What if one day, people in long sleeves and slacks put themselves in the streets begging not for mere coins but for a sheaf of bills among the passersby? Last Monday, that What If just happened.
The package was quite simple: A bunch of kids will dress up as “rich people,” or at least, people who do not resemble beggars. They would beg for a minimum of P5000 from ordinary people on the streets to cover the expenses for the condominium they purport to construct. There would be poetry, too, for I forgot to mention, this venture is launched by people who believe in the power of poetry to reconstruct our everyday experiences – from the more minute like taking a bath or looking at 6pm rush hours to the more immense like the crappiness of bureaucracy and the calling for social change.
Every day, the rich are making money out of the poor. With their massive control of the big businesses, the media, the vast areas of land and most government positions, they make the best out of the poor’s economic contributions in a social make-up that benefits only them in major ways. A simple drop-by and buying at a gargantuan mall which splays itself almost in the entire archipelago (Would we be surprised at the rise of an SM Palawan?) means even the littlest contribution to the profits raised by such business. Over at the National Government, most people execute tasks that protect their interests at the expense of the poor. This is manifested in the laws written and approved, the Presidential orders made and so on. Of course, there are the big landlords exploiting the labor of small farmers who till the land but get scarce share in the production.
The people need to reconstitute these facts and their everyday realities as existing, actually dominant coordinates that largely shape their living. The streets are a suitable venue to forge such push for reconstitution since it is the heart of public life. Here, people of all kinds stroll every day, to and from work, or school, or just in their enforced loitering. Here are located the groceries, the churches, the medical centers, the clothing shops – most of what people need, from the literal food to food of the soul, and most of what is told for them to want.
Most certainly, such reconstitution cannot be spurred by mere verbiage. One can actually argue that verbal communications are always reliable to some extent. But the case for this one, entails otherwise. One can appear sermonizing about the ills of capitalism and how they seep down through our behaviors and cultural choices. Yet this is likely to be ineffective. People are already fatigued of these types of communicating to them. If worse, they no longer pay attention. “Political” verbals teem with words that mostly sound appear ragged and alien to their target audience. They usually lack the novelty, the color and the vivacity that precisely abound in popular culture fads. The point here is to render the same content of political messages in more diverse, more jolting manners that are likely to engage the target audience more. This is what Pedantic Pedestrians tried to achieve with its first venture in Street Poetry last Monday.
We believe that the crispness of the message of political engagement and critical thinking should still ring in the people’s ears especially now that more stomachs are unfed and more rights are violated. But the people need new forms of engagement. The mainstream culture is already infested with a pacifying, delusive happiness that new, if not shocking forms must be explored in order to reach them again.
Other links to our “street poetry:”