The only thing worse than a keyboard “warrior” is a street rally “warrior”. These pretend warriors insult the sacrifices of soldiers and police officers for whom risk of life and limb is just another day at the office. In the aftermath of the rather underwhelming September 21 protest rally, there was that usual spate of self-congratulationary messages and mutual high-fiving where these “warriors” thanked the heavens for seeing everyone “safely” back home after “bravely” attending this protest activity.
The question is:
Was anybody in any real danger to begin with?
By all accounts, the Philippine government had pretty much all but laid out a red carpet before these “activists” so that they could march to wherever the hell they were going to be congregating without incident. Luneta, right? Whatever.
The only “danger” to these participants, it seems, was the threat of dying from utter lack of imagination or having the last drop of relevance bled out of them. As if the obsolete Cold-War-era slogans of the token commies who graced the event weren’t enough to cast a pall over the millennial vibe the rally organisers were hoping the event would exude, the lack of any fire was poignantly evident in the crowd. The “activists” did not really march in. They kinda just sauntered in for a little afternoon frolic.
Credit, perhaps, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s non-reaction in the lead-up to this event and, to that, debit against the evident overplanning and adult supervision that went into this protest action. It’s sort of like those children’s parties held at a Jollibee or McDonald’s, or imagine Woodstrock being replicated today complete with parental supervision and corporate sponsorship.
Real street activism, as we recall after all, is more like those Greenhills (and Temple Drive) street car races of yore (and as dramatised in the first Fast and the Furious instalment — before it became just another Hollywood franchise). There was the smell of burning rubber accompanying the sound of the deep whine of Saturn engines catapulting Mitsubishis off their marks, Billy Idol’s “Rebel Yell” blasting out of car speakers, lots of booze, weed, and chicks and no parents. The distant sound of police sirens would quickly send everyone scampering away — only to congregate spontaneously elsewhere.
Spontaneous. Modern-day activism is anything, but.
Seeing all the clucking Nanays and Titas herding the kids (and reminding them to “stay safe”) while dressed in their Thursday best simply sucks the James Dean out of this little soiree. For that matter, it wasn’t even a rebellion without a cause (yes, there was no “cause” to begin with!). There was, in reality, no cause to be a rebel here. It was more a PG-rated “rebellion” — just a notch better than Trillanes’s tililing adventurism in the mid-2000s. Except, this time, parental guidance was guaranteed. The Les Miserables theme also kind of put a rainbowy Mardi Gras ambience to it (not that there’s anything wrong with that) that scraped off the grit and pedal-to-the-metal vibe of what could have marked real activism.
With Philippine activism gentrified beyond all recognition and what was once the tubao-sporting radicalism of the Left reduced to a sad out-of-touch cliché, what is left to look forward to? Is there going to be a next time? If so, and then what?
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