Whether you’re an office worker glued to your desk for most of the week, a Net junkie who loves blogs and social networking sites, an overseas Filipino looking to connect back to home, or simply someone with something to say, the power to set this country right is within your reach.
In these times of social unrest, when media focus hops from one controversy and “crisis” to another, Filipinos everywhere are saying, “I don’t want to condone these actions, but I don’t know how I can help.” They resign themselves to the fact that corruption exists everywhere, that their well-intentioned actions may not amount to anything, and that it’s perhaps best to leave political action to the politicians. After all, they would reason out, politics is dirty business.
But it wasn’t meant to be that way. In his 350 B.C. work, Politics, the Greek philosopherAristotle wrote: “Every state is a community of some kind, and every community is established with a view to some good; for mankind always act in order to obtain that which they think good. But, if all communities aim at some good, the state or political community, which is the highest of all, and which embraces all the rest, aims at good in a greater degree than any other, and at the highest good [italics mine].”
Maybe politics has become the dirty, bastardized creation that it is today precisely because we, the citizens, have let go of it. We left it up to the crooks, the unscrupulous, the malicious, and the ethically ignorant to take hold of it—thereby strangling us and taking the power away from the real state: the people. In a supposedly democratic government such as ours, we should be part of the political process—and this doesn’t end during elections.
We have the power to save the Philippines. And we can do it even while sitting down.
1. Be informed. The first step to conquering anything is to know what it is. Wherever you are in the world, stay in touch with the Philippines through online news sources. You can check out good, positive news about the Philippines through www.goodnewspilipinas.com, or www.inquirer.net for comprehensive news articles, podcasts, and blog entries. If you want meatier stuff, check out www.newsbreak.com.ph. This hard-hitting publication may have ended its print run, but its online presence shows that nothing will stop Marites Vitug and her staff from getting to the bottom of the news. If you want something with a dose of TV on it, log on to www.abs-cbnnews.com or www.gmanews.tv.
There are also some great non-news sites that offer bite-sized, thought-provoking content. My favorites include www.ted.com, our very own WhyNot? Forum (www.whynotforum.com), ChangeThis (www.changethis.com), and even SlideShare (www.slideshare.com). Who ever thought Powerpoint presentations could be THAT interesting!
2. Share your thoughts and ideas over the Web. Now is probably the best time in human history to be expressive and outspoken. The Internet has given us tremendous power, and we can harness it by broadcasting our thoughts and ideas over the Web—which is the most democratic space we have seen so far. If you want to develop your own “fan base” and position yourself as a thought leader, start a blog. (Just be a tad more productive than Brian Gorrell, please.) If you think blogging is too tiresome, post your comments to news article, features, blog entries, etc. People do pay attention to comments, so go ahead and make them.
3. Read other people’s blogs. Tit for that: if you want people to listen to—er, read—what you have to say, return the favor. Technorati’s Top 100 Filipino blogs include:
* Jessica Zafra’s (http://jessicarulestheuniverse.com/)
* Manolo Quezon’s The Daily Dose (http://www.quezon.ph/)
* Inside PCIJ (http://www.pcij.org/blog)
* Jim Paredes’s Writing on Air (http://haringliwanag.pansitan.net)
* Butch Dalisay’s Pinoy Penman (http://homepage.mac.com/jdalisay/blog/MyBlog.html)
* Newsstand (http://www.newsstand.blogs.com)
Some other blogs that haven’t quite made it to Technorati’s list, but which I love anyway (aside from them being my friends’ blogs) are Reese Fernandez’s The Passionista (http://thepassionista.wordpress.com), Mark Ruiz’s Gamechanger (http://markruiz.typepad.com), and Benjie dela Peña’s Hundred Years Hence (http://hundredyearshence.blogspot.com/).
4. Participate in online discussions. Back to Aristotle: “Now, that man is more of a political animal than bees or any other gregarious animals is evident. Nature, as we often say, makes nothing in vain, and man is the only animal whom she has endowed with the gift of speech… the power of speech is intended to set forth the expedient and inexpedient, and therefore likewise the just and the unjust. And it is a characteristic of man that he alone has any sense of good and evil, of just and unjust, and the like, and the association of living beings who have this sense makes a family and a state.”
Let’s face it—whether you openly admit to it or not, you have political opinions, and would love to share them with others who would care enough to listen. Online discussions allow for a democratic sharing of ideas, encourage critical discernment on issues, and allow for an emergence of various viewpoints which are essential to critical decision-making. As a people, we need to listen to each other and consider each other’s perspectives if we are to arrive at intelligent decisions and actions.
Now that 2010 is just around the corner, perhaps we should start discussing among ourselves what qualities we think are important for a true leader, and which of the public figures around us really do exhibit and live out these qualities.
5. Sign online petitions and campaigns. Online petitions and campaigns have the potential to wield great power over political and social action because they help educate people about issues and gauge public opinion. A successful signature campaign trains media’s lenses on particular issues and forces public figures to make important decisions or stands on concerns that would otherwise be left in the back burner. It encourages discourse and debate, legislative action, and policy reforms. You can play an active role in strengthening Philippine policies by signing such petitions and campaigns. It won’t even take you two minutes.
6. Share information with your friends and online buddies. Don’t you hate it when friends forward useless chain letters? (”If you don’t pass this on to 5 people within 5 minutes, something bad will happen to you.”) I do—I really do, and I find it amazing that people actually believe that stuff like this works. I would rather forward information that people will find useful and relevant, such as news about new rules and policies that will affect their industries or their daily lives, information on breakthrough ideas or movements that will benefit a great number of people, new causes and organizations that people can support, or even trivia and tips that will make people think and, perhaps, help them make small but useful changes in their daily routine. Information is power, and it is something that we cannot take for granted. When you’ve got useful information, pass it on and spread the love.
7. Use the power of the Net to recruit members and solicit donations to worthy causes.
There are so many great and worthy causes out there that need all kinds of support—from volunteer time, to material donations and in-kind support, to donations and financial support. Likewise, there are many of us who are looking for “something to do” or something to which we can contribute, but we just don’t know where to look. We can do both cause-oriented groups and do-gooders a favor by patching them up online. It won’t take much time or effort: simply forward messages about causes and movements to friends, family members, and online buddies, then let them build their “relationship” on their own. Who knows? Something great might come out of it someday—and they’d have YOU to thank for it.
It really doesn’t have to take so much of your time, energy, and resources to help save the Philippines. Each of us can realistically do only what is accessible and interesting to us, so take advantage of online resources to do as much good as you can with the least amount of effort. You’d be surprised at how the daily act of contributing and sharing information can make a big difference in a country that is still enveloped in ignorance and intellectual poverty. And you won’t even have to get up from your chair.
(Revised from an blog entry originally titled 7 Ways to Help the Philippines While Sitting Down)