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Apoliticism: The Other Pandemic

Words By Angela Noelle Encarnacion
Art by Krischelle Cadao

More than three months have passed since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic, which resulted in requiring everyone to stay indoors, wear masks, and maintain social distancing. However, even with safety as our primary concern, it is especially important to be aware of the events that take place outside our homes. Remaining isolated from the world doesn’t mean that society has been put on hold.

If anything, now is the best time to be informed and actively engage in issues that occur on both national and global scales. To be neutral on these issues would not only resolve nothing, but it may even support the oppressor’s side. This is why none of us can afford to be apolitical.

An apolitical person has very little to no interest in participating in social and political affairs manifesting in their communities or around the world. Unfortunately, there is a growing population of people who fit into this description. I argue that if this population remains in the “grey area”, then numerous issues would come to a standstill while victims of social issues will continue to face injustice.

Understandably, many of us would rather focus on surviving despite the lack of resources, avoiding imminent danger, and preventing the degradation of our mental health. Some people also choose to avoid delving into the political world because of its negative connotation. This disengagement in itself nullifies politics in its simplest form—a collaboration of people or groups aiming to acquire solutions to problems. In this sense, the purpose of being socially and politically engaged should be fully realized.

As the pandemic persists, some issues have been brought back into the public consciousness. In the United States, anti-racism protests fill the streets as many seek justice for African Americans and stand against police brutality. After the tragic death of George Floyd under the custody of a white police officer and the re-emergence of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) Movement, discussions on the century-old problem of racism in America have been reignited.

In Hong Kong, despite the pandemic, protests online and on the streets against the tightening grip of the Chinese government continue. This June marks the anniversary of the anti-extradition protests, which signaled the start of the country’s anti-government protests. However, these protests are still being met with brutal force from the police and the debate on the extradition bill perpetuates.

In the Philippines, activists have expressed their dissent towards the government concerning their inability to address the country’s needs during the pandemic. What adds to this growing opposition is the introduction of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020. According to TheDiplomat.com, the bill would allow authorities to classify individuals and organizations as “suspected terrorists” without due process, and subject them to warrantless arrests. With this bill, our fundamental rights and freedoms can be compromised.

In light of the dangerous predicament the world is in, why would the masses risk their health to protest? One reason for this is the people’s conviction to stand for human rights whenever it is being challenged. In an Insider article, Dr. Ernest Brown said, "I am more than a physician, I am a human being and member of my community, and I need to be able to speak out about things I think are wrong about our society”. It’s through this reality that we can fully understand the severity of the pressing issues we face today.

To add to this, in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said:
“We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was "well timed" in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word "Wait!" It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This "Wait" has almost always meant "Never." We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that "justice too long delayed is justice denied."

Dr. King stood for the rights of Black Americans and criticized the "white moderate" - those that preferred keeping the status quo over standing for justice. This message is as true today as it was back then. The silence of moderates who don't want to "rock the boat" and speak up when faced with political issues exacerbates the tensions we have today. This is why is it is crucial that people use their political power to combat injustice and stand with the oppressed.

Considering the current health risks, there are safer activism alternatives that don't require going out of our homes. On social media, we can voice out our stance on issues that our country and/or the world is facing. By doing this, we can actively participate in social and political affairs and encourage others to do so as well. Furthermore, we can participate in online petitions that support people or organizations directly affected by these problems.

Although it may be true that protesting online can only do so much, the action of dedicating time, effort, and resources to inform and engage ourselves in these crucial conversations impacts⁠ ourselves and our immediate communities. Although apart and in quarantine, our collective effort can keep these movements alive and eventually reach those in power.

As COVID-19 persists, we must keep ourselves informed on local and global matters. Staying indoors does not mean we can shut the rest of the world out. Society continues to exist and constantly reconstructs itself through the decisions of its people. It is in both our individual and collective interests to become politically active and rightfully informed about our society.

For our readers at home, remember that to survive this pandemic, it is crucial to:

Wash your hands, distance yourself from others, and use your voice for action.

Petitions:

Black Lives Matter
Junk Terror Bill
Hong Kong

Useful Hashtags:

#BlackLivesMatter
#JunkTerrorBill
#FightForHongKong #HongKongProtests

JULY 1, 2020