The reality of neutrality

Originally published in The HERALDO FILIPINO Broadsheet Vol. 34 Double Issue

Looking away is equal to being sided with the oppressor–a reality that many of us are denying ourselves. A lot has happened in these past few months, it’s as if the universe is punishing us from the destruction we bring and create on the planet, such as climate issues and the war that has been going on ever since the year 2020 has started. Such as the almost World War III and the war within each and every country. 

For many of us who aren’t directly affected by all the crises happening around us, it’s easy to sit on the fences—but for those who don’t have the privilege, fighting is the only way through. 

Here in our country, in a far more familiar setting, I look at the social media accounts of many Filipinos, you can almost easily distinguish which side they are on. The divide is very evident that you can tell who’s in favor of a particular perspective and who’s not. At the same time, there are people who does not give any sh*t about anything. Those people are either scared of expressing their opinions online due to cyberbullying and other forms of online harassment, or they are just those people who are okay with everything—otherwise known as the neutrals, or those who would rather stay in the gray area. In a time when resistance is obligated, it’s easy to be mad with people like them. But why is there such a kind of thinking in the first place?

Back in elementary school, our teacher taught us about how Lapu-Lapu bravely fought and protected the Island of Mactan from the Spaniards. And up until now, we are still truly grateful for him in defending our land against those conquerors. As young children just learning about this part of history, many of us dreamt or at least imagined to be part of that historical Battle of Mactan, just for the idea of being part of something huge in history.

But of course, in the mind of a grade school kid, you would not actually think that those actions were a sign of resistance against the Spaniards who were trying to invade our country. Our fascination was just borne out of pure admiration, thinking how bravely they were fighting those conquerors. And as we take steps each year, it’s likely for us to move forward as we take on another lesson in history and forgot the roots of our freedom.

People are restless. We want something new, something to do, we want change. But only a few put action into it. 

But as we grow and start finishing the secondary and undergraduate studies, we become more critical to what is happening around us. We start to question every action as to why people do so. We become more aware of what is happening around us, not just in our country but also around world.,By the time we finish college our perspective becomes wider, we are able to distinguish real truths from real lies. In other words, we become educated. Well, at least that is the case for you and I. As you read this newspaper you are privileged enough to be able to acquire such information, facts, and data that some people your age do not possess or do not have any means for.

People we know historically, the ones we read in the newspaper and see on the television are the people who stand for their own belief, who commit to a cause for whatever their personal reason is. People are restless. We want something new, something to do, we want change. But only a few put action into it. And that I think is a great reason for why being involved matters. 

In my life of being a student journalist, I did come to a point where I questioned myself, Why the hell do we even bother covering these rallies? Why do we care so much about these people? Why can’t we just cover the things that are happening inside the university? I mean we’re just a student publication after all. These are a few thoughts that came to my mind, and I believe it’s not just me who has questioned this idea. But there is learning in the streets—from people I meet  in the protest. And it struck me, after listening to their story, I did my own analysis weighing all the given information around and came into conclusion.

Even when it’s easier to do nothing, these people marched in the streets because they’re expecting and demanding change. And change happens because some people took risks and spoke truth to power. 

It matters that there are people who call out injustices, watch rights abuses, and hold authorities accountable. If not, oppression would be a lot easier for tyrants than it already is. Anna Baltzer, an activist and author for Palestinian rights, said that neutrality is a convenient illusion. Especially now, being neutral shouldn’t be a choice for people who have the access and platform. Sometimes, what we just need is a good pair of ears that will listen, and a sense of humanity to fight for those who can not.

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