Everyday, in the past 4 months, I’ve constantly been depressed with all the news I read and hear. All the stories of people’s struggles and suffering all over the world have taken a toll on me, emotionally and mentally. There have been countless moments when I wanted to cave in, when I wanted to just live off-grid in order to save my sanity. However, last Friday I came across an Instagram video from the ever inspiring Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. More than a video about her victory on the recently concluded US Congressional elections, it was also a video about being brave and being a constant patch of hope to people. She said; “It’s an honor to work shoulder-to-shoulder with each and everyone of you in a movement for a better world. We will not stop.” Those words rang in my ears, throbbed my heart, and reminded my consciousness about a very important lesson. It is in these trying times that we are all needed. It is in these dark times that our stands must be visible and our voices be heard. It is in these critical moments that we should continue to push forward despite the shackles of oppression and repression that bind us. These moments are turning points, and we must not stop.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez may not even know that I exist but her bravery and visibility has protected and saved the light in me that was already fading. I am writing this today because from this personal experience, I realized how important it is to never lose our light. I realized how important it is to become a source of hope for others. This is because our community is like a domino. When many choose to fall, the others will also fall. When many choose to be silent, many will also refuse to speak out. Through this article, I would like to encourage you to be the one who chooses to hold the line. Be the one who chooses to become a source of strength. Your bravery counts. I count on it. They count it. The world counts on it, so continuing shining your light.
2020 teaches us to breakaway from Oppressive and Broken Systems
Year after year, humans are faced with concurrent problems, but this year is different. We’re still in its first half, but the year 2020 has definitely thrown us major global issues.
The year started with massive Environmental disasters such as the consecutive eruptions of major active Volcanoes, the monstrous Australian bushfires, the deadly Typhoon Ursula, and the halestorms in Australia and the USA. Memories from my sister’s cancelled Japan-Philippines flight because of the eruption of Mt. Taal in the Philippines are still fresh in my head. I can still remember me and my Australian friend lamenting over the countless animals burned to death and the tantamount loss of eco-systems after the bushfires. Pictures and videos of lives lost and destroyed livelihood after the Typhoon Ursula in the Philippines are also still embossed in my head that it stings my heart when I remember them. The year 2020 has literally shoved all of these bitter facts on our faces. It clearly tells us that the effects of the Climate Crisis are slowly becoming our reality, and if we do not stand up and change the broken system of our global society right now, we will no longer have a future.
Apart from the Environmental issues that we needed to face, the year 2020 has also let us witness many systemic oppressions that exist in our current society. We have witnessed the continuous draconic bullying done by China to small countries like Hong Kong, Taiwan, and the Philippines because of territorial disputes. I will never forget the videos of blood-stained activists being pinned to the ground by the Hong Kong police just because they are fighting for their freedom. I will never forgive China for threatening and bullying Filipino fishermen busy making a living by fishing in Filipino waters. Let us also not forget the painful death of George Floyd in the USA, a black man who was murdered by US police officers because of mere suspicion and of course, of Racism. This tragic incident has paved the way to creating the Black Lives Matter movement in the US. Another heartbreaking news was also about the war in Yemen, which claimed countless lives of their citizen including young children dying of Malnutrition. Lastly, may we never ever forget the millions of people who fell victim of COVID-19, especially the hundreds of thousands of deaths from countries all around the world.
All of these heartbreaking incidents and issues are systemic. We are currently living in a society that prioritizes business over the environment. Our global leaders put more weight on territorial and economic gains over the lives and freedom of people. Racism, Fascism, and Sexism are still embossed in every nook and corners of our very streets, and it’s disgusting. Government leaders care deeper about their image and public ratings more than providing good healthcare and economic assistance to their constituents. That’s the kind of society we are living in. No matter where you are in the world right now, some, if not all, of those toxic realities exist. And all of these will continue to imprison the future generations if we don’t act on it now.
Let the COVID-19 Pandemic enrage and teach You
Have you heard of a government who puts more weight on China’s feelings over the public health and safety of their citizenry when it comes to the decision of imposing an early travel ban on flights? Have you seen medical frontliners walk from the hospital to their homes at midnight after their shift because they do not have public or private transportation to rely on? Have you seen public transportation drivers beg for food or money because they were not allowed to operate for 4 whole months? Have you heard of people dying with COVID-like symptoms without even getting themselves tested because the tests are inaccessible? Have you heard of medical workers expected and encouraged to provide free services by their very own Department of Health despite knowing all the risk of the virus? Have you heard of students possibly not continuing their education because they cannot afford gadgets and Internet for online learning? Have you heard of communities or families crying from hunger and starvation because their government placed them in hard lockdowns without food or economic assistance? Have you heard of governments focusing on the militarization of virus-stricken areas instead of focusing on medical solutions? Have you heard of a government accelerating to pass a counter-terrorism bill, that is prone to abuse, in the middle of a pandemic? Have you heard about rallyists protesting about all the failures above being arrested and jailed without due process? Have you heard of government leaders pointing the blame to their citizens instead of owning up to their poor leadership? Have you heard of all of those? Well, I did, and we have all of those in the Philippines. *huge deep sigh*
Reading and seeing the news everyday in the past 4 months were torture to me. It still is. I cannot seem to believe that people, especially government leaders, are letting all of these to happen. I cannot accept that this is the reality for Filipinos. It pains me greatly. I shed tears for that 72-year-old Jeepney driver who was jailed and was imposed bail charges because he protested for his livelihood. I cried for that kid who almost couldn’t finish filling out his online student enrollment form in an Internet Cafe because he could no longer pay for his Internet usage. It pains me deeply every time I remember the mentally-ill civilian who was shot to death just because of mere suspicion and disobedience of quarantine rules. I am enraged. I am hurt. All of these are costing me my sanity. However, as I have said earlier, this is not the time to stop and hide. If we do not speak out and fight for the poor and the underprivileged, who will? If we do not work hand-in-hand together to provide help, who will? If we do not reach out and educate people to help them realize and see the actual situation and right solutions, who will? If we do not advocate for a better change, who will?
The systemic failures and realities that we are experiencing now are already existing. The COVID-19 pandemic has just surfaced all of them for us to see them clearly. If you are awake and informed on all of these systemic issues from the very beginning, these dark times is the best time to help others wake up to these realities, too.
Rest if You must, then stand back Up
The fight for a better world is difficult. It is physically, emotionally, and mentally exhausting. I will never ever invalidate the pain, the exhaustion, and the discouragement that you are feeling. You are right to feel sad and tired with everything that is happening right now. I also acknowledge that many of us are being traumatized with all of these. Please know that what you are feeling and experiencing is valid. Therefore, rest and heal if you must. It is definitely okay to take your much needed break. Moreso, always remember that you have all of us in this movement. You are not fighting this alone, and we will all take turns in pushing this fight forward. Therefore, never ever deny yourself of rest and healing.
Lastly, Thank You
Thank you for being brave. Thank you for not giving up despite the constant challenges and judgments from people. Thank you for fighting, for yourself and for others. Thank you for being an ally, and for letting us know that we’re not alone in all of these. Thank you for helping us create a better future. You are a hero and I, my children, and my children’s children will never thank you enough for the better future waiting for all of us.
We will never stop dreaming of a better society— A society that will treasure equality of all genders and races. A society that will offer free healthcare, education, and social security for all. A society that respects and takes care of the Environment. A society that offers freedom and safety for all. A society that respects and upholds Human Rights. A society that will never leave anyone behind. A society that we all deserve. As we fight for that dream, and perhaps even after then, we will not stop. You can count on me because yes, I will not stop.