The month’s been long and it isn’t even over yet. Much of my mind and heart have been taken over by Lumad stories, ones that we rarely hear about first hand, and so it’s been critical (at least for me) to hear the Lumad themselves speak.
But of course this came with the realization of distance. How far is a land like Mindanao to Luzon, how far is Surigao, Davao, CARAGA, SOCCSKARGEN, from Manila. If the silence that surrounded the Lumad killings are any indication, it could be a continent, a country, a whole world away.
That it is like Paris, that it is not Paris, is precisely the point.
Certainly we grieve the way we know how, for the things that we can wrap our heads around. And certainly this is about media — social and otherwise — giving us the tools with which to tell our friends and ourselves that we are one with another’s grief and loss and anger. And no, I do not judge you for grieving for one and not the other, or for articulating your unity with one and not the other — social media cannot be a measure of who we are as people, and what we think, and how we feel.
And yet, and this is a fact: on social media and beyond, what resonates too are our silences.
It is also what matters when you consider that “public opinion” — at least in this country, and given this government — is measured via social media.
Which is to say that what we fall silent about is counted and measured as much — if not more than — what we put up a status about, what we do to our profile pics, what we say in 140 characters.
And no this is not to question the compassion and sympathy we have for Paris. It is only to point out that what we choose to be silent about is as important as what we choose to talk about. Even more so on social media, given the way governments and institutions now operate with a sense of “a public” that might be judged, and measured, and used given its behavior online.
It’s only to ask: when we are quick to stand against one kind of violence, but fall silent on another form of violence, what standards are we using to choose one over the other. I have a sinking feeling that we are not even really conscious about making that choice. It’s also entirely possible that these choices are also now controlled by, manipulated by, the powers-that-be on the internet and social media.
I wonder about these in light of the back and forth between activists turning offensive with regard the silence on the violence against the Lumad; and many-a-Pinoy on my network turning defensive in their sympathy for Paris. What is most interesting to me — at least right now — is the defensiveness. It is the same kind that I saw and heard in UP Economics students early last week, when they said they fall silent on issues because they would rather solve the roots of our problems. When they said that what is on their Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts could not be a measure of where they stand on issues.
Certainly. But when what we articulate is seen to form public opinion, what we do not talk about will be read as a measure of disinterest, too.
Yet another thing to think about in times like this one. But (more) important readings:
Lumad stories via Ma’am Inday Varona
Lumad children will not forget
No Paradise Lost for Lumad children
UNHCR: Lumad need presence of NGOs, religious groups
On the Lumad, so far
Beyond mainstream news #StopLumadKillings
Poverty, mining, violence #StopLumadKillings
Standing for the Lumad #StopLumadKillings
Meet the Lumad
The Lumad first
The Lumad challenge
The Lumad and radio silence