“Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself” (King, 1963). Few words in Letter from a Birmingham Jail from Martin Luther King Jr., an activist of civil rights and champion of human rights, equality and justice. In the society we live in, activism is like a coin. It can be seen with two sides. Some individuals would only view activism as an act of pure violence owing the fact that activists groups do rallies, sit-ins, street marches, strikes and protest in order to exhibit their opposition and advocacies. There are individuals that has the capacity to realize that activists demand to be heard. They call for attention having the aim for greater good, for change and for progress with no one being left alone. Increasing numbers of activists should be alarming not in a way that there will be violence around the corner but numerous individuals seek for justice and demand ears to listen to their pleas.
Around the world, as early as the age of 11, youths are demonstrating their advocacies to change the world. At an early age, there are numerous activists who are trying to open the eyes of people to climate change, education and other global issues. One of the most famous youth activists is Greta Thunberg, a seventeen-year old Swedish girl who challenges everyone to contribute in putting an end to climate change. On September 21, 2019, Greta delivered her speech to world leaders which brought her to the headlines. When she was asked what is her message to the world leaders, “My message is that we’ll be watching you.” (Thunberg, 2019). She is teary-eyed while delivering her speech in the UN Climate Action Summit. “…entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction and all you can talk about is money and fairytales of economic growth. How dare you…” (Thunberg, 2019), some of her speech dedicated to the world leaders. These are some words of a sixteen-year old Greta that occur to me that climate change is not a topic to ignore. We must all take action. In Middle East, a 24-year old woman named Shamma bint Suhail Faris Mazrui, a youth activist empowers young people in the UAE to take part and be active to the society and the government. Yousafzai, from Pakistan, the author of “I am Malala”, 23 years old fought for women and girl’s education. Her spirit and passion to fight for women’s rights made her gained enemies. In October 2012, she was shot in a school bus. She survived the attack and became the center of international movement to support her but led to Taliban officials to announce a second assassination attempt. David Hogg, Jaclyn Corin, Emma González, Cameron Kasky, and Alex Wind, youths from Parkland Florida, who survived shooting are youth activists that advocates gun control. Yara Shahidi, 19 years old advocates women’s and girl’s engagement. Just like Greta, a 18-year old woman from Seattle, Washington named Jamie Margolin and Isra Hirsi, 17 years old from Minnesota, fights for climate change. Desmond Napoles or also known as Desmond is amazing, 13 years old from America fights for the LBTQ community for its youth’s visibility. Mari Copeny who is only 12 years old became famous when she was eight years old in March 2016, she wrote a letter to President Barack Obama about the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. In May 2020, major protests sparked after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Black people were protesting against police brutality after the video of a police officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck, eventually lead to his death went viral. The movement Black Lives Matter organized protests to have justice for the death of George Floyd. The police accountable for Floyd’s death was charged with second-degree murder. Three other officers who were there have all been charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and manslaughter. As you can see, these amazing people exemplifies that activism is done because change is needed, change is demanded not only in a country but around the world. Social injustices should be corrected and not ignored. We are all accountable for what is happening globally so we all must take action in building harmonious, sustainable and progressive world for each and everyone and for the people of the future.
“Tibak”, a slang term derived from the syllables of the word aktibista or activist in English. It became popular in the Philippines among the youths during martial law period. On September 21, 1972, Ferdinand Marcos signed Proclamation No. 1081 placing the Philippines under Martial Law. He declared it on 23rd of September on the same year. 14 years under martial law, a lot of activists were awakened that this fascism should end. Philippines lost its democracy under the hands of a dictator, Marcos. The political protests during martial law are Interim Batasang Pambansa (IBP) election noise barrage (April 6, 1978) and Post-IBP election rally (April 9, 1978). It took 4 momentous days of February 22-25, 1986, millions of Filipinos gather along Epifanio Delos Santos Avenue (EDSA) to demonstrate their resistance against the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos. Their exemplary courage to stood against the regime succeed in ousting the dictator peacefully. Years later, another leader was ousted of his office. On January 17-20, 2001 an uprising in Manila has happened again. The second EDSA revolution or also known as, EDSA 11 or EDSA Dos peacefully overthrown the government of Joseph Estrada, more popularly known as ERAP. He was ousted after an aborted impeachment trial in which he was charged with perjury and plunder. Activism started both the uprisings. We can never tell that activism will not bring any good, because if it is then why did activism and the Filipinos successfully ousted traitors of our country who once became our leaders?
“’Di niyo ba naririnig tinig ng bayan ng galit? Himig ito ng Pilipino di muli palulupig. Dudurugin ang dilim, ang araw ay mag-aalab, at ang mga pusong nagtimpi ay magliliyab.”, an excerpt from “’Di niyo ba naririnig?”, the Filipino adaptation of “Do you hear the people sing?” from Victor Hugo’s theatrical production, Les Misérables. This was sung during President Rodrigo Duterte’s fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 27, 2020. Despite an official ban on all forms of protests and gathering considering physical distancing protocols due to 2019 novel corona virus or COVID-19, an estimated 8,000 activists gather around University of the Philippines Diliman. They weren’t defied by the mass arrests going on the country, about 6,000 policemen were deployed that very day. People were pleading to be heard as they demonstrate their resistance against the slow, incompetent and militarist response of Duterte’s administration in the health crisis going on. Activists were also conveying their opposition with the recent passage of anti- terror law which filled the people with dread that it may cause falsely accusing activists as terrorists. They were wearing masks and observing physical distancing while holding their protest. By the end of July 2020, cases of COVID-19 went up to 93,000 but the Philippine President preferred to be deaf to the supplication of his countrymen. They continued to dismiss all forms of criticisms, saying that everything is under control which is the same with what he said on January 29, 2020 when people were appealing travel ban to China. ‘Mahirap ‘yang ano, sabihin mong [It is hard to say that] you suspend everything because they are not also suspending theirs and they continue to respect the freedom flights that we enjoy,” his exact words during an ambush interview regarding travel ban. People were appealing and this regime refuses to understand its citizens. I, personally was one of the people who are in favor of travel ban from China. I did actually sign a petition because that’s the least I can do for my co-Filipinos. Privileged people don’t see what the masses are yearning for because they were so blinded by the comforts of life they’re experiencing. It is close to impossible to implement social distancing in a poor urban area. Spaces were few and the place is very crowded. This might be avoided if the petition for travel ban was granted. I desired for a travel ban as much as the activists did. I consider myself a weakling, having to hide my feelings and emotions in this writing, I was never one of the great brave people who stand for their rights and fought for the greater good of the masses. We are in an almost a year of lockdown now, but nothing has happened except the endless cycle of things. Filipinos have died without being heard. We failed with the travel ban just because as the President said, China isn’t suspending theirs. Given the fact that the virus sparked in that country, a leader must do an immediate reaction, for his people. This is what activists do. They don’t just do rallies and strike mobs. They are brave enough to think of the welfare of their countrymen, risking their own. A thing that people without compassion wouldn’t understand. On April 27, 2020, Duterte’s Administration was called out by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) for the implementation of “highly militarized response” for the quarantine and lockdown violators. “Shooting, detaining, or abusing someone for breaking a curfew because they are desperately searching for food is clearly an unacceptable and unlawful response. So is making it difficult or dangerous for a woman to get to hospital to give birth. In some cases, people are dying because of the inappropriate application of measures that have been supposedly put in place to save them,”, (Bachelet, 2020). Georgette Gagnon, director of field operations and technical cooperation for the UN Human Rights Office, international human rights lawyer and activist went on describing how highly militarized the response to the pandemic had led to the arrest of 120,000 people for violating the curfew in the Philippines. Desperate citizens build barricades in EDSA, Quezon City to ask for local government’s food assistance on April 1, 2020. Tensioned was build after the PNP or Philippine National Police demolished the barricades. Citizens resorted to going out because they are insisting that they were not receiving aid. Residents were asked to go home and 20 residents of Sitio San Roque were arrested by the Quezon City Police District (QCPD), after the protests. The tension in Sitio San Roque exemplifies how militaristic the response in COVID-19 our country has. People were asking for food and they were given beating. Given the fact that the virus could spread that easily, arresting shouldn’t be an option. Jails in our country are very crowded and the virus will spread in that kind of place in a snap. Jose Reyes Memorial Medical Center (JRMMC) health workers staged a rally in Sta. Cruz, Manila, conveying their disreputable working conditions amidst the health crisis. They are also calling for a higher budget this 2021 for Department of Health (DOH). “The Department of Health budget is only P127.7 billion and ranks number 8 only on the top 10 departments’ budgeting for 2021. The COVID-19 response budget is only P11.95 billion which indicates that the DOH and the Duterte administration have no intention of suppressing the virus,”, a statement issued by the Alliance of Health Workers (AHW) to indicate their grievances for the national government seemingly not prioritizing the budget for health despite the worsening health condition. The government restricts rallies, mobs and protests to help our health workers in defeating the virus, then why are the medical health workers doing protests? Does this indicate that something is wrong and they are standing on what is right? If the government is really trying their very best to help to health workers why is the budget for health low? In September 2, 2020, President Duterte expressed seeking for a total of 20,000,000,000 PHP increase in the funds of Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) for next year. That is the reason why the activists are increasing here in our country not because they just desire to oppose the government or even overthrown the one in the position, but because they have their eyes wide open. They can see that something is wrong. The fact that were under a health crisis and the military is much focused on, people will fight and resist.
To summarize the three points that I am aiming to prove in writing this essay, I will start with the statement that “Activism is like a domino”. One’s word can awaken another one’s spirit. A person who has a strong conviction to fight for them know what is right will always be appealing. In the ted talk of Gordon Brown, he mentioned how globalization took part in activism and how it was able to reach out to more individuals around the world. If we remain blinded towards to alarming issues such as climate change, genocide, corruption, rights for education, employee discrimination, racism, sexism and all sorts of oppression, change wouldn’t be put into place. We can’t just sit in a corner, just because we aren’t experiencing the torment other people is facing. Activism it can open a person’s eyes to the truth and see the global issues we are facing. Second point is that, “activism aims for the greater good of the masses.” Activism isn’t just about overthrowing a regime but it aims correct the injustices that will bring peace to the people. It is much more than that. Without activism, we are still under the filthy hands of oppressors and dictators. Our heroes were dictators. They fought for our freedom. We shouldn’t be afraid to continuously fight for it. Our duty isn’t to serve the government but to serve our people. Lastly, “Activism demands to be heard. There are activists because there are injustices.” We shouldn’t be silenced just because we are muted and asked to do so. If the government listen to its people, they will realize that there are things that needs to be discussed. Activist shouldn’t be defied. They are the voice of the masses, they are the voice of the weak and poor, they are the eyes of people and they are the strength of every citizen to fight for their rights. We shouldn’t be blinded; we shouldn’t be afraid and we shouldn’t be silenced. There will always be activism as long as there are demands for change. I have never been in an activist group or in an activity concerning activists but all I know is that they are the voice of the people who are crying for help. I am not an activist nor a terrorist or affiliated with any groups against the government, I just want to voice out my thoughts that activists needs to be heard.