Monday, February 25, 2008

The Permanent Revolution of People Power

There are turning points in history that you just remember where you were and what you were doing as the event unfolded like People Power, and 9/11. If People Power happened today, CNN would have raised a ruckus. Twitter would be live blogging the event. YouTube would have video and blogs everywhere would embed it all, preserving for posterity. Just imagine, ordinary folk text messaging to and from every direction. Within minutes, count on it to be known across the planet. How far we have gone, wouldn't you say?

That first People Power is commemorated today even as the veterans of those days lament the youth do not remember as romantic as they do that revolution. Perhaps, it was largely romanticism that spurred the sequel to People Power. Like most Hollywood blockbusters, the sequel isn't as good as the original. The "third" is largely ignored, relegated to "non-canon" work. And here we are once more. Many who participated in those days, continue on battling, dreaming of a new People Power.

Yes, there is no doubt that the greed, the uncertainty, the moral decadence of pre-People Power is back. It is back with a vengeance! It has learned to adapt to wrap itself around our fears and anxieties, our weaknesses. It is back, corrupting the very democracy that was given birth to on that one week in February, as few Filipinos took to the streets, wrestled back their freedom and won for generations what humans everywhere dream of: freedom and liberty.

I was seven who knew only clowns, cotton candy, dirty ice cream, Transformers, Batman and games children play when Enrile and Ramos unshackled themselves from Macros. Many years later, when I was in university, I made it a point to read books about those dark days. Those books gave me the impression that Enrile and Ramos were not expecting to survive and that their move was an act of desperation, an act to survive and fight. They gave me the impression of a series of circumstances that were little by little building up. If you are religious, one would think, "miracle".

"Change!" is the battle cry across every walk of life. A few whispered it when "Hello, Garci" blazed the airwaves and the Internet. It is now a loud cry as this whole madness that is NBN/ZTE occupy our national consciousness. It comes as no surprise, even as Arroyo says her family has not gained anything illegally and that the perpetrators would be dealt with, the people's collective sentiment is clear. As Alleba Politics put it, "I'll believe it, when I see it."

This "change" we yearn has spurred opinion pieces like what MLQ3 wrote about an immoderate threat when representatives fail the people. In largely the same vein, Sparks wrote about Civilizing Philippine Politics. They write from the heart. Their passion as do many across the different strata of our society is clear as is their sentiment. After all, every well-meaning Filipino is equally outraged, equally passionate, equally disgusted at the madness, the decadence, the decay of our society.

Where do we draw the line? As historical evidence from those days narrate, the circumstances surrounding People Power is best described as a "miracle". It is not something men can draw like a sword. People Power's subsequent and failed sequel have taught us, it can not be contrived.

What's the bigger picture? How does the whole pie look? Like Philippine Commentary in his "Institutions or Insurgencies: Choose!" I find myself musing "where do we draw the line between open rebellion and institution building?"

Democracies are formed when people are free to dream, to yearn, to challenge themselves, to do. But our society is not just a Democratic state, it is a Republican one as well, is it not? We elect our representatives to act on our behalf. We choose, our leaders. However imperfectly our process for electing them, we give them our trust to take the helm, to sail our ship of state. When our public officials fail, as often they do, can we simply call upon our vigilanteism, armed with our righteous outrage and usurp them every time?

In Power and Leadership, I wrote that "Everybody else is ready" that the only missing ingredient to moving our ship of state forward is a leadership that is willing to act, to inspire, to lead for the people. From the left to the center, to the right, call upon the resources of the outraged and disenfranchised. Schadenfreude is not the answer. If you want a revolution, put your money where your mouth is. It is the most opportune time to get organized! In every district, in every town, in every city, in every province, in every region the collective resistance and mechanism for change must be to oppose the old ways years down the road. Field a challenger whose desire, whose only goal, whose agenda is part of a grander plot to move things forward. Put it simply, we need leaders.

Today, we fight no dictator. Today, we do not yearn to unshackle ourselves from a tyrant. There is no lacking in medium to express our grievances or opinion. Romantic as the miracle of EDSA's People Power maybe in our collective memory, it is not the right weapon to draw upon. Our present circumstance does not demand it.

Our nation faces many challenges ahead. The greater dimension of that challenge is as myriad as there are colors. It involves entrepreneurship, the kind that is honest. Equally important is a dimension that simply means to be better citizens. Another dimension is in protest of the shenanigans our leaders impose upon us. There is also the dimension that include fighting to strengthen our democratically established institutions. Still another dimension is greater civic involvement. In the grand sense, what I think our people yearn but have not yet grasp, have not yet wrapped their minds around, have not yet fully articulated, but desire, is a continuously, enduring permanent revolution of the nation building sort. If you will, a more permanent People Power.