Politics and local news have never interested me while growing up because they’re often relayed in either really deep Bisaya or Tagalog. I mean, I can speak fluent conversational Bisaya and a some Tagalog to survive travelling around Luzon but for the life of me, I cannot fully understand what’s written in publications and spoken by news stations. Given this, it’s pretty hard to get into something you don’t understand or not have reliable subtitles for – but recent events have proven to me that this shouldn’t have stopped me from making an effort.
As of writing this, I’m jobless and have a lot of time on my hands so I decided to read Senate Bill No. 1083, as it had been getting a lot of criticism online, to see if I could give myself more context and maybe encourage others to do the same. Little did I know that this would lead me down a rabbit hole of rediscovering our nation’s Constitution, it finally registering in my head that Bills are written in English and therefore I can understand them if I concentrate, and realizing that this world of politics, patriots, corruption, and even helpful government programs that I wasn’t aware of was happening all around me. And I was ignoring all of it.
I sheltered myself from this headache that I labelled “too much of a bother to understand” (a.k.a our government’s actions) and focused on my career and tech startup community volunteer work. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t regret doing this. We have to take care of ourselves after all and there’s already so much to figure out about ourselves, life, work, and the people around us to keep us occupied for many years. But now that I have a good foundation of these things, I now have the mental head space to realize that because I have defaulted to apathy for my nation’s well-being, I have also been lobbying for a future that is, well, in the future. And not making sure that the present that we are in is well enough to allow us to pave a way for that.
This sounds exaggerated, I realize now while rereading the previous paragraph, but it’s the simplest way I can express how I feel. I know I’ve been actively involved in the Innovative Startup Act and celebrated in its signing with the rest of the community, I know I’ve done enough outreach work through high school and college to understand the state of the impoverished in our country, and I know I’m doing my damn best (and I think I’m pretty good at this) at practicing empathy and creating safe spaces with community members to make sure that dialogue between sectors who don’t usually work together end up in pleasant collaboration; but still, somehow after being more aware of the injustices our country is facing the last few days, I’ve been feeling as if what I’ve been doing isn’t enough.
I’m thinking, how can I keep encouraging startup founders to “think global” when they’re worried they can’t even meet local demands because they can’t operate at full capacity given current business regulations? How can I encourage the youth to do more than just their schoolwork when they are too busy dealing with the pressures at home as their parents try to face the economic decline? How about investment and business ownership? Does our country have existing or upcoming rules that affect this? What do I not know that’s making my work for the future incomplete?
I know I’m overreacting to some degree and I know that I’ll be coherent about this when I’m plotting out action points but I just wanted to share how my mind raced given this realization to maybe show whoever else felt like this that they’re not alone.
Ignorance really is bliss but when that bubble popped I felt like I found the missing piece of the puzzle of my work for a better future just present itself to me… but as a smaller puzzle in itself whose peices I have yet to put together.
To close, I will definitely still continue doing what I’m doing. I know I’m on the right track for my work. But I’ll tune in to the news more often. Maybe only to specific kinds of news, or to news focused on a specific area, and then dabble into national movements when I feel it’s necessary. We’ll see. We can only care about so many things at the same time, after all. Wouldn’t want to suffer another burn out.
I want to pay attention to the present so that it may add context to my work for the future. No more apathy, if I can help it, and preferably, I won’t be making this transition alone.
Update: I wrote a followup piece that talks about the action points I’m taking in bettering my understanding of Philippine politics. Let me know what you think.
“Neutrality means that you don’t really care because the struggle goes on even when you’re not there” is possibly one of my favorite Rise Against song lyrics. Don’t be too hard on yourself—most people are apathetic to politics, especially younger folks. Life is a ride after all, and it’s especially bumpy in your early teens/twenties to the point that it’s hard to focus on other things. The fact that you’ve realized that you want to change your mindset is a step forward.
Here’s my response to you regarding your question on FB:
Starting with the Constitution is fine so you know your rights, though that can be a pretty annoying read as you continue honestly (most legislative documents are a pain as you have likely found out by now). The process of getting started with politics is more like pointing at a random spot on a map and going from there, rather than taking a linear set of steps.
Since you have a point you want to start from already (Anti-Terror Bill), that’s good. You already know current events, too, so that’s another great thing. I assume you already know the major players in the PH gov. If not, find out who’s opposing the bill in the legislative branch and find out what they’re actually doing to block provisions of it. Oppositional dialogue on the floor of Congress can further conversation, but it’s cheap without sustained, meaningful action. When you find out who’s opposing the bill, read and critically think about the issues in their own arguments and plans, then disseminate their ideas on social media, so more people know about it.
It would be best to start building background knowledge in the topic now. If the most concerning issue in the Anti-Terror Bill is the broad definition of terrorism, what constitutes “good” definitions of terrorism? Dig into the academic literature by checking websites like google scholar or databases like JSTOR. In this specific case, knowing the reasons behind why a proper definition is necessary and being able to offer a valid definition is critical if you want to make a compelling argument.
Here’s a few reasons off the top of my head for this issue specifically—the ambiguous definition of terrorism gives police more enforcement authority (perhaps more than they should have), can result in violations of human rights and dignity (the PH is part of the United Nations… violations of human rights goes against the UN charter which they signed), can exacerbate tensions between authorities and citizens, can have unequal effects across communities (poorer communities may be specifically targeted for these “terrorist acts”), and may result in an increasingly hostile setting similar to the period of martial law under President Marcos or other countries worldwide as they witnessed their government shift into a gradually more authoritarian form of rule.
When you know these reasons, you can then come up with solutions like establishing regulatory frameworks. More important for now though is that you can critically analyze and compose compelling arguments against the Anti-Terror Bill—it’s one thing to say something is bad for the people, it’s another thing entirely to list out the exact reasons why it is.
The most important thing in politics is to be active. Vote, encourage others to vote, spread the voices that need to be heard in ways that are easy for the general public to understand (e.g. make easily sharable infographics to post on social media). Most of the time, it can seem hopeless, but without a sustained and educated opposition that can make their concerns heard, then vague bills like the Anti-Terror Bill will continue to be passed.
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Thank you for taking the time to read and give me your thoughts, Nico! You gave me a new perspective on how to go about figuring this out. I knew it wouldn’t be linear, but I thought I needed to get the “foundations” right, whatever that meant, before diving in to other things. The thinking points you gave are good and I’ll use them to help guide me.