Friday, March 07, 2008

The point of rallies

The most forwarded column in is Dolly Anne Carvajal's “Dollywood.” A far second (by about 10 to1) is Conrad de Quiros's “There's the Rub.” Hovering close would probably be Manolo Quezon (MLQ3, from whom I got this bit of trivia) most likely because of his internet presence and because he's a voice of my generation of internet-savvy professionals.

Near the bottom of this list (I assume) are the guys in the inside pages (excluding the lifestyle section). These are the columnists who hardly get read or have a cult following. Of these my favorite is Honesto General, mainly because I have never agreed with anything he has written. His opinions almost always miss the point. And when he does make a point, it's almost always the one opposite mine.*

Take his latest one, for example, which recounts his negative impression of the Makati rally last Friday.

He doesn't differentiate between the actual “hakot” and the masa who sympathize but don't have money to bus themselves to the rally point. Attending a rally requires logistics. And while the Lasallistas and Assumptionistas who were there had their own cars and can afford makati parking rates, the poor folk need a bit more assistance. It takes money just to show up, something the poor (by definition) have very little of.

What bothers me is his insinuation that everyone there who was wearing tsinelas was a “mercenary.” He made no mention of talking to any of them, no pretext of objectivity, just the assumption that anyone dressed that way and milling around was hakot. He may be correct regarding the bused crowd, but his tone just smacks of elitism and a general disdain for anyone who doesn’t dress like him.

And the confetti. He calls the confetti “fake” because the high rise buildings were empty. This information he got from vendors, who told him that business was slow despite the thousands of people.

I don’t know where he gets his idea but people just don’t throw confetti out of buildings spontaneously.** It’s prepared. Does he expect office workers to suddenly shred documents and shove them out the window? Second, a guard would be a better person to ask regarding a building’s occupants. He can’t blame people who brought baon for the poor sales of vendors. Heck, he shouldn’t blame anyone; the rally isn’t there to increase the sale of street food.

But the biggest mistake he makes is assuming that the inter-faith rally was intended to become EDSA 4 (Ayala 1?), leading to a regime change. It seems he believes that rallies must have immediate results and that protesters should not go home until they get what they want. (To be fair, some of the younger rally-goers think this way, too.)

Which entirely misses the point. You can't criticize something for not doing what it didn't intend to do in the first place. [That, kids, is what's called a “straw man argument.”]

A rally is a statement of solidarity, a roll call of how many people actually support the cause. Whether 10, 20, or 80 thousand, what's important is that a great number of people considered the issue worthy enough to spend an afternoon out in the streets. In fact, if he stayed until the end of the program he would've heard the host telling the people to go home (next time na lang). No one was planning to stay there overnight until GMA steps down.

* * * * *

I read General the same way we all slow down to look at a traffic accident. A sense of morbid fascination combined with a bit of shadenfreude. I am simultaneously appalled and entertained by his non-sequiturs and faulty reasoning (and his conservative stance) and am thankful I think and write a little bit better.

[I even wonder sometimes if it's a pseudonym, because it describes the column perfectly. The guy is just being honest in telling everyone the generalizations he draws.]

It just irks me that the leading newspaper spends money and space on what can best be described as an old fogey’s blog entries.

*I say “almost always” just to cover my bases; maybe we have taken a similar position before.
** Even during Ninoy’s funeral. We prepared confetti to throw down the street back then. By we I mean the people in my parents’ office; I was just a happy six-year-old throwing stuff out the window.

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