Spirituality of activism-A A +A
The Living Spirit
Sunday, August 25, 2013
ON AUGUST 26, the celebration of National Heroes Day, there will be a mass gathering in Rizal Park Manila. The organizer of this gathering is the music production manager, Ito Rapadas, who said that there must be a million marchers, to compel legislators and government officials to put a stop to pocketing pork barrel funds.
Rapadas said on Facebook: ‘The dominant emotion is anger and outrage. The dominant picture in everybody’s mind is the struggling Pinoy workers/employees, toiling and paying faithfully their obligations to government. And using that mental image together with my notion of a ‘million people’ –- I thought it is time for tax payers and the silent majority, to express our displeasure. It is not an original thought to demonstrate or protest because many organizations are now calling for action.’
These words reminded me of what happened in the United States two years ago. On September 17, 2011 the so-called Occupy Wall Street movement was organized in the heart of the financial world: thousands of people went to Wall Street and set up tents, kitchens and peaceful barricades in protest against the financial and economic situation in the world.
In four weeks’ time world-wide Occupy-camps were set up in 951 cities over 80 countries around the world. The motto was: ‘We are the 99 percent,’ and masks were displayed similar to those shown on the front page of Inquirer some time ago Abolish the pork-barrel, expressing disgust about the political justice system on trial in the Napoles case.
In the Occupy Wall Street movement the masks represented the face of all those who were dissatisfied with the excesses of capitalism.
Usually these kinds of protest movements don’t have a unified purpose and a clear strategy, neither have they a clear future perspective nor a strong organization.
One could call this a symbolic revolution, a protest against a brutal disturbance of the public order. It is a call to action for something that does not exist yet but in which one strongly believes.
A French philosopher calls this the ‘supreme fiction.’ You cannot concretely describe it, but it is something for which you must have a collective watchfulness –- a commitment to the supreme fiction. You may call this also a belief for unbelievers. How many of our young generation don’t believe anymore, they don’t go to church, because what is going on there does not appeal to them anymore. Can you call them un-believers? I don’t think so.
They really believe in something, in a better world, in justice for the poor and the down-trodden. This is a Christian activism and opposite to a spiritual attitude that is passive and neutral with respect to those Christian values. This kind of complacency has no spirituality, although it is often an attitude of spiritual people. Spirituality is precisely looking beyond the concrete reality and discovering in there the presence of God, the Face of God, which is the face of the millions of the poor and the downtrodden.
The anti-war priest and Jesuit, Daniel Berrigan, who despite his high age, 80 years old, has been involved also with these Occupy Wall Street protests says: this is the act of speaking out, getting out of your own particularity, and commit oneself to a better world, to make contact with others and out of conviction go against the established order. These are all Christian elements.
There is a great strength in the attitude of being watchful. This is something else than an attitude of passivity and neutrality. It is an active non-violent protest. Taking the right in your own hands is a sign in itself, you fight for something that is not yet there.
What that is, we don’t know yet: a better life, a life where there is justice, a life where one can be a human being, where you can be yourself instead of an anonymous instrument. This is the opposite of a passive nihilism, of an attitude that says: “You cannot do anything about it. It is the opposite of an attitude of ‘I withdraw myself from society’.” Just the idea of being present is already a big gain.
It is sad to see that our President doesn’t take a stronger stand against the pork barrel system. The protesters are the new Edsa people, registering their disgust and revulsion over the pork scam, given particularly the scale of poverty and misery in this country.
I see this gathering as a calling for some sort of People Power this coming August 26 to demand an end to the plague of corruption in government. It is high time we rise to stop it.
Let us heed the call of our President on Ninoy Aquino Day: Each Filipino can do a Ninoy.
Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on August 25, 2013.