The year of the protester


    ONLY 27 more days until 2020, and the cliché “time flies” will be on everyone’s lips once again. It seemed only yesterday that folks were chatting about new year’s resolutions and general speculations about what 2019 would bring, and here we are, barely a month away from 2020.

    Most folks write retrospectives to usher in the new year. Before the holiday rush settles in, I had some time to think about 2019 and what stood out the most in the public sphere. It was an easy choice to make: 2019 will go down as the year of the protester. From the alleys of Hong Kong to the streets of Chile, protesters have come out in droves to rally against injustices committed by their respective governments. If 2016 brought in the era of the Upside Down (a reference from the extremely popular Netflix series Stranger Things) then, as Anonymous writes: “History has a way of restoring balance.”

    From protesting an oppressive extradition bill in Hong Kong to railing against a proposed tax on messaging service Whatsapp in Lebanon, triggers that have unleashed the flood gates of anger vary from country to country. Bolivians took to the streets to protest widespread cheating in the election that gave Evo Morales another term, which resulted in Morales being forced out of office.

    One cannot miss the hundreds of thousands of people across the globe marching to raise awareness and spur action on climate change, lamenting that governments have not done enough to address the dying state of our planet. To an extent, the protesters have it right: while governments have acknowledged the massive effects of the climate crisis in our daily lives, not enough has been done to address the problem. Even Antonio Guterres, chief of the United Nations, has called worldwide efforts “utterly inadequate” at COP25. The proof is in the pudding: greenhouse gas emissions have risen to a record high in 2018, despite profuse commitments from politicians to take steps to lower it.

    This is one injustice that we don’t pay enough attention to as a nation, which is ironic since the Philippines is one of the countries most vulnerable to the climate crisis. We only need to look at the increasingly devastating effects of typhoons to our communities for proof of the climate crisis.

    In the United States, while there are no massive movements like those in Hong Kong or Bolivia, political turmoil has been afoot with the start of impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump. The latest polls show that half of Americans are in favor of impeaching their president, after it was revealed that he initially withheld military aid to Ukraine premised on the latter’s investigation of Hunter Biden, son of former vice president and now Democratic party hopeful Joe Biden. With the US elections in the horizon, and with the Republicans holding court in the US Senate, there’s no telling what will happen should the impeachment come to a trial. One thing is sure: the Democrats are not going down without a fight.

    Already, these pockets of resistance are producing results. The most notable success is the one in Bolivia, which resulted in the ousting of Morales. The Hong Kong protesters have been throwing eggs on China’s face every day that China has been unable to quell the protests. And we all know how embarrassing that is for China, which does not tolerate one bit of dissent on its shores. Chilean President Sebastian Piñera fired his entire cabinet, and has thrown out his entire economic agenda in order to placate protesters to get the country back under control.

    Those who resist might just rescue the world from the Upside Down, one protest at a time.