In these uncertain times, it’s important to remember that what we’re fighting for is indeed making a difference.
Holding on to hope
Kiana Kimberly Flores (The Philippine Star) - July 10, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The work that I’ve seen in the past three months has been nothing short of transformative. It’s kept me from melting in a pool of dread every morning and inspired me to become more proactive.

Ever since the coronavirus was declared a pandemic, countries have been put on lockdown. Businesses and industries were forced to close down or pause indefinitely. Governments are stumped. In the Philippines, the brunt is greatly felt by the working force, with DOLE reporting approximately five million Filipinos losing their jobs. Plans are disorganized and policies are misplaced: it took the death of one woman for the government to help send home stranded workers in Metro Manila to their respective provinces; the Lumad are still displaced, hungry, and deprived of education, on top of military fear-mongering in their settlements; public health and safety is at an all-time low; and there are rising cases of infection.

To see these playing out on our respective screens is nothing short of galling. It is an uncertain time; there is no bypassing this reality. In this uncertainty is a space our brains could fill about how hopeless it is, how it’s better to just let go and not fight because nothing’s going to get better for us. But, as Rebecca Solnit wrote in her book Hope in the Dark, “In the spaciousness of uncertainty is room to act.”

Fear over the coronavirus is replaced by the fear of being mistakenly labeled and tagged as a terrorist as a new bill called the Anti-Terror Bill is being passed in the Senate. We are uncertain and afraid, but not enough to stay silent. On June 12, thousands of protesters gathered for a rally urging lawmakers to junk the bill. The clever rebranding and bastardization of the word “mañanita,” a term used by public officials who think they’re exempt from quarantine guidelines by throwing lavish birthday parties, is peak pop culture and is a cultural reset, honestly. I know we’ll never hear that word the same way again.

These numbers showing up in rallies and indignations are significant. It’s not what “Positivity lang” Twitter might deem “pa-woke,” nor is it a symptom of what they also call “reklamador” attitude. This attendance proves to us that even with a deadly virus in the air, we care enough not just for our future and welfare, in the here and now, but also for what is to come in the next months. The next year. The next three years, if you can believe it.

With a P27 billion spending plan and a rising national debt, which our taxpayer money will pay for, it’s almost impossible to imagine why no acute and effective mechanisms are in place. The private sector has stepped in through calls for donation drives to feed those at the margins who may not be able to receive relief packs or a cash fund. A good example is Project Hero PH, which is a donation drive for babies up to 24 months old from lower-income families that are left out of the rationing for the generic noodles, beef loaf and corned beef usually inside our relief packs. It’s run by volunteers, is transparent on auditing, and monetary donations come from anywhere in the Philippines. These are good things to have in a crisis (some might even allude to “resiliency”) but it’s neither the job of the private sector nor of certain individuals to dole out funding or provide relief packets.

Our information drive and resource sharing have also been top tier. There’s a Carrd database called “Para Sa Pinas” that lists current issues we should all care about and rally for.

On the other side of the world, the resurgence of information and resource sharing in the #BlackLivesMatter movement turned our scrolling habits around. From making memes out of politicians, we are now transforming the internet experience of, say, an out-of-touch follower who might have been only jumping from story to story, not expecting to see these calls for donations or these “Why Junk the Terror Bill?” explainers. Who knows what our reposts and retweets could make them feel and do, right? Regardless, add petition links to our bios we shall.

The effect of public outcry is historically recorded as effective. From the Stonewall Riots to the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s statue on Firdos square in 2003 (which I witnessed live on TV when I was young), these are moments in our history where sheer will power and the desire for a better society for every individual rings stronger than fear.

Here’s where hope comes in. According to Solnit, there is a “public equivalent to depression” in uncertain situations like this, when “the nation or society is stuck.” I’m sure not everyone agrees. Ask the “Nature Is Healing” and “Positivity only please!” folks up on Twitter. But who has time for that? Maybe the common thread between the citizens who proactively care and the ones who only tweet is that we think that things don’t always change for the better, but they do change, however incrementally. It’s the ongoing nature of change that should keep us going.

The protests following George Floyd’s murder in the US has put the entire police department in every state in the spotlight, especially Minnesota. The call of these US rallies to abolish prisons across all states re-echo the outcry of prison abolitionists from the 1980s. And slowly, states and policymakers are starting to yield.

Jeepneys won’t be phased out anytime soon (as planned) as they’re regaining momentum with GCQ in place.

The Lumad are gaining help and traction because thousands of people on the internet care about their plight and are signing petitions and forwarding concerns, even donating money.

I need you to know that our efforts are not futile. Change is ongoing. Long overdue change. What people say most about these abstract issues in society is that it will never work. Sure, true, maybe. Nevertheless, lives, places, cultures, species, and rights are at stake.

If this sounds like a litany, good. We need litanies or recitations or monuments to these victories, so that they are landmarks in everyone’s mind, as Solnit once said.

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