What (else) do you do when you’ve tried? An initial reflection on Ako Mismo

Of course I saw the ad; what Filipino who wasn’t watching the Manny Pacquiao fight last Sunday (3 May 2009) didn’t? There were various reactions, of course, chief of which was speculation on whether it was a soft-sell or trial balloon for the rumored candidacy of Manny V. Pangilinan.

Did I pay it any heed? Just a bit, mostly since the grandmother was asking her politically-active grandson what it was all about and the father was doing with the same son, who was first and foremost trained in college for a career in advertising since he came from an ad family, their usual shared favorite pastime when in front of the boob tube of doing advertisement critiques.

I didn’t realize it was generating that much hoopla until the discussions on it being MVP’s supposed soft-sell for the Presidency got past all the media jumble I monitor everyday. Me groundswell pala.

I guess it was partly because of the jadedness. I believe I’m on the last months, if not weeks, of more than a decade of political action, which technically started after I helped in the founding of the Union of Catholic Student Councils (UCSC) in October 1998.

Recalling that momentous year, it was actually wonderful being presented with the mechanism in which your desire for Action – as Hannah Arendt describes it, and in the context of Liberation Theology – can be realized. Wonder would pile on wonder as, almost to the day two years later, I would join the Liberal Party of the Philippines.

But… its all over now, is it? I once wrote that the “Reform Age” was over, at least for my generation until we turn forty in around ten years or so. By then, we’re supposedly holding the reins of power in all areas of society. How we would run the Ship of State and the Nation, well…

Martin Perez, in his most recent entry in his eponymous blog (also after a long hiatus. Hm. A trend?), gave this wonderful and, in my opinion, thought-provoking essay on why something like Ako Mismo (the org) captured the national imagination, or at least why people passionately discuss it (a success in itself, for an advertising campaign). People who say they care for the Republic should read that post by Perez and reflect on it deeply.

I suppose, though, that the thesis by Perez holds for the general citizenry; perhaps with not a little bit of arrogance of the self-righteous, I would like to think that we who chose the Path of the Guardian (as elucidated in so many ways by Plato through his mentor Socrates in The Republic) should not have our nationalism in question. Regardless of your color on the political rainbow or position on the political spectrum, if you say you’re fighting for the upliftment of the Philippines then you probably do love this country.

But then, maybe Martin’s right and even we who say we would bleed and die for the Philippines like our forebears from the Katipunan have no idea what we’re really fighting for and that’s why we waste so much time fighting against each other. Really, if it wasn’t for the stupidity of the Craven Eleven, People Power II would never have happened and you’d have had Erap as your Prez until 2004. That would have been an entirely different issue, I suppose.

Still, that’s also where I come from when I first saw the Ako Mismo website. The one that’s been stuck on one tab on “Window 3” of my Firefox has Ely Buendia thrusting out the now-much-sought-after Ako Mismo dog tag. Its been stuck there – and therefore keeping me from knowing more about the organization and its aims firsthand – because I honestly don’t know what to put inside that space with the label “isulat ang gagawin mo dito.”

Write what you are going to do here. Do what? Like what?

When you’ve tried your damndest to help this country improve, only to see your efforts wiped out by the hubris, self-righteousness and unbridled ambition of your very own supposedly-respectable elders… what else do you do?

Better yourself? How? “I will not litter?” But you already were part of green campaigns even before signing that stupid, oppressive, Object 29 contract with the DENR. “I will be responsible?” But you have been responsible for national-level projects and in the protection and training of young men and women, and for other activities aimed at reforming the political sphere.

Look, I’m not saying its wrong. Okay, it is wrong, for me. Where can I find out more about this org/movement outside of “reviews” or statements from people who may or may not be connected to it when the website itself has THAT space staring at you and you have no idea what to put there?

What about people like me?

I believe a lot of people – young and old alike – have been disillusioned with politics and government for quite some time now. For them, Ako Mismo is a way in which to address that disillusionment. Its simple, attractive and doesn’t impose overmuch on you. And, truly, when several million people do a paradigm shift, that’s something that can, literally overnight, change the whole socio-political landscape, hopefully for the better. The Americans showed this with the way they took back their country last year and elected a half-black man with a non-Christian middle name.

But what about those few who tried, even when it was both not practical and… cool enough, to make a difference? What about us whose disillusionment in a sense runs deeper because we’ve been there and… failed. Because there so much shit in the system and no one – no one – is left to make things right from those currently holding the levers of power?

What do you put in that space that demands you to do something in order to be “in” when you’ve done quite a lot already and saw your efforts not only go for naught but your idealism gets shot to hell?

And its a demand, isn’t it? Because you need to fill it up to be a “member.”

So, because of the inaction of one, the unbridled ambition of another, and the total lack of balls and sense of a man named Mar Roxas, I’m already shut out from the mechanisms for reform I used to be part of. Tangina kasi eh.

And now, because you can’t think of anything else to put in that blank space, you can’t be a “member” of this newfangled movement.

Is that a sign, then?

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