Making a Million People March
For all this talk about “hijacking” and an exchange of words dividing a critical mass, I think a more sober perspective on the Million People March is necessary. Not that I’m the most sober (irony intended) person to lend that perspective, but I’d like to take a crack at it. I would suggest reading the pieces of Tonyo Cruz and Jego Ragragio first before reading this one, though.
Let’s start with something basic and essential, but has often been downplayed throughout this whole conversation. The fact to the matter is that there weren’t a million people in the Luneta march, the EDSA march, or the Ayala march. So we bend the rules of math, and say that 70,000, 3,000, or 10,000 is equivalent to a million by virtue of metaphor. And we bend the rules of marching as well, and say that those who expressed their support online through Tweets and Facebook statuses are part of the march, by virtue of metaphor.
That extends to what these marches are all about. Some people claim that all discretionary funds are pork, and should be abolished. Still others claim that government needs discretionary funds in order to function. Some people claim that President Aquino should be ousted (or be impeached or that he should resign from his position) because of his involvement in the pork barrel scam. Still others claim that this is about government accountability and transparency, and not the ouster of the President.
All that extends to why we’re arguing in the first place. On the one hand, some blame the leftists for “hijacking” the Million People March for pursuing their own political agenda, relying on passé methods of protest that turn off the middle class who are at the center of this protest. On the other hand, some blame the pro-Aquino camp for “hijacking” the Million People March to preserve the President from any further criticism of this matter, that this is a black-and-white matter of being pro-pork or anti-pork.
And there’s the rub, I think: are you a “million people march” if you don’t have a million people, and the thousands you have march in different directions?
I can’t remember who that guy was, but someone wrote a piece on Rappler saying something to this effect: “The Million People March is a triumph of the middle class.” And so it was, but what do we call the march at Ortigas or the second Million People March at Ayala? They’re far from being a “resounding success,” even if we consider 70,000 people at Luneta to be a million. The Luneta march was, after all, a very convenient holiday, away from the inconveniences of work or traffic or whatnot. The “silent majority” that we invoke every now and then (this despite the fact that the “silent majority” are the poor) didn’t go to Ortigas or Ayala to march.
Yet despite that, the sharper wedge driven in what otherwise would be a “critical mass” is good old-fashioned politics. That in itself has a lot to do with we can’t get a million people onboard a single place to march against a single definition of pork, and move towards a specific direction of transparent and accountable governance in this country. Apparently we have problems setting our differences aside and would rather dwell on them, and we’d rather not find common ground and deal with those differences later on. After all it’s easier to demonize the other side, than to create an agreeable solution on both sides on what exactly to do with discretionary funds and how budgeting should be done. It’s easier to draw a portrait of a rabid leftist or a caricature of a “Yellow Army” member than to draw something like, say, crowdsourced policy. Easier to prosecute the enemy if we have common ground, I think.
That’s what it is, really: to make a million people march, a million people have to cast aside their differences, and work towards a common goal. They need a common ground to march together. Sounds simple, but when you factor in our penchant for dwelling on our differences and using the animus to create enemies,we subtract from the million we need to make.
Not a metaphorical million, but a real million: a million that includes critics and supporters of PNoy. A million that includes the left wing and the right wing. A million that includes income taxpayers, and those who don’t pay income tax. A million that includes rich and poor and everyone and everything in between.
So much for unity statements. So much for sending a message of disapproval. So much for demanding an explanation. Otherwise let’s be very specific about what this movement is all about, if it’s a “Million Middle Class Professionals Against Aquino Calling for the Abolition of All Discretionary Funds Unless Absolutely Necessary and In Times of Emergency and See The Left as Hijackers of a Middle Class-Led Movement March,” or whatever.
Every squabble we make that demonizes and casts aspersions to either side subtracts from the million, and there’s no way in hell we can make them march together. And yes, that million is important: it’s what the movement stands for in the first place. It’s a million that needs to be delivered, and for a crowd of 70,000 at its peak you don’t get to that million by dividing and subtracting.