POPE Francis can see where a “new generation of political activism” is emerging.
A day after 800,000 young people massed in Washington, D.C. on Pennsylvania Ave. between the White House and Capitol Hill, and 800 “sibling” marches across the United States and abroad, the pope spoke to the youth in his homily at St. Peter’s Square in Rome.
His message on Palm Sunday, which led off the Holy Week observance, picked up what young Americans declared in the U.S. capital: “Today we march. We fight. We roar. We prepare our signs. We raise them high.”
What sparked the outrage and roused the routinely meek youth and send them out of their fun and comfort zones was the Parkland, Florida school shooting that killed last month 17 people, mostly students.
Since 1999 at Columbine, more than 187,000 students in at least 193 primary and high schools experienced shootings in classrooms and school grounds. In the first 45 days of 2018 alone. there were already 18 gunfire incidents in schools.
The pope didn’t mention the uniquely American problem of violence and death from guns. His appeal to the youth not “to keep quiet” and instead “to shout” is to involve them in the crises that affect community and country.
Why often the silence
Tied to authority or influence from parents and other adults in school, church or work place, the young usually keep silent on issues that concern what the pope calls the “older people and leaders.”
Many parents shush the young when the conversation turns to Chief Justice Sereno’s impeachment or the creeping authoritarianism.
President Duterte, father of the nation, publicly chided students in state schools for leaving their classes to protest against illegal killings. Organized demonstrations, here or abroad, are often tagged the work of adults: politicians and others out to promote their personal or party interest.
Older people and leaders, whom the pope referred to tend to be condescending to the youth, encouraging them to lead and yet treating them like puppets or suspecting them to be exploited by rival exploiters, not trusting them to act on their own.
Meddling in SK polls
Look at the state of the Sangguniang Kabataan (youth council) elections. Political watchers are not holding their breath over whether politicos would not meddle in the SK polls again.
One city mayor openly announced he would fight for barangay and SK seats to pad his party’s shaky lead in the council. When the young legislator speaks out in the local legislature, would it be the voice of the young he represents or the puppet master’s?
Pushing the young to raise his voice is arduous enough. It took several massacres in schools to infuriate America’s youth. The execution of teenage drug suspects on Manila’s streets sent a number of students to join the mass action.
But the level of awareness and involvement requires several notches higher. Young Filipinos are not angry enough or politically active enough. And their number is not yet large enough to scare hubris out of cocky leaders.
The pope speaks in plain English, no longer in parables as Jesus did. But the youths need specifics, which present-day disciples, the priests and bishops, could do if they were not hamstrung by separation of church and state.
Speak out, the pope, said. On what and how? Decidedly, shouting or roaring is not enough.
Messages in social media are of little help. Even setting aside grammar, they are mostly unclear and often incoherent. Internet noise and vitriol have yet to muster the young to become a galvanized force.