Thursday, May 25, 2006

The Youth on the Political Turmoil

The Youth on the Political Turmoil
by: Enan Flores

Redefining the Youth

The youth has always been known for its idealism and zeal towards its goal. This has been the basis for saying that the youth is “the hope of the future” - “a potent agent for change”. However, some sections of the society view this as a mere illusion and hypocrisy. The need to indispensably hope that “change” will someday come to our society brought us to believe to this antique.

Nonetheless, the ever-constant characteristic of the youth in general, in all existing society and all era, will still hold the truthfulness that inevitably indeed, and still, the youth is the future of the society.

Curiosity, rebellion and complexity describes what the youth are today. Their questions are never-ending usually resulted in experimenting unusual and risky things if unable to be answered by their elders or find the latter's answers unsound to their imagination. Rebellion usually described as making errors because of whimsical reasons but for many youth, it is the showing of discontentment and assertion of what they think is right.

Complexity is proven by the peculiar characteristic of the youth showed in history. In Marxist analysis, the oppressed sector- the working class is the moving force towards change and all others are only to be considered as subordinates in general sense. However in many parts of the world, history proved that the youth (Marxists classify as petty bourgeois) as a sector shared with all other sectors the capacity and power to change the course of history despite the view that it does not possesses the “prerequisite” of being oppressed and alienated to be such force.

Moreover, the illogical complexity of the youth towards responding to situations is another view. In Philippines for example, the great First Quarter Storm happened in the time when the economy relatively is healthy and the education is relatively superior over other countries in Asia. This time, beginning from the establishment of Gloria administration, in time when the situation is highly intolerable as to the extent of shocking the moral sense of the community, the force of spontaneous action of the youth is nowhere. This only shows that youth in its simple characteristic is complex and uncanny.

The youth, because of its innate curiosity and its natural characteristic of searching new and truthful things, it paves the way to the opportunity of using its bursting energy productively. The time and vigor to read and be educated is viewed to be highly probable in this sector.

In this stirring moment, where “change” is just around the corner, it gives the youth the opportunity to prove its worth and fulfill its fate. But even they do not act on this given situation what is definite is that change will surely come to happen more even right now that discontentment is widespread, as what many surveys says about the approval rating of the GMA administration and the system as a whole . Pent-up demands and pressures from below, and the incapacity of the country's democratic institutions to address them with any degree of effectiveness has added to the problem. We have come to the period where activism is very inviting and it is important for the young to seize the moment together with all other sectors

In doing this challenge, it is very important to have an overview of the prevailing options that the different political forces in the Philippines has been offering, their possibilities and impossibilities as well as their tendencies and what each offers to the youth sector.

On GMA's Cha-cha

The basic presumption is that GMA has already exhausted all the opportunities that the people has given to her, set aside the argument that even from the start people dislike her. Now, the efforts to change the Constitution is her (GMA) do-or-die option that nevertheless has the force to change the course of politics in the Philippines.

The need to change the constitution for system change is already recognized by many, even some left organizations. The week political institutions, unsecured economic provisions, hypocritical gender and cultural tolerance, and among others produced the so-called “democratic deficit” which is a sufficient reason to change the Constitution. Added to this is the view that the “antiquated” republican concept can no longer respond to the pressing needs of the Philippine politics vis-a-vis its relation to the South-East Asian region.

The basic question in this matter is: Will Charter Change make a difference? In the youth sector for example, does change in the Philippine Constitution will answer the basic problem of the sector? Will it solve the decade-long call for the accessible, quality and relevant education?

If we take a look back to our Constitution (the 1987 Constitution), it already guarantees the prioritization on education. The only problem is that our Government officials specially the Chief Executive are not that serious in this constitutional mandate. In short, this matter is beyond judicial question but a political question. It is a matter of willingness and seriousness of our leaders to execute what our Constitution has mandated.

Also the problem on youth employment which is directly connected with what the education had been provide and the “political space” to ensure youth participation in the governmental process is another theme.

The issue of fraud, corruption and political repression committed by GMA are serious matters that should be settled first before we talk about Charter Change. She should be held accountable to all atrocities of her regime and give justice to every drop of blood that spilled on the ground.

The only point here is that although the dance of Cha-Cha is very inviting, it lacks rhythm and timing. For us youth, we prefer dancing in the rhythm of punk-metal music and slam and kick Gloria out of Malacanang.

On Military Coup

Unsurprisingly, among us youth who are impatient for system change, “left-military” intervention in this political crisis really excites us. It captures our militant and rebellious imagination on the tradition of “righteous bravery”: our youthful dream and drama of offering our lives for the country and for rightful cause - all these romantic and idealistic thoughts without minding its danger.

The observations and criticisms on the Philippine society presented by these left-military elements and the alternatives that they are offering in response to it is actually the same as what the broad social movement are advocating for. One is the view of the need to advance the effectiveness and efficiency of our education system. However, the truth is that still, we can not deny the fact that firearms mean power, and power, if not rooted in deep moral and philosophical principle is vulnerable to abuse.

The Chavez-left-military phenomenon in Venezuela, according to Walden Bello, is unfeasible and very risky to happen here in the Philippines precisely because of the big difference of the characteristic of the military in Venezuela brought about by the historical facts and circumstances that happened there in contrast with what the military in the Philippines has gone through. This maintains the doubt that military can be a “safe” potent agent for change, more even, when not working hand-in-hand with other democratic forces.

The Authoritarian Left Option

The Democratic People's Council offered and peddled by the Communist Party of the Philippines-National Democratic Front inspired organization Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) together with its allied organizations is considered as the authoritarian left option in their response to the weakening GMA administration. Its author, the CPP is considered as one of the major oppositions strengthened by having a clear direction and characterized by disciplined and dedicated members. Moreover, it has the coercive arm to support somehow its cause. In short, relatively it has the capacity to seize power.

With regard to its platform on youth concerns such as education and job creation for the sector, it is almost the same as what other democratic left movement has been offering. It also proposing for accessible, scientific and nationalistic system of eduction and the generation of jobs for the young labor.

What is negative about them, among others, is the dogmatism that rooted in their tradition anchored with the proven potentiality of abusing powers as showed in many human rights violations they committed against their oppositions, even worst, against their own former comrades. These hinders many to join in to their force.

Likewise, there is an in-depth critique on their political and economic platform in general that tickles many political scientists and economists to react strongly against them. There is the probability of instead of having a better life out-of a national democratic alternative with strong anti-US and state-intervention policy in all aspect of human life, we ended up eating our tongues. Set aside the fact of their Maoist cultural agenda that may result to wars and civil outbreaks.

Like other rightists elements and GMA herself, this left forces should be held accountable first to all their victims before the youth should intelligently open their doors.

The Pluralist Left Prospect

The Laban ng Masa (LnM), a broad coalition of different progressive movements inspired by its banner of pluralism and promotion of a new democratic left activism which is actually composed of organization from old national democratic tradition, social democratic movement and some middle forces is a great breakthrough for the whole left movement in general.

For us youth left activists, it is a good example of postering unity and democracy as what our elders had told us when they were convincing us to join the progressive forces. Because until now for some youth, the popular sentiment is that it is self-contradicting to claim such principle when in fact the left itself is fragmented and some are undemocratic. In short, from the perspective of a youth inside the LnM, it inspires us a lot to continue in pursuing the idea of pluralism and democratizing left process as well as it gives us the inspiration to work harder than before.

With regard to the concerns of the youth movement, the Laban ng Masa has a clear platform on improving the education system, job generation and recognizing the youth as one of the stakeholders of the society. However, this is being criticize because it only gives general and abstract statement of its platform. But it is understandable that LnM just finished its discourse only on the level of addressing some “basic” issues.

Also among others, the still unfaded dynamics between groups rooted from deep diverse tradition and historical conflict, the diversed ideological perspectives, and failure to effectively mobilize middle forces are the criticisms on this emerging left unity.

Probing the Youth

“The youth today has come to an era when activism is not the vogue”. This is a usual defensive statement of some in making an excuse in the matter of talking about youth participation in social transformation. But even this has been true, social conscience dictates and presses us that it is the duty of the youth to fulfill their destiny – to take part in the broader struggle for a better society.

Some of the explanations to the foregoing statement is the information-and- Communication-Technology (ICT) phenomenon- the computer, Internet and text messaging technology to be specific. According to some, the “alternative world” created by these technology paved the way for the youth to scape from the “impurities” of the society and resorted to instead of facing the challenge of changing it, they just directed their angsts and other sentiments to the “other world” which will definitely give no direct negative effects to them (e.g. Depression and further disillusionment due to failure in the attempt to face the challenge).

Likewise, there is a view that this culture of skepticism is perhaps due to the inefficiency and ineffectiveness of the youth left movement to capture their imagination and to prove its worth. The phrase “wala ng pag-asa ang Pilipinas" is very familiar today perhaps because of the failure of the youth left organizations to show proof of worth, winning basic sectoral issues and creating “new activist way”. This led to the intolerable silence of the sector. Disenchantment due to disenfranchisement on political issues, chosen or unchosen.

Added to these reasons is the failure of the mainstream political institutions, the Sangguniang Kabataan in the Baranggays and Student Councils in the universities and colleges, to show its effectiveness as an alternative center of power and to deliver expected services to their constituencies resulted to political disillusionment.

Undeniably, the youth today is being used for various political agenda of the different parties. From electoral machineries to street mobilization. From authoritarian right to “progressive / libertarian” right groups; from extreme left to democratic left groups. Sometimes joining for food or money that resulted to the awkward conception of youth activism today.

In this given situation, where are the youth left organizations? According to an informant, progressive sections of the military who are planning to topple down the GMA administration are waiting for a big and spontaneous actions specifically from the youth to give their complete blow. The basis of this probably is for the security of popular support that is necessary to completely win the coup.

Many youth left organizations inherit the conflicts of their predecessors and awakened in the culture of hatred and ideological and political divisions. Even from the pluralist initiative of the left organizations within the LnM, there is an “untold” political and ideological division.

Still again, the weakening political imagination within the left movement in capturing the hearts and minds of the youth of this generation and the weakening strict education tradition of the left movement are the major determining factors.

In the end, I would like to go back to the very basic reason why the youth take an active part in changing the course of history towards a just and humane society, the “idealism” as an absolute concept and the determining principle of youth participation. If the left could just only properly use and maximize this concept using variety of sound and relevant techniques, it would be easy for all of us. In this era when youth seized to imagine, it is our main task to make them imagine once again.


Si Enan ay kasalukuyang kalahok sa Activist School. Kasalukyan siyang kasapi ng BISIG-YOUTH at mag-aaral ng kursong Abugasya sa PUP (Polytechnic University of the Philippines). Ang artikulong ay mula sa Punlayan, ang Opisyal na Pahayagan ng Activist School.

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