Thursday, February 3, 2011

Of Revolutions

In another part of the world right now, people are fighting hard to see genuine democracy emerge and flourish in their lifetime. Twenty-five years ago in this very country, people have struggled for the same thing. And some time before that, Ateneans of incomparable passion--Edgar Jopson, Emannuel Lacaba, and Evelio Javier, to name a few--defied what was 'expected' of them as Ateneans. They died for the cause of freedom from the tethers of tyranny.

Yet today in the very confines of the university, democracy is constantly under threat of disintegration. The Sanggunian elections, a process supposedly instituted to engage Ateneans and their democratic commitments, barely receive any substantial amount of fervor except from the candidates themselves. Electoral failures have been a common occurrence in the polls. At first glance, the most convenient justification would be our contemporary societal and cultural anxiety about democracy itself. But then again, the Ateneans' mobilization for last year's national elections refutes this to some extent.

So why the disparity? Why is there something amiss when it comes to the student body's concern for the Sanggunian?

Is it because the Sanggunian failed to implement more projects for the students? Is it because of the inherent challenges to logistical organization? Or is it because the Sanggunian has failed to make itself an essential institution in the university life of Ateneans--to the point that it has been perceived as an alien, opaque, and exclusive sort of circle? The Society is inclined to believe that the Sanggunian's faltering struggle to make itself 'relevant' is because of the latter reason: present systems of inclusion and representation are either shallow or misconstrued. Take for instance the assertion of some that 'your Sanggunian' is a co-formator. This claim violently reverses what a student government ought to be. The student government should not be a mere appendage of the powers-that-be. The student government must be the vessel by which students course through their contentions about the 'rules of the game'.

Ateneans deserve more than officers who act as mere relayers of information or policies that have already been decided. The powerless House of Representatives haphazardly organized by the Sanggunian solely for the botched College Fair initiative is an example of such attempts to create empty gestures of consultation and representation. Channels of debate must be built from the grassroots level, and not from the inconspicuous circles of those who already think on the level of 'what's-in-it-for-me'. Sometimes we cannot blame individuals alone, for the institution as it is perpetuates this culture of convenience and complicity.

There still are, of course, some good men and women inside the Sanggunian; perhaps there are a lot more outside of it. What we are calling for is utmost engagement and vigilance in the upcoming Sanggunian elections. It is our sole autonomous student government. The task of making it truly ours is not a matter of choice; it is a matter of responsibility. A revolution in the Ateneo is waiting in the wings. Will Ateneans make it happen?