Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Political Engagement and Stuff

    I used to be like my friend here. Before, as much as I cared about the country and the social issues involved, talking about it seemed a bit pointless. OK, not totally pointless but the very least my voice will be just "another blip in the socio-political stream." It felt like the system is actively disengaging us from making a difference or making our voices heard. I'm pretty sure that a lot of people still feel this way. If you're not burned out, you're either cynical or apathetic. This results in low political advocacy.

"Political parties could and should be one of the basic entry points for people to get engaged. Instead, they become, sadly, uninspiring and uncreative organizations that rely so heavily on market research and polling and focus groups, that  they end up all saying the same thing, pretty much regurging back to us what we already want to hear at the expense of putting forward creative ideas. And people can smell that and feeds cynicism." -Dave Meslin, at TEDxToronto on "Redefining Apathy"

   Campaigning period has already began and you can bet my potatoes that there'll be a lot of charades and gimmicks for the following months to come. However, I think the difference in this particular period in the Philippines is that a lot of leaders and public figures in the government are aware of the power of the interwebs (a.k.a. Internet) and social media.
Exhibit A: Sotto's attempt at inserting an online libel provision for the Cybercrime Prevention Act. Oh, and let's not forget how easy it was to spot his plagiarized speeches and sources.
Exhibit B: The Anti-Epal Bill wouldn't have reached the Senate plenary if it weren't for the Facebook page created by Vincent Lazatin who was getting tired of politicians' unethical practice of placing their campaign materials out in the open before the actual campaign period.
Exhibit C: Some of our mayors- such as Mayor Alfredo Lim- have Twitter accounts now.

  Political engagement is easier now compared to a decade ago. With social media and the interwebs by our side, it helps keep candidates in check (whether they'd like it or not) and keeps campaigns as non-superimposed at the very least.  I'm not saying that social media is the solution to everything. However, it significantly lessens the gap between citizens and political parties. Our generation before us didn't have this luxury so I suggest we take advantage of it. Political engagement should involve interaction with people, even if it means it will escalate to debates, controversy, and in some cases- or at least Carlos Celdran's case, the possibility of jail time.

As Hank Green points out, "Heroism is a collective effort." Anything we want to solve in the country involves collective effort.

    I may be hypocrite here because I have yet to register as a voter- but I do believe that votes matter. Hank Green talks about voting-in the US but I think is also relevant here in the Philippines- and why it does matter. Speaking out is as essential as casting your vote. Otherwise, how would our leaders/public servants know what we really need? How would citizens know what kind of leaders our country needs?

I don't know when exactly I changed my mind about not talking about political stuff that matters to me. I do remember realizing that we're not "blips" in the political environment. I prefer to look at ourselves as ripples that eventually grow bigger. Or raindrops that can turn into a flood. Sometimes, the only way we can prevent any injustice  from happening is to speak out against it.

So people, brace yourselves for the campaign period and be engaged. Strip away all the gimmicks, endorsements, sponsorships, and cliche' promises. Be critical if you must. Coz now is a better time than any other to be engaged. No one's asking you to be brave- just be smart about it.

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