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Change the conversation. Join the people’s struggle.

A good friend did me a favor by translating into English my Blog Action Day 2008 post which was originally written in Filipino. I hope this helps reach a wider audience.

Change the conversation

I congratulate my colleagues at Bloggers’ Kapihan for successfully leading the Blog Action Day 08 in the Philippines and in raising calls for bloggers to take a stand on poverty.

It was not an easy decision for progressives to lead a call for an activity that would bring to fore their stand on poverty – an issue that could be considered very close to the hearts of progressives – and against the dominant views on the topic in the blogosphere.

If you will go through blogactionday.org and read some of the featured posts, you might easily detect what I refer to as the “dominant views”. To those who have seen them, the scene might be quite familiar. They have been sold to us before, with “cool” campaigns using artists and bands, led by institutions funded by big companies.

Indeed, something’s fishy. Something seems wrong with this scenario. And let’s try to understand it.

The poor won’t be blogging

We may not have to say it but on this day, it is not the poor who will tell their stories. This is not poor blogging day after all. Nobody of course, bothered to tell us that the poor will not be blogging today. In sum, the posts today are about the poor and poverty, from a perspective not from the ones who actually experience it. Or at least, not from those who will admit to experiencing it.

Thus, those who do not experience poverty are now examining poverty. In so doing, poor people are treated like “others” and “different” from those who are themselves talking about poverty. Whatever this does to the poor is unimportant because after all, they don’t blog and they don’t have access to internet. But the important thing to note is that such discussions worsen and tolerate the views and illusions coming from the middle-class bloggers that they are not poor, that poverty is irrelevant to them (aside from expressing “concern” for the poor), and that they’re different from the poor.

Poverty in understanding

It is thus no wonder that the blogosphere generally belittles the issue of poverty, as if it is a mere topic for a blog post they will write, perhaps considered only as important as environmental issues, culture, a TV show or web design. Poverty is viewed as only one of many problems, nothing is more or less important, and not the single-biggest problem facing the world today. Never mind if more than half of the world’s people are poor.

For many in the blogosphere, poverty is portrayed as just an aberration that may be solved from within the current social set-up. We only need to blog, to donate, to buy coffee with the flavor of the month that provides aid to the poor in Africa, etc.

It is as if only a few people are poor and that it is a social “abrnomality”, when it is a matter of fact that poverty exists as a norm and that more people are becoming poorer and poorer. It is as if people now have “equal opportunities” and the capability to get rich if only they exert effort.

Such views are a big joke really. These views try to erase the truth that the present system lives by exploiting the majority. Poverty is not an exception to the rule; it is the rule. Poverty is natural under the present system where wealth is monopolized by a few and these same few viciously exploit workers and the people. This poverty is not brought about by anything else except the exploitation by a handful few. And until genuine social change comes, poverty will only get worse.

Look at what are listed in big sites on what we “can do” to fight poverty: get rich (yes, someone actually included that), stop eating meat, adopt children, donate to institutions, buy certain “compassionate” products, etc. These meanwhile we cannot find: Act for social change, organize to end imperialism, fight for fundamental rights and welfare of people to wages, jobs and rights.

Change the discussions, raise the ante of actions

It is thus very refreshing to “change the conversation”. And for progressive bloggers, this is not just rhetoric/al but a serious matter altogether.

We want to share to bloggers that if we are truly serious in defeating poverty, it should start with social change. If the advice to students is “not to let yourselves be imprisoned in the four corners of the classroom”, we say to bloggers: “don’t limit yourselves in the four corners of your computer screens”. The revolution we need is definitely not virtual.

Progressives wrote excellent posts on Blog Action Day ’08. Anton invited us to visit the workers’ picketline at Kowloon. Bikoy and Danny Arao meanwhile shed light on the warped perspectives on blogging. Tonyo honored the heroes of the struggling masses and exposed the root cause of poverty. Nato showed how the dominant few are not content in keeping the poor poor; they even try to hoodwink them.

My hope is that when Blog Action Day ends, many more will start frank discussions on poverty. Not just in the blogosphere but also in factories, communities, farms and the streets. Not just to express and to expose, but to engage in social change that is crucial in putting an end to poverty.

“Change the conversation. Join the people’s struggle.”