Yesterday, I joined in what was touted as the biggest mass mobilization held in Baguio City in a long time which protested against the cutting/earth-balling of trees at SM Baguio, one of the hottest issues in the city recently (and notably, the media coverage also reached the national level).
From the march protest from Session Road to the rather blustering program (but still not to the point of being off-base) up to perhaps the day-concluding “Occupy SM” mode in the rotonda just facing the modestly gargantuan mall, I stayed with copious fellow protesters from various organizations and different orientations finding a similar cause to unitedly rally behind.
As a fellow blogger stated and to which I concurred, the sense of solidarity manifested in the protest was overwhelming. With another fellow protester who belongs to an organization which I have closer ties with, we agreed that, sana ganito rin karami ang tao ‘pab mog against budget cut or SONA ni Pnoy. I guess we were both deeply contemplative as we watched the program at Malcolm Square and surveyed the mass of people around the area listening closely to the speakers: What are the adjustments that need to be done for budget cut and other more overtly political campaigns to garner the same, if not more mobilizations than this one? What forms these campaigns could take to replicate, if not emulate this picture of unmistakable unity and engaged involvement shown by the people here at Malcom Square, braving the torrid 3pm sun just to voice out their opposition against the SM-tree-cutting plan?
But so much for tacit envy. The protest action yesterday was fun primarily for the turnout of participants but also for the insights it forced on me. All throughout the event, I have seen, and heard several calls which although at first seems to imply the variety of orientations and consciousnesses where which the protesters are coming from, can still be lumped together to identify in the end the single enemy which we were all crying against. And I think the task is to pinpoint this common enemy, identify this one, big ghost lurking in front of us, threatening us with a nasty grin strapped on its face, initially mocking us, but actually, challenging us to seize it and do the murder.
“Save the trees”
First and foremost and not surprisingly so, the protest actions was dubbed, and then viewed as something that fights for an environmental cause. As to the words of my fellows in our organizations, this issue is a “broad” one wherein we can most easily gather the widest number of supporters. What deceit can shroud it anyway, the impact of environment and its degradation can have on us? There are a number of sound slogans that can be mentioned here: This is our planet, the place where we live, the place that will be inherited from us by our daughters and granddaughters, our Mother Earth, our place of nurturance. This unsurprisingly easily unites us because the fact that it is an issue we all share is obvious.
And at this point, I’d like to insert some more personal remark. As much in the general socio-political affairs as in literature and the other arts, there is this pressing emphasis on the environment, on ecology. While the emergence of ecocriticism is becoming more pointed in literature, so is the heightened vigilance towards global warming and other environmental issues in the world affairs. For the latter, this are best proven by sprouting green campaigns, banning of plastics and Styrofoam materials, the one-hour turn-off-your-lights tradition-in-the-making among others. My take on this is that there is a resurgence, conscious or otherwise, of a “return to nature.” After all the 20th century drama given two World Wars, Nazism and the capitalist crisis and the Cold War, the people have been, perhaps lulled by the advent of the postmodern trend towards the end of the 20th century. After the modernist anxiety came the postmodernist care-freeness and celebrate open-endedness mode, perhaps popularized to inject some relief to all of humanity but now to lessening avail. I think this attitude can no longer sustain itself especially now that the social crisis is becoming more felt. (And actually, putting it up as “social crisis” is still a bit shy and concealing because frankly, how we should call what is currently happening to us is the “capitalist crisis.” Now, I believe we’ll touch more of that later.) Okay, clichés: rising prices, unemployment, wealthy gets wealthier, poor gets poorer blah blah blah. We all know that, and we all feel that. But it is only recently that we are seeing more pronounced actions opposing this trend and inculcating among all of us, willy-nilly, that we are living in hard times, that our culture is one of corruption and festering inequality and, again, whether we like it or not, we have to do something.
And so the rising popularity of “Save the planet” campaigns. Because we are sick of this culture and we want, most probably, to go back to the more natural state of things. Do not kill the trees. Do not destroy our nature. When all we have in the news are human greed and Ipads being invented to cover up the evils of capitalist scheme (Hey, these Ipads can do multitude of things at once, so why say that capitalism is horrible?), we want a piece of something that would be consoling in the end. And we turned to nature, everything not man-made, because in the recent past, what man has created, err, what those who have the capacity to create has made are things that are beneficial not for everyone but only for themselves.
And I am not saying that this Green cause is a petty one and that we have to face only the more hardcore issues such as employment and social services which are emanating from the existence of our Great Enemy that is Capitalism. My point is for us to try to understand that all these environmental brouhahas are also germinating from, yes, the current social system we sometimes hate to call, capitalism. Which brings me to this next thing.
“No to Corporate Greed”
Yes, corporate greed. And I was joyful yesterday, when a speaker in the Malcolm Square program lashed SM corporation, sometimes Henry SY himself, for their capitalist greed, for their plans of expansion which is obviously business-oriented (notwithstanding all their “green architecture” rhetoric). Moreover, another speaker brought out the much important point, SM City Baguio does not give back anything to the city: no taxes, and more smartly, and perhaps more tellingly, no educational, cultural or health values as he put them.
In our lingo, we have “Malaking Burgesyang Kumprador.” And while most people would easily dismiss the idea of further discussion once this term is brought up, there would be cases like this which present themselves as apt chances to concretize “big words” (ahem, imperyalismo, burukrata kapitalismo). That is precisely Henry Sy’s SM malls: operating under the capitalistic scheme: socialized production, private capital and profit. Precisely a huge factor why we have this: wealthy becomes wealthier, poor becomes poorer.
And another important thing to mention, another “titan” abused, slowly murdered by the giants: the small-scale businesses that would have to be “relocated” (to put it much nicely) when SM’s parking lot is put up. Where would they go? What would happen to their small businesses? And later, how would they feed their families? How would they survive in these times of economic stress? Evidently, the giant corporations, with their “corporate greed” are eating all of us alive. And so here we are to the ultimate, perhaps most provoking part:
“Sorry for the inconvenience, we are trying to change the world”
Perhaps without spite or pun intended, a companion remarked about this statement in a slogan we saw among the sea of slogans yesterday: something like, “big words,” or “Grabe naman yung call niya.”
But in further thought, the slogan completely makes sense. This is not just a battle for the trees, or against SM corporations and their corporate greed; this is a battle for our people, of Baguio and the country, against the large system where tree-cutting projects like this are just one of the numerous evil manifestations. This is fight against a system where things are done for the benefit of a few and at the expense of the many. Okay, clichés, clichés — again. But when we encounter things like this, hitting us in the face, showing us upfront what do these terms we usually invoke with well-placed rancor and indignation look like, we have to submit to their truthfulness.
This is how our world looks like. This is how things are. Trees should be cut for Henry Sy’s bank accounts. Small-scale Ube Jam and Sundot Kulangot vendors have to be displaced for “development.” The people have to be deprived of natural air for progress. This IS our world.
And we are trying to change it. We have had enough. We have seen enough. And now we have mustered enough strength and determination and formed the right consciousness to fight against this, altogether.
It’s not only for the trees and against Henry Sy or SM, it is for the people and against the system that all throughout history and at large, has proven to be well, to ride in with the Occupy stuff, against the 99%.