Saturday, October 24, 2020
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Young and (politically) woke by Karl Patrick Wilfred M. Suyat

Photo by Leonardo Pernate II

The path toward national development and economic prosperity requires an informed citizenry who is equipped enough to act upon the changes taking place in a society, especially one that’s quickly developing such as ours. Yet the irony of the times is that majority of young people today lack enough sensibilities to ably react to the chronic ills afflicting the country at present.

Political analysts believe that the youth, who comprise the largest number of voter population today, also top at being the most apathetic. Aside from the statistics though, it is also evident in their responses toward the latest social issues today.

I am one of those young people today belonging to the equation’s other half, dubbed by today’s Twitter vernacular as the “woke” ones—and let me tell you this: viewing socially-related matters from the viewpoint of someone as young as me (15 years old) holds an unholy mixture of advantageous early awakening and a struggle that’s sometimes demoralizing.

I was not born political; no one is. But I was raised to be one, both by my parents and the environment we were straddling in. A confluence of personal influence brought upon by my mother’s governmental work and my father’s experiences as a student activist in the latter part of the fascist US-Marcos dictatorship and, later on, as a relatively small political figure in Taguig City, and of the personal decisions I have made as I grow up, partly caused by other external influences that left an impact on my way of thinking, enhanced and cemented this strong political aspect in my persona.

At first, it became a badge of honor that I proudly wore. Who would ever expect that a teenager would be capable enough to learn and retell to his elders the darkest period in our postwar history that was Martial Law with relative ease? Our family friends thought I was on my way to being a politician, a future President even—and even when I started to disown that dream out of frustration to a system that benefits only a few, they still maintained that high view of me. They saw it as an edge on my part if I wish to have a political career.

It also brought me to a pedestal during elementary, and even in my high school days—my friends and classmates thought so highly of me just because my political views were (and are still) broad and as sharp as the claws of a lion that they often ran to me whenever they needed my interpretation of the latest national issues but not when the “talk of the town” concerns Hollywood stars, Marvel movies, or NBA players, only to find out that I’m already left out on other issues that I once perceived as superficial—the ones they’re talking about more often, the ones closest to their psyches, and the ones purportedly appropriate for our age bracket.

I myself found it very hard, particularly today, to talk with them about social issues seriously (except for some who had what it takes to cross intellectual swords with me about society and politic) because of age—in the sense that, while they have showed keen interest in deciphering the headlines dominating the papers and airwaves around us today, they weren’t as passionate as I am; they’d rather discuss the latest Netflix series than the issue of federalism and Charter Change. Much expected on my part, but this still makes up for the first struggle that I face as a young, politically-minded kid—alienation from the caboodle of people that the conformist society says I should go with.

The second is more grievous and stifling: while my elders applauded my “wokeness” (in today’s social media parlance), they were anxious that this political awakening will mold me to into becoming an activist. They cautioned me against going too vocal (since my politics is against the status quo ruled by the elites), and stood against my passion for discussing and being involved in social issues; most of them advised me either to focus on my studies or indulge in my youth, if only to avoid regretting that I lost my youth in the process of contributing something in the fight for social justice.

To stare at the country’s darkening political scene today from the perspective of a young gadfly like myself opens up a can of worms for me, specifically worms that restrict and discourage me. They come from various sources but united in a common aspiration: to hinder the progress of my political consciousness. Add to it the lack of time and resources to deepen my knowledge and comprehension of what is happening in our country, and the perennial hazards faced by those whose politics is against the ruling system of cacique democracy and looming authoritarianism.

I have not lost hope. I know that these constraints will soon give way to allow myself to have the freedom to exercise my politics in the way I know how, even as I enjoy the perks of my youth. I have not lost my optimism in the people around me—that they will soon understand the political pathway that I have chosen for myself.

I have not despaired even as hopelessness starts to smother and swaddle our benighted land, nor have I succumbed to pressures aimed at strangling my political “wokeness.”

In the realm of political debate, I was a fast rising star—but outside of that arena, I’m no more than an oddball. Yet I still chose to persist, in the hopes that, someday, the fires of hope that I kindled through my words and actions can spark prairie fires among our countrymen—sparks which can finally propel us forward.

The struggle for social change lives on, even if I stand alone.

 

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