I was recruited to student activism sometime in late 1996, when I was just a seventeen-year-old petit bourgeois Mass Communication brat in Adamson University. And during that time, the only idea I had about student activism were protest rallies against certain unpopular government policies.
I was wrong. Student activism is just a façade of a totally different world, a gateway toward a whole new reality for me and for my fellow youth — it’s all about creating paradise on earth.
The group I joined was the breakaway group of Kamalayan called the Liga ng Sosyalistang Kabataan (LSK). Kamalayan itself was a breakaway faction of the more popular League of Filipino Students (LFS).
The LSK is an independent revolutionary socialist youth organisation in political solidarity with the Sosyalistang Partido ng Paggawa (which in recent years merged with other Leftist groups and is now known collectively as the Partido ng Manggagawang Pilipino).
When I joined student activism, I admit that I had selfish motives; all I really wanted back then is to experience what it was all about, to expose myself into the real world, hoping that it would augment my knowledge about life in order to add more teeth into my writing skills.
But two years later, I was totally hooked. I hungered for more Marxist-Leninist literature, attended several educational discussions, more rallies (particularly against the Visiting Forces Agreement), and even pasted posters in the dead of the night — well, not exactly dead because we did it in Taft Avenue which, much like New York, stretches across the city that also never sleeps: Manila.
At one point, me and one of my best buddies in the UG (underground) were almost recruited into joining our group’s military wing. I almost grabbed the opportunity, if just to escape from my mother whom I had a grave misunderstanding with.
At the same time, however, the “normal” side of me was still hanging around. I was still with college buddies, drinking, fooling around, playing rock music, and all that gimmick. Unfortunately (or fortunately), the glamour of living the hippier petit bourgeoisie lifestyle consumed me. And later, I realized that I had never wanted to become a militant after all. All I ever wanted to do was to write (and rock n’ roll!).
Later on, I eloped with my girlfriend (who is now my wife). I then wrote sporadically, lived a life that nobody had ever dreamed of living, rose again from defeat, fell down once more, and then fought back again.
I have totally forgotten about the movement.
A few days ago, I found an ex-comrade of mine from LSK; I found him on Facebook! After a few SMS exchanges and online chat, he subtly invited me to rejoin them. But I’ve made up my mind. I have a different role in life now. If his role in this life is to contribute all his efforts to the movement, I have a different purpose. We all have different roles to fulfill in this game called life. This he understood. But I assured him that I still tremble with anger and indignation whenever I hear injustice in the news.
Somehow, we are still comrades.
That online reunion I had reminded me of the essay below which I wrote for the English Department (now known as the Foreign Languages Department) of Adamson University. I wrote it sometime in 2003. They used it as an oratorical piece for one of their contests.
A CALL FOR SOCIALIST STRUGGLE
José Mario S. Alas
All of us dream of living in an ideal society. In my case, whenever I contemplate about my future and welfare, I yearn of having a normal, serene existence. I dream of having a home to call my own, breathing fresh gulps of clean air in a crime-free environment, not worrying if I have anything to eat the next day, with a 100% guarantee of not losing a job, living in a world where war is fiction, where hunger and poverty are for the roaches, where oppression and tyranny are just miniscule dusts in the pages of history. Yes, I have been dreaming of utopic panoramas. But like all dreams, they come to an end.
Reality check. I just don’t dream all the time. I also compare such reflections to reality. And reality, of course, hits harder than reveries woven up by the mishmash of hopelessness and a longing for an idyllic subsistence. This reality, where we ignorantly live, stings with a shocking slap, making me ask: what’s this life for? Everything has a reason, yes. But in the real world, most that I perceive is unreasonable, unjustifiable, uncertain, desolate. The best things in life are no longer free. We are no longer free. Rousseau is right: everywhere, man is in chains.
I tremble with indignation against such injustice! This must not be. If I live in a dog-eat-dog world, where social justice is just a pie in the sky for the underprivileged, where discrimination is a perennial zit in the face, where one man’s construction is another man’s destruction, then I don’t see a clear enough reason why one should continue to live.
But I breathe. And I have my own convictions. Therefore, I am. And therefore, I should. And finally, I will.
I live, and so I must continue to hope. But hope is nothing if we are not active towards change. The only help it can do is to animate one’s will to achieve such social transformation. It is not sufficient. One must be participative in a collective socialist struggle, where one’s hitherto slumbering existence will be set forth into a leviathan rage of righteous belligerence against everything that continues to deceive us. And that’s just what I did.
My reflection of an ideal society is what gave meaning to my existence. I will live, and die, for it. I have opened my eyes to apathy, ignorance, and to the horrors of what we call “civil society.” However, what’s so civil in a society where oppression and exploitation is the rule in order to live? Look around you, with an open mind…
In the city, I see the working class toiling in health-hazardous workplaces, his wage not even fit for his family’s needs. I see five new street beggars for every new Jollibee™ outlet. I see homes conflagrated by drugs, with the ill effects of money reducing family relation into a mere money relation. I see an Adamsonian walking out of an office which had favored either a snob La Sallean or a posh Atenean. In the city, I discovered how corrupt the media is, and how it is conniving with politicians in order to brainwash and fool the masses. I see trade unions busted, while religious leaders dine in their ostentatious dining halls with much gusto even as their flock in Payatas look for disposed canned goods, hoping for a day’s meal.
In the countryside, I see farmers deprived of land. The greediness of landlords culminated into social unrest, producing a protracted struggle that is gaining strength day by day. But the weaker ones trek to the cities, where most of them become part of the miserable urban poor.
I see forest mountains denuded because farmers have no more land to till that they could call their own. I see neo-monarchs in political figures who take undue advantage over the powerless. I see women ravished and children forced to labor under the scorching sun. I see nature slowly ebbing away due to environmental nonchalance by those who exploit it.
In the so-called “august halls” of parliament, liberalization and deregulation augment the interests of neo-colonial powers. Most legislators who were supposed to represent the electorate represents no one but their bellies. Democracy nowadays is nothing but a theatrical farce.
Our future is bleak. Economics, which fuels the life force of civilization, is on the brink of collapse due to the present ineffective system that shrouds it: capitalism and its offshoot, imperialism. There is no such thing as fair competition. What is true is that it resulted to unemployment, poverty, quality education only for the privileged, sexism, racism, and the like.
We have to resort to an alternative: socialism. It is inevitable, anyway. Its primary aim is to reorganize a new political life, and to structure a new system in which the workers, the community, the people, will decide on how to run the system, unlike in a capitalist system where means of wealth and production are run by few scheming individuals. In socialism, production will no longer be aimed towards amassing profits. Democracy will ensure that production will be solely for the needs and interests of all, and not a select few. In socialism, the individual is highly regarded.
The success of socialism will lead towards an ideal society and an ideal world. But this can never happen without everybody’s participation. We will be needing every help that we could get. Join me in my fight for a world that is worth living for. We have nothing to lose but the fetters that hold us down to indifference and discontent!
As for myself, I have finally realized that simply wishing things would get better is not enough. I could change a few things on my own, for a while. But when we gather ourselves into a collective force, we can achieve our aims to have a better world.