“I think that this captivating feeling of being relevant forms part of our reality of being men and women…”
Some call them rebels. I admire my schoolmates and teachers from the University of the Philippines Integrated School because of their staunch convictions in life. They are no-nonsense people, and they surely know how to make a stand – in fact, in all issues in life, they have something to say. There is no middle ground for them.
While other youths may be self-absorbed or indifferent, people from my school strained their throats on the streets, fighting for what they think is just and right for society. Some of them have become activists as early as high school, more joined during college and a few even became full-time activists later on.
It is with respect when I remember a friend of mine from high school, who is a bright and talented student and writer, became an activist when he stepped into college. Instead of pursuing a more visible career as perhaps being a full-time writer (as he was a writer of the university publication before) or a filmmaker (as that was his college degree), he opted to be a full-time activist. It is with endearment when I remember him because he is surely one of those young gifted people who could have ended up building a glorious career for themselves. However, he instead chose to mind others and not to be cooped up in his own affairs. My friend is an example of those activists whom I respect because the battle they wage is not only theirs alone but encompass that of many others too.
I do not know how people become personally engaged in political revolutions. If ever, life offers a general trajectory that would lead them to be one. Whether they were born passionate people, disgruntled workers later on or they were once indifferent people who were moved to rally in the streets for a certain cause—these are not guarantees. What is important to realize is that whatever the personality of the young person is, there is fire in an individual that can be stoked. A youth’s revolutionary spirit can thus be ignited.
Pursuit of Higher Ideals
From my observation, young rebels like to be useful in this world. They discover that there is something bigger, something grander than their petty selves. It is worthwhile to stand up for one’s rights, as a Bob Marley song goes.
The experience of being pushed forward in life by the waves of society’s ills and cries (of wanting to build a better future for the next generations) may truly lead to the delight of being useful and important in this life. I think that this captivating feeling of being relevant forms part of our reality of being men and women – we are creatures built with emotions and affections. There is nothing wrong with feeling good about ourselves when we pursue and fight for social good; however, I think it has to go beyond mere feelings and passions.
When the rebels end up getting enmeshed only with the positive feelings brought about by their crusade for the common good, it could happen that instead of finding their raison d’être, they may end up finding a broken and jaded image of themselves.
“And so they discover that the lasting happiness that people can attain is only brought about by the things that extend even beyond one’s lifetime – those values and principles that impress lasting changes upon others…”
The True Rebels
The true rebels may not be just the ones who are always on the streets and the firebrands that the policemen shoo away. It is not only those whose voices are a rallying cry springing from their wailing throats but those whose deeds speak. The weapons of the true rebels are not merely the glaring placards and burning effigies showing disdain for the world’s faults, but they are their assertive convictions and actions to say no to the futile and fleeting comforts, promises and lures of this world.
The true rebels thrust themselves forward to those questions that pertain to the essence of life such as being, living, and dignity. They have the courage to find out the reason why there is a vacuum in one’s life, and to go against the grain if the answer requires them to go beyond the comfortable portals of their life.
They realize that the happiness found in merely earthly pleasures and gains are ephemeral, and common experience proves that. People may be very happy today, but the same degree of happiness may not persist until the next day. And so they discover that the lasting happiness that people can attain is only brought about by the things that extend even beyond one’s lifetime – those values and principles that impress lasting changes upon others and communities like uprightness, compassion, empathy, the common good, social justice, and friendship. And to raise the notch higher, this happiness is found to be even greater when these principles are pegged not only at principles per se, but if they are incarnated in people. That in the end, the pursuit of ideals and principles do not exist in a vacuum, but they are found in concrete persons.
The search for answers then leads them to know themselves more and their fellow men and women. They get to soil their hands, so to speak. Eventually, they witness the filth of humanity, but in spite of it all, the rebels find beauty in the midst of ugliness and lowliness. They see souls who are scarred and wounded, but are struggling. They get to realize that all human beings are the same after all, whatever their educational, social, religious or political background is.
In the process, the “rebels” who are initially attracted to the higher ideals in life are eventually led to discover that by going beyond mere passions in fighting tooth and nail for what is right and just in a society, by linking their life to others, and by respecting the common human dignity shared by all, they are also championing the purpose of their life and securing their enduring happiness.
Written by Pia M. Lorenzo, WYA Member and published writer from the Philippines. E-mail Pia at firstname.lastname@example.org.