#NeverForget: Activism, not apathy
(NOTE: This editorial was published in the February 1970 issue of The Science Scholar. It is being republished for our #NeverForget series.)
“…no one can afford to remain idly by, as no one will be spared the consequences…”
The mammoth January 26, January 30, and February 18 protest movements which hugged the headlines a few weeks ago brought to a tumultuous apex the progressive, do-all forces of student activism in the Philippines, for the first time jarring a notoriously peaceful, if not overly apathetic, society. The violence that marred the rallies helped in focusing the public eye on a national administration that had, only months before, been reelected by an unprecedented overwhelming majority. Yet discontent and anger flowed like oil from Arabia, forcibly opening society’s eyes into the reality of student power and [activism].
The demonstrations also managed to expose ominous visions of the ever-pessimistic What’s-To-Come, warning of a violent revolution, a fascist, iron-fisted State and, to juggle the pearly bones of Makati, punctures in the moneybag of High Society. Student activism saw that more than truncheons and guns, it had to combat a bigger enemy: the Goliath of public apathy, indifference and ineptitude.
The nerve of Filipinos to sit by and smile as their resources are exploited by an alien few, to plug their ears from the ghoulish din of the poor man’s agony, to haphazardly risk progress for the sake of vested interests and to prohibit concerned individuals, especially students, to shout the cries of discontent stands to be condemned.
This hypocrisy and lack of conscience showed itself when the public sympathy became easily swayed from the side of the students to safer corners when violence, resulting in the wanton murder of six innocent Filipinos by forces supposed to be protecting Filipinos, erupted in the January 30 demonstration. Society deplored the destruction of some one million pesos worth of flower pots, broken windows, etc., while nurturing in its bosom the cancer of corruption, which has evolved into a multi-million peso business for them in power.
Even among students, the ironies of factionalism, ulterior motives and unconcern for the struggles of their fellow students bogged down what would have been a superb display of student activism in action. The bulk of studentry chose to, at the hour of reckoning, ally themselves with the status quo, casting a pallor of divisiveness over the student movement.
Apathy and its relatives cannot be viewed as an isolated case. It is a collective sin, bred by the stagnancy of society, by its colonial mode of thought and by its unconscientious disregard for the future. The Filipino’s idea of security hardly extends beyond his doorsteps. Student protest and indignation are dismissed as kid stuff, threats to the myth of order, soon to lose momentum. Parents warn their sons of the physical dangers of demonstrating, while failing to convince and out-argue them at the subject for reforms.
People do not realize that security can only be as good as the present allows. In the movement for reforms, no one can afford to remain idly by, as no one will be spared the consequences of what would emerge afterwards. The future is at stake, the future of those who now seek to fight their battles in the streets of Manila, of those who remain indifferent to the student cause, of those innocent many who do not know the path of the future — and even these Filipinos are willing to sacrifice in order to satisfy a semblance of peace and order that they want to see. We have swept too much dust under the carpet, and its exhumation for the evaluation and judgement of history is at hand.
The events of the present will gauge the maturity of the Filipino people in the way they react. Only the Filipino can rebuild his nation; and only he, through his indifference and aloofness over the plight of his fellowmen, can lead it to destruction. A pity it would be, indeed, for a country to decay and die, for no other reason than its apathy. It takes much swallowing of pride to admit that the Philippines lies critically ill in the grip of social cancer, but apathy balloons that pride to stupidity.
Benevolence, not belligerency, is needed. Combat apathy with activism! To the Philippine Science High School student, your brain is needed for the cause of student [activism]. A challenge exists to redefine the status quo and reform it to suit the climate of the times.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Some terms were revised for sensitivity.