By: Reyshimar Arguelles
FOR THE state, any form of dissent is welcome, so long as it does not promote violence or incite rebellion. The freedom of expression is respected, but only if it keeps the status quo intact. We can see now how protest actions have been unfairly reduced into being activities that carry no significant transformational content. Whenever there’s a gathering of activists in the usual venues of convergence in the city, they are met only by the indifference of people who have been desensitized to the messages they peddle.
Back then, the spectacle of seeing large swathes of protesters could incite one into taking part in political demonstrations. Such was the case when the second EDSA revolution erupted, calling for the resignation of then President Joseph Ejercito Estrada. The results of this momentous event, however, were dismal. Nonetheless, the revolution proved the possibility for people to converge and demand an accounting from the very leaders they put in office in the first place. If we can’t manage to push the corrupt, we might as well shove them off of their high horses.
Ever since EDSA II, we have yet to see another mass movement of similar magnitude take shape. Perhaps the nation has become so desensitized to protest or to the idea that things could hardly change for the better. Maybe we have decided not to entertain the idea of dissent anymore since meaningful change is either impossible or imaginary. To think about the hopelessness of our situation is unavoidable. It makes more sense to adopt the attitude of a cynic and accept things for the way they are.
This is exactly the kind of victory the status quo has always wanted to achieve. It wants people to refrain from thinking critically. It debases intelligence in favor of expedience. And it makes us realize that dissent does nothing but make matters worse for the country. Such a mindset points us towards a system that sustains itself by making dissent the animating force behind desperate people. But is there any other way for us to react in the face of so much repression and the double standards that have come to define the politics of today?
If desperate is indeed the apt word to describe our state of mind at the moment, then we should let it grow instead of suppressing it like a fart we couldn’t hold any longer. Let our desperation make a noise and drag those who unashamingly flaunt their goblin-like visages out into the open and strip them of their jewelry. We have been asleep for a very long time. Now’s our chance to see through all their contradictions and lies and demand respect.
At this point, the protesters in Hong Kong find themselves on the right side of history. They demand not only justice, but also respect and accountability. Their desires are anything but fleeting. Students, trade unions, and professionals flooded the streets in a show of force that the People’s Republic hasn’t witnessed since Tiananmen. The wave of anger that has swept this financial center in east Asia has taken on such a magnitude, showing us that it’s possible for people from different walks of life to come together and fight an evil machine.
For once, people are beginning to see past their plight as mere casualties to the whims of those in power. The demonstrations in Hong Kong only prove the point that citizens are not taking any form of oppression sitting down. They purport to show us how political engagement should be.
The protesters do not have a formal structure. They are made up of loose organizations united in their anger against a grotesque police state that’s out to absorb the freedoms that Hong Kongers have enjoyed.
The Hong Kong government of Chief Executive Carrie Lam, backed by her benefactors from Beijing, has somehow conceded to the demands of the protesters, but the people are having none of it! They want Beijing’s influence to capitulate, and as long as it doesn’t dwindle, Hong Kong’s arteries will remain clogged until genuine reforms are upheld.
Sitting on the sidelines, we could only watch as the Hong Kong drama enters its fourth month. We could learn a lot from this example, but applying the principles behind the protests remains to be seen.
But we will have our revolutionary moment nonetheless.