Should activism be diverse?

Questions regarding the method of activism or how we approach its execution have for a long time been in mainstream discussions among the legitimate Philippine left, a small portion of the intellegentsia, and the so-called pseudo-progressives. However, the debate on adopting a singular definition of activism or that which can be viewed and acted on in different perspectives takes a completely different level in today’s digital age as more and more avenues for expression have come into prominence. Facebook and Twitter among other social networking sites, have allowed students to take on more active roles in local and even international socio-political issues, the availability of information through different media outfits have never been more emphasized as it is today. Yet, amid a seemingly rapid expansion of ways by which people can convey their dissent either as an individual or as a collective, we should look into how much has changed on the quality of our brand of activism.

Activism is a sociological term by origin and is classically defined as a form of collective behaviour, usually referring to the method in which an interest group or a sector of a community attempts to effect social change. Activism is identified with mass protests, with strikes and pickets and is even associated with massive revolutions and underground movements. However, ever since the mass movement of the Philippines experienced a massive schism in the 1960s, the Philippine left would go on as a stronger movement less of the so-called ‘Rejectionists’ who call themselves revolutionary but are actually far off from being left. This split would give birth to the now vibrant discussion between the traditional definition of activism and what others claim to be the new, more modern definition concerning an emphasis on parliamentary struggle and multiperspectivism. Multiperspective activism has been a debate between the Reds that claim it to be pseudo-activism and the Yellows who are firm in thinking that it is the reality of the times. Because of the different and continuously increasing opportunities in expressing legitimate public concerns, Multiperspective activism has been brandished as the popular means in becoming an “activist” through social media rants, advocacy walks among others precisely because it can accommodate generally more people. The legitimate left however has criticized it for not having a strict, unifying base and instead dilutes the very essence of what activism stands for: collective action. Multiperspective activism makes its adherents so entropic that everyone ends up moving in different directions even when they talk about the same thing. For example, Multiperspective activists (as they call themselves) would all at once talk about a political issue in the country, but they would take on differing stands. Some would show violent reactions while others more moderate and even soft-line. Though discourse has become free flowing in this emergent method, the discussion lacks sufficient solidarity that it cannot effect any noticeable change in the social framework of the day. In this model, activism has become less work and more of a fleeting exhibit. The idea of exhibiting activism has become its own problem, activism shouldn’t be some kind of exhibition, exhibitions last for but a moment. Activism is strictly a life of remolding, of becoming a better person, a step higher from the old and decaying system and it goes on as if it were a reflex. The unique thing about the real definition of activism, which proves its genuineness, is that because of its violent and militant character, it urges people to realize that changing a legal set-up that oppresses people cannot be resolved through legal means. The real definition exposes the way things are as self-preserving, that working within the wave may cause tension through ripples, but the current remains stronger than what any number of ripples can do. Multiperspective activists still rally of course, but these rallies goes only to the extent where multiperspectivism permits. Inside the focal group of new wave activists, the seduction of parliamentary struggle will always remain and will always limit its adherents simply because of the absence of a unifying theory and set of maxims that strictly binds all within its jurisdiction and instead makes its adherents believe that everything can be resolved simply through an electoral process (but we have known time and again that this is not always the case). In fact, the jurisdiction of multiperspectivism has deliberately become so blurred that anyone can do anything and still be referred to as an “activist”.

Someone who calls himself an activist must take on a more delineated, defined and militant definition of activism if he wants to fulfil the purpose for which it was conceived. A theory of planned and distributive economics alongside the equalization of all classes must be adopted, the conflict that originates from material discrepancies must be recognized and must not be shunned away by the belief of warring ideologies as the source of inequality and disagreement. In any movement, a base must be secured and solidified if only to properly engage a regime without fear of destabilizing or being overcome, confident in the strength of a people with a sense of collective, as if it moved as one body and works as one machine towards total and irrevocable emancipation from the shackles that inhibit its transformation into the people we were always meant to become. Our brand of activism cannot yield to the temptation of status quo, and the muscle of the movement cannot be relaxed so that we view the present with much pessimism but we act as one, with the will of an optimist.


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Joshua Sagdullas

Joshua is a budding political scientist, 19 years old and a proud member of the League of Filipino Students. He is currently the Chair of the Student Council in the University of the Philippines Visayas, Tacloban College. He likes reading, writing and going on long walks.

One thought on “Should activism be diverse?

  • May 24, 2016 at 12:00 pm

    “He likes reading, writing and going on long walks.” hahahaha

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