there
Fuming over the current situation? What better way to channel your rage than to rally with like-minded individuals? “To protest is an exercise of our democratic right to assert what is rightfully the people’s, whether it be clean and honest elections or the country’s sovereignty amid Chinese and US intrusion into our affairs,” says Kabataan.
“Individual dissent is one thing, but if [you’re] serious about making a dent in this oppressive status quo, [your] dissent must be organized. There’s no getting around the importance of being organized, no substitute to collective action.”
Join a club (or an actual party)
Aligning yourself with an organization connects you to a community and provides structure and guidance. While a student, take advantage of what your school has to offer (while you still can). Leybag of GABRIELA says, “A lot of universities actually have a lot of mass organization chapters that will definitely help… [in] becoming more involved in the country’s socio-political environment. Organizations like GABRIELA or Kabataan Partylist usually offer teach-ins, educational discussions, and basic masses integrations that will help the youth align themselves with the masses and their struggle.
If you follow a certain party, make it official by becoming a member. A friendly reminder: There’s power in numbers. Try to get your friends or anyone involved in the cause you believe in. As SAKA tells us, “Individual dissent is one thing, but if [you’re] serious about making a dent in this oppressive status quo, [your] dissent must be organized. There’s no getting around the importance of being organized, no substitute to collective action.”
Lend a helping hand
You can find opportunities to help out, be it for a campaign, an NGO, or even the government. You can also go the nonpartisan route: National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections and Kontra Daya are two important watchdogs that accept volunteers.
A key force during the recent elections, the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting publicly called for volunteers (300 of them a day) to help encode the millions of ballots.
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Harness media (not just social)
Remember, we’re focusing on solving problems (not complaining about them). An effective post can reach countless users, spreading awareness and gaining support.
But don’t discount traditional media even in the technology age. Put up posters, write an editorial for a newspaper, or create activist art. If Jose Rizal started a revolution with a book, think of what an article can do.
“Mas lalong kailangan tayo ng masa, at dahil we come from a privileged standpoint, one way that we can put this privilege to good use is by utilizing it to aid and help the poor and defenseless,” Leybag of GABRIELA reminds us. The country needs people who take its issues seriously especially when it looks like a lot of leaders don’t.
As we should realize by now, everyone has something to contribute, whether or not you’ve ever voted or attended a protest. Sure, real political engagement isn’t comfortable or convenient. But if we want the best for our nation, we have to act like it.
Photos by Kiara Gabriel