Learning from EDSA

This is a repost of an entry published in my former blog last year:

In “A Call to Stop the Threat of People Power,” Onomatopoeia argues that the two EDSAs has not brought real change in the country but has only entrenched “more of the iron fist, more of the unexplained disappearances, more of the corruption, more of the hardcore nepotism, more of the illogical discipline, more of the mud-slinging, non-progressive government.”

Another such uprising, it adds, should be avoided “while most of us remain illiterate, …while 80% of us remain poor, …while we remain blinded by ignorance or arrogance.” The lesson from EDSA is that “a revolution is not the answer.”

To this I disagree. On the contrary, I believe the reasons cited are exactly why “people power” is all the more needed.

Legacy of EDSA

A “people power” uprising makes direct democratic action a reality. It is an option taken by an awakened people to shape the destiny of a nation by removing a government that has failed or worst – is working against the people’s interests, rights and welfare.

Both in 1986 and 2001, a broad alliance of people’s organizations, opposition groups, a faction from the military, and of course, the people in their hundreds and thousands who spontaneously flooded the streets nationwide, united to topple a dictator and an a plundering president.

Twenty-two years ago, “people power” deposed a corrupt dictator who deprived the nation and its people of human rights and civil liberties while plunging the country into a deep crisis that we are still reeling from today.

The 1987 Constitution, with its emphasis on human rights, its stressing of the importance of broadening the representation of marginalized sectors (labor, peasants, women, youth, etc.) in Congress, and other progressive provisions that try to ensure good governance, is a legacy of the first EDSA uprising.

The Real Lesson

The problem, I believe, is not that “people power” is wrong. What needs to be prevented is the waning of vigilance among the citizenry after the mass actions peak and the immediate goal (toppling the one in power) is achieved.

This is the time when the opportunists waiting on the wings reveal their ulterior motives and administration officials begin to defect en masse to the new government, all the while promising to morally revive the country.

They then exert all efforts to put off the fire, figuratively speaking that is, from the masses, expressing that its their turn to implement “reforms,” even as they go about restoring “business as usual.”

But lest we forget, real reform and change has never come from traditional politicians on their own. Not from the deposed speaker Jose De Venecia, not from his former colleagues in the administration, and not even most of their counterparts from the opposition.

The gains of the two EDSAs needs to be defended. And these cannot be entrusted to a discredited class of corrupt, insidious and moribund traditional politicians.

Social change comes only with the empowerment of a vigilant citizenry. This is the real lesson that has yet to be learned. ■

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4 Comments

  1. good post!

    as i was looking at the books your consuming at the moment, i assume that marx has gotten you there. the dispute between people power as answer or not will never make sense unless you go to the very root of it. in one one point in time, people power has proven to be effective in few ways but turned out to be futile in latter days. the answer always changes and the people should be keen enough to figure this out . we may not know what’s the appropriate answer at the moment as propositions may surmount to as many angles of the world; and we never know what is the right one. the best i can say, although this might be subject to more reactions, is to start the change with yourself and make it infectious as possible .that’s the least ideal antidote i can suggest. we, as hard as our cranium, always like to settle for complicated answers that we tend to forget the very basic of it – ourselves.

  2. Thanks for dropping by, totomel. More thanks for taking time to post a comment. I wrote this entry about a year ago: before I started reading the (e)books I have with me at the moment.

    When you say that “the dispute between people power as answer or not,” what question do you purport for it to answer? I agree, starting small changes in “ourselves” is good. The self is always a good place to start. But then again, I claim it is not enough.

    The self does not exist in itself, in isolation. We are, as individuals, shaped/conditioned by our multiple relationships with the elements of the social world/historical milieu that we are caught in: its politics, its economics, its culture, etc. Hence, the individualist utopia of “change your self in order to change society” can never be an adequate vehicle for social change or political action. The structures of society (which is presently oppressive and exploitative and so on) shapes an individual’s life. Consequently, the only action that is capable of changing those structures is necessarily collective.

    What made those two previous “People Power” uprisings inadequate is the fact that they left those structures relatively untouched. I think what I was getting at when I wrote this entry a year ago is that we shouldn’t close ourselves to the possibility of another such event happening. Next time something like it does happen, we should do it right.

  3. Indeed! I agree with you Karlo Mikhail. “to start the change with yourself and make it infectious as possible” is actually an idealist notion that impede, rather than propel, social change. It contradicts the primacy of practice over theory (I believe Karlo has already explained this). As the Great Helmsman put it “In class society everyone lives as a member of a particular class, and every kind of thinking, without exception, is stamped with the brand of a class”. Interestingly, the same ideas (the one totomel’s proposed) are being propagated by the ruling classes because of its reactionary nature. But for the oppressed and exploited classes, these ideas are very harmful. It means acceptance of the prevailing social order.

    EDSA as a principal strategy of changing our society is another story though I should say that “People Power” is still very much appropriate today. One thing is for sure; the imperialists and the local ruling classes will never never allow to lose their vested interests, and voluntarily go down in the hall of history.

    By the way, hope find time to see and post your review on Che Pt. 2 soon.

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