Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Myth-making in a Time of Fragmentation

As much as things unseen shape communities - the law, institutions, networks of friends and families, work and others - what holds a nation together is a common narrative. A story binding all in the mosaic of our country is comprised of common goals, struggles and heartaches. In each other we should see a reflection of ourselves. The taxi driver has essentially the same story as the teacher, the balut vendor, the politician, the accountant, the homeless, the call center agent.

As scholar and historian Benedict Anderson once said, we have to able to imagine a community first, before it becomes a reality. In this liquid soup of change, of shifting space and time it is often difficult to locate place and belonging. Allegiances are shifting, as the old crumbles all around us. In the hyperspeed of today, of reflexive reality unfolding in real-time, it is often difficult to find quiet to reflect. This is why we look to the past to remind ourselves of how we got here - amidst the uncertainty of change. We celebrate our nation's symbols - the flag, the national anthem, the innocuous sampaguita, to draw from them the magic qualities of what it means to be Filipino. From the holy days we celebrate, we draw a thread to sew into the story of the private, individual lives we live.

Today we celebrate one of the great mythologies of the Filipino - the People Power revolution. I was too young to remember anything substantive. Over twenty years later, I look to the accounts of elders, Wikipedia and YouTube to derive meaning from such a landmark in our commonstory.

Far from a historical relic, EDSA is real and relevant. It is the core artery of our metropolis. It is the channel from which we all converge and diverge on our way to work, our loves and enemies, our homes. It is the avenue not only of resistance, but the avenue of means, of tragedy, of relief and disparity.

EDSA is at the heart of this country's soul. It pulses the beat of the networks of families, friends, colleagues, leaders and followers we have all created. We look to EDSA, we look at ourselves.

But what of those who do not physically encounter it? What of the millions who live in the hinterlands? What of the millions abroad? For them there is only the spirit. In which ways does the spirit continue to live? I believe it is this generation's challenge to answer this question. For those who may question the value of even going through such an exercise, I have this simple answer. While People Power may vary in meaning for all of us, while it may mean what we want it to mean, while we may construct People Power to suit different purposes - no one can deny that it is, above all, a story of liberation.

In the cool of our office cubicles, on the blistering heat of sub-standard cement roads, in the sanctuary of our homes, we ask ourselves - who does not want to be free? Free from drudgery, isolation, debt and a soaring cost of living. Free from noise and pollution. Free from dogmatic religion. Free to go from point A to point B with ease of transportation. Free to look at the expanse of our city, our village our towns and see beauty instead of ugliness. Freedom from food shortage and poverty. Freedom to sleep at night without anxiety.

People Power is our commonstory. It is our magic talisman to reclaim freedom to live as we will, to reclaim this country for ourselves. We must cling to it with all our might, our ticket to redemption, our memory waiting to become reality. Power to the people.

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