Like many Filipinos, I joined last Monday’s protest rally in Plaza Independencia against the pork barrel scam and corruption in general. The rally, which was supposed to raise at least a million people, was hastily planned a few weeks ago. In fact, the idea of calling people to gather in protest was first made as a Facebook status by a practically unknown concerned netizen.
Yet it spread like wildifre on social networks. Its success was based on radical simplicity inspired by the recent worldwide Occupy Movement. It proposed an EDSA-like gathering of people without the usual symbols of political affiliations. Those who join should wear only a white shirt, bring no banner, and refrain from speaking on stage.
“Too many rules for a rally,” said my American friend who came with us to Fuente Osmeña that day to observe the protest in Cebu. It did work, initially at least. It was able to attract people from opposing political persuasions and even those who were too wary of the infighting that often takes place in big tactical alliances.
Still it was refreshing to see old comrades and former “enemies” coming together for a common cause. It was a reunion of sorts for those of us who used to join street mobilizations as members of the student movement. Each of us has since taken different directions in both political and career goals.
As predicted, the rally would soon be spoiled as soon as organizers allowed people to climb the stage and speak. Yet for a brief moment, the crowd found catharsis singing along to a funny and satirical song called “Chop the Pork” by Budoy, lead singer of local band Junior Kilat.
Music thus restored what divisive speech destroyed, in this case, that indistinct collective rage of a people. In the middle of those speeches, I wondered if it was possible to hold a rally that is either completely silent or one that is purely a venue for everyone to vent anger by shouting sans words. In other word, it would be a rally that is akin to a monk’s meal or a wordless metal core concert for a million people.
But that would be next to impossible given our natural urge to climb the stage to seize a microphone in order to sing or make a speech before a crowd. And when we do the latter, we just can’t stop naming names.
So that was what happened to the rally in Plaza Independencia last Monday. What was supposed to be a pure, non-partisan protest against corruption ended up hijacked by people with an irrepressible drive for self-promotion.
But that was something you’d expect at any rally. In the end, what matters is how it was able to show that the people’s anger could no longer be contained by ideological lines. This was the basic stuff of revolution: indistinct, random, and totally unpredictable.
The French philosopher Gilles Deleuze likens democratic revolution to a rhizome. Instead of shooting up from a single root to form a big tree, revolutions emerge randomly from a single crawling mass or rhizome that could grow buds in all directions and at any given time.
One may cut or remove part of this rhizome but for so long as other parts are left underground, it could still generate new buds.
Indeed, the people’s uprising is rhizomatic. For a long time, it may just lie dormant beneath the ground waiting for the right time to shoot out and spread buds of change. We saw it happen during the EDSA Revolution in 1986, when suddenly swarms of people just filled the streets coming from every direction, drowning out divisive speeches and banners in a single rapidly growing mass of unstoppable energy.
Monday’s rally may have been imperfect but it was symptomatic of something bigger that may yet come . And when the moment is ripe, no army is strong enough to resist that power.
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