Why I’m Not an Activist

“Education is a right! Higher state subsidy! Down with imperialism!”

These are some of the calls and chants that the more socially involved and politically aligned students in my university voice out during their rallies and mobilisations. A more commonly used term to refer to them are activists. Some stronger terms include militants, or even communists.

I cannot speak for the entire student body, but I know I am not any of these.

I have attended rallies before, but only to cover them for the student publication I am part of. I was asked before why anyone would even bother to go to rallies. What difference would a bunch of people shouting and making noise outside the Supreme Court or Department of Justice make? Well, they can make a significant difference.

History has proven that the people’s collective action can force the government to change. Once they realize the power they possess and exercise it, the masses can incite change. And it doesn’t have to be violent or bloody, like the 1987 People Power Revolution.

But I refuse to align myself with them.

Before I entered this university, my parents explicitly forebode me from joining their events or befriending them. But we don’t follow everything our parents tell us, right? Because I didn’t. And I don’t regret it.

As radical and passionate as these people may be, they’re still people. Like everyone else, there are good and bad aspects of their personality. The ideologies and principles they uphold may influence them, but it does not define them completely.

Even after being exposed to them and hearing about their stands on issues, I still haven’t joined any political party or socio-civic student organization. I can think of three reasons why.

First, the idea of being a member of both the official student publication which is supposed to be an objective entity and a political party with specific ideologies and interests doesn’t sit well with me. While some previous and current members of the publication have also been part of politically-aligned student organizations, they have successfully carried out their responsibilities and obligations without bias. And while I am confident in my ability to so, our critics are not. (I mentioned the mudslinging and personal attacks launched by these critics in a previos post, which you can read here). It’s not that I’m scared of what our critics would say, it’s just that if we can prevent them from saying anything at all, why not do it?

Second, too much of anything is bad. I mean anything. These student activists often feel so strongly about every issue or event that affects the masses. They blame society’s problems on the imperialist nations or greedy capitalists. Now, while I believe that these groups or entities are responsible to a certain extent, I don’t consider them to be the only cause. I think a more multi-perspective approach should be employed in analysing these problems and coming up with solutions for them.

Third, I don’t want to be limit myself to one side of the political divide. In our university, there are two competing political parties. There’s Party A (the reds) who are radical leftists, and Party B (the blues) who are conservative leftists. At least, that’s what I heard one of their members claim to be. Friendships and even romantic relationships have been established between reds and blues. No, let me rephrase that. Friendships and even romantic relationships have been established between a very limited number of reds and blues.

Again, I believe I am open-minded enough to create and maintain friendships with people of both colors, but it would be a hell of a lot easier to do so if I maintained neutrality.

However, being neutral when it comes to my political affiliation doesn’t extend to my principles. I do believe education is a right. I believe our university, as the premier state university of the country, deserves higher state subsidy. I believe the status quo needs to be changed, but I do not believe inciting a revolution, toppling the upper class, and destroying the system should be the number one answer.

How about you? Where do you fall along the political spectrum?

Cheers.

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Confessions of A Student Journalist

I am tired. I have felt constantly tired since I started college two years ago. This isn’t unusual for most college students, with the toxicity of their academic requirements, constant deadlines, and overwhelming readings b. The thing is, academics isn’t the primary source of my fatigue. It’s the student organizations I’m part of.

I am a member of three student organizations within my university, and two more from outside. But the organization I value the most, the one I have given so much of myself to, was the very first I joined. It was my university’s official student publication. Even before I enrolled as a freshman, I had decided I would join because writing was something that I enjoyed. Furthermore, I wanted to serve the student body. And since I wasn’t a popular kid with the charming smile and winning personality, running for student council wasn’t a feasible option for me. (Student elections = popularity contest)

When I first contacted them, I was still hung over from high school and had foolishly assumed that the application process and membership in the publication would be a walk in the park. It was not easy. Not at all. The application process was the most challenging I have ever experienced, but looking back, it was manageable as long as you were strong-willed and determined. The membership, on the other hand, was an even greater challenge.

There are the nights I spent editing my articles, rephrasing headlines and revising paragraphs instead of reviewing for exams. There are the weekends when I would stay overnight at our office instead of the comfort of my own bed because I needed to finish an article before the deadline. Then, there are the criticisms and attacks. These aren’t the constructive criticisms that help writers, illustrators, and photojournalists improve their craft. These are statements made by political parties about the publication being irrelevant or useless, or how the staff is incompetent and lazy. They even accused us of joining the publication for the honoraria, a financial compensation given to the members of the publication on a per issue basis.

It hurts, of course. It angers me as well. But more than those, one thing that hurts even more is the fact that not every student reads the issues we work so hard for. Some of them that do read only go to the “fun” parts like the blind items, photo essays, comics, or the opinion article about love and sex. And there’s nothing we can do about it. As a student publication, the students provide our funds. They are our stakeholders, so there is no way we can force them to read our issues.

In my opinion, that may be the hardest part of working for this student publication. And in the times I realized how tired I am and how hard it really is, I admit that I consider quitting. My life would be so much easier if I quit. I would have less deadlines, less responsibilities, less stress, and less frustration. But I choose not to. I keep on going. Aside from the mantra I live by, one of the reasons that make me stay is the people. There are two of them. First are the students, as few as they may be, who take the time to read every article and admire every illustration or photograph. The students who appreciate the value of the campus press in representing their needs, upholding their rights, and informing them of socially relevant issues. Second, and most importantly, are the people I work with. My fellow staff who sacrifice so much in exchange for so little. There are also our editors, who have shown me how this publication became such a big part of their college life.

A lot of organizations, especially fraternities and sororities, will say that they are a family. And maybe that’s true in some ways. But for me, a family is formed when you go through hell together but still find a reason to smile. It’s formed when you can be dead tired and mentally drained at 2 AM while finishing your work, and you can still smile or laugh at each other for no reason. It’s when you learn to appreciate every little thing your colleagues bring to the table, be it their creativity or noise or hyper-ness. That’s what I found in this publication.

A few months back, I was selected to become one of the editors of this publication for next academic year. I know how hard being a writer is, but I can only imagine how much more stressful and draining life would be as an editor. But I won’t quit. I won’t leave. I’ll serve in this publication to the best of my abilities for as long as I need to.

To fellow student journalists who dedicate themselves to their publications, kudos to you. Kudos to all of us.

Cheers.

Rise Over Run

Today is the final day of my Christmas vacation, and tomorrow is when everything goes back to normal. I wake up early, I go to school, I sit through lectures, then go back home. As I lay in bed, purposely ignoring the academic requirements I should really be getting to, I began to ponder about my education so far.

I have never considered myself good with numbers – because I’m not. I was okay with math in elementary. By okay, I meant I passed. In high school, I failed a few exams in my first two years but later redeemed myself with high grades in the last two years. But those high grades weren’t a result of my intelligence or practice or advance reading. In junior year, I got extra incentives in geometry because my friends and I were close to our teacher. In senior year, I got decent scores in the first few trigonometry exams. But in our final exam, my friends and I cheated by passing around the scratch paper we wrote our equations and solutions on.

Simply put, I genuinely sucked at math.

Fast-forward to my college life. In 2012, I officially became a proud student of the health sciences center of the premier state university of our country. While some of its degree programs belonged to the liberal arts and social sciences, majority of what it offered were still health-related. As a result, it was recognized for having more difficult math and science subjects.

Unfortunately for me, I was required to take 2 math subjects within my freshman year. In the first semester, I took and passed Math 1 which had something to do with logic and truth tables. But in the second semester, I had to take Math 11: College Algebra. When my parents and friends asked me how I felt about it, I would just tell them I was nervous. The truth was that I was scared.

Dozens of students regularly fail Math 11 every semester. Some of them wait until summer to retake it. Some of them cross-register to another campus and take it there. Over the years, it had caused many students to become depressed and insecure, or worse, have their graduation delayed.

After five months of hard work, determination, and perseverance, I failed. It was my first time failing a subject in college. I felt bad, even though I wasn’t the only one who failed. I only told my parents about it through text because I didn’t want to tell them in person. They were supportive, and told me to do better next time.

I smiled. I laughed it off. But deep inside, I wanted to quit. I wanted to leave this prestigious university and transfer somewhere where I wouldn’t fail anymore. I considered taking the easy way out.

But I’m still here now. Who or what made me stay? The very professor who gave me that failing grade. He was a great teacher, by anybody’s standards. But I consider him to be an even better motivator.

He talked about how he himself failed several times in college. How he didn’t graduate with latin honors. How he only got average grades. Then he asked us, non-verbatim, “Does knowing how I was before decrease the respect you have for me now?” The whole class answered no.

He asserted that grades don’t matter in the long run. That whatever number or letter you get as a measure of your performance in a single class won’t determine your performance for the rest of your life. That learning and understanding the reasoning behind solutions is more important than memorizing and copying the solutions themselves. He told us that it’s not failures that define a person, but how s/he learns from them and moves on. And he told us that if we must die, we better die fighting.

There’s a lot of wisdom he shared with us, but one quote ties them all together: rise over run.

In math, rise over run is the ratio of the vertical change (rise) to the horizontal change (run) between two distinct points on a line.  But as my professor said, rise over run can be defined differently. For him, it meant that instead of running away from challenges that we think are too hard or impossible to overcome, we should always rise to the challenge.

And that’s what I did. In the summer before my sophomore year, I took Math 11 for the second time. And I passed. I didn’t get a super high grade, but that didn’t matter to me anymore.

I’ve only failed once so far, and I don’t know how many more failures are in store for me. What I do know is that I’ll always live by those words. Rise over run.

This post was inspired by a prompt from the 365 Writing Prompts: Tell us about a teacher who had a real impact on your life, either for the better or the worse. How is your life different today because of him or her?

Cheers.