I’m not entirely sure if my two cents would bring something meaningful to the growing online literature – supportive, critical, and outright seething – on Jim Paredes’ less-than-flattering opinions about “armchair revolutionaries on Facebook and Twitter” – a must-read is Ina Stuart-Santiago’s piece on the matter, but nevertheless, I’d like to contribute to it.
I like that word, “revolution.” I like that phrase, “Viva la Revolución.” It rolls off the tongue with a heroic note. It makes saliva taste like triumph. It speaks of something grand, noble, important, and meaningful. It turns things upside-down over its head, reverses the cycle, and changes things for the betterment of human society. It is something so fundamental, so organized, so close to the core of what makes our society. Yet even that isn’t above the kitschy candor of marketing: everything is a revolution nowadays. Everyone is a revolutionary nowadays.
It’s trendy to be part of a revolution. So much so, that we have appropriated the grand gesture of revolution to our more droll and ordinary pursuits. I drink very revolutionary water from a revolutionary mug, as much as this post is part of a revolution.
This post is not revolutionary. I am not a revolutionary.
The epitaphs of heroes testify to the great deeds of ordinary men and women “who have committed their lives to a revolution.” Not that they had to fire a gun or slay the oppressors – a lot of great revolutionaries are not soldiers – but that they have committed their lives to an undertaking that requires the bond and pact of men and women to be consummated. That undertaking – fundamental social and political change – is far greater than what one person can accomplish.
I would take exception to using the term “revolutionary” to describe the general population of netizens. I do not mean that as an insult, but in deference and respect to the revolutionaries who are there in the Pantheon of history. As an average person who can’t commit his life to a revolutionary cause other than my career and my personal relationships, to call myself “revolutionary,” to any degree, would indeed be a cause for righteous indignation.
Especially for those who earned it; for those who were bestowed upon with the honor of changing the world by the judgment of history. An hour of my time is certainly not a commitment of the rest of my life. I do not dare elevate #helpDOT, for example, to the level of Pugadlawin. I do not dare say that my criticisms of Tracy Borres years ago are as revolutionary as “Noli Me Tangere,” and Rizal’s criticisms of the fraile. More than that, the few hours of my time spent on commenting on current events on the Web have the same revolutionary character, as Marcelo H. del Pilar spending most his life attacking the abuses of the colonizer.
To call myself a “revolutionary,” even with the comfortable caveat of an armchair, is to sully the memory of people who fought in bigger wars than the skirmishes I fight on the battlegrounds of my social networks. “Doing what I can” should not be revolutionary in a society that has redeemed and rebuilt itself from the ravages of revolution. Rather, it should be an expectation. Revolution is born from the endangerment of life by the State, not by kitsch. As Subcomandante Marcos of the EZLN often says, revolution is inconvenient. Of course it can’t be done from the comfort of our chairs. We, like today’s Egyptians or Libyans, must suffer pain and privations in the cause of our revolution because we surrender blood and life to a cause greater than the price we pay for convenience.
Picked up by media? Yes, some of our Tweets are newsworthy. Listened to by government? Yes, sometimes an idea is so good it must be passed on. We are, for all intents and purposes, being good citizens who take an active role in improving the nation, a step at a time. That, I surmise, is the definition of our situation. It is, to me, more than semantics, and the importance of the careful choice of words. The conversations in this issue (which is, by the way, a non-issue to a charcoal maker in Ulingan or an impoverished farmer who contends with nature’s pests in Cotabato) should, in more ways than one, instill in all of us the purpose, sense, and meaning of revolution. It speaks well to something so interesting, if not frightening, about our civic mindset:
Here, the most essential, basic, and fundamental tasks of good citizenship and the basic expectations of love for country are often elevated to the level of the heroic and the revolutionary.
It is, in some ways, the beginning of a whole new narrative for our people. We, the products of an unfinished revolution, are seeking revolution once more, as a solution or as a position. Which is a good thing, for we are in touch with our roots as a country built on the blood of patriots. And a bad thing, because we never really redeemed from the blood of struggle.
Yet in passing, who need revolution the most – the poor, the sick, the hungry, the downtrodden multitude who seek redemption through the acts of those above them in the grand scheme of things – have yet to experience, or benefit from, the revolution we fight from our armchairs. That, I believe, is something that we have yet to prove.