The language of sunflowers

Over the last two days, I’ve done some thinking about Dinky Soliman’s letter or, more precisely, about why there is still much ambivalence (or worse) about the Hyatt 10. We’ve heard the first attempts at explanation: a cultural bias (against those who turn on their friends and bosses), a practical view of history (they failed to oust the President; they shouldn’t expect to be welcomed as heroes), even a kind of moral relativity (they’re all the same).

Now I don’t know if this is one possible answer, but I’ve been thinking about the difference between the language of participation and the language of protest. Protest is easy enough to parse: walkouts, boycotts, abstentions, civil disobedience, and other synonyms of refusal. Participation is the language that civil-society leaders and organizers like Dinky and Ging Deles started to speak when they joined government service. It is the rhetoric of engagement (and hence compromise).

Perhaps (perhaps) people sense that while it is possible to shift from one language to another, it is done rarely, and with great difficulty. Perhaps people sense that, having mastered the language of participation in the last four years (through some difficult times, such as the debates on the  expanded  Balikatan war games or the acrimony over the entry into the Cabinet of Blas "Always-on-the-other-side-of-Edsa" Ople), civil-society gurus like Dinky and Ging now have a marked, disconcerting accent, when they speak the language of protest. (Or perhaps not.)

The analogy that suggests itself to me is wrong for all the right reasons: history, ideology, context, circumstance. But I must say that, reading some of the comments about Dinky’s letter, I am reminded of the occasions when leftist leaders elected to Congress chose to boycott congressional functions in favor of another session of the parliament of the streets. The prose of participation, yes, shifting into the poetry of protest. But each time it happened, the shift left quite a number uneasy.


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Filed under Readings in Politics

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