I’m a student activist, but I haven’t told my family.
I often deny that I’m part of the movement, and do not talk about my belief in the necessity of a revolution. There’s always that fear they’ll reject me when they find out I also want to be a full-time activist, like the ones they see at the rallies (and hate).
We often talk about politics, so my activist views always get revealed. I also share my organization’s posts on social media. Relatives would tell me not to study at UP so I wouldn’t become an activist (well, I already am), and to beware of invitations to join the movement. They say that would lead me down the path of armed struggle, which I understand to be a decision someone willfully makes as their way of fighting injustice, not because they got brainwashed.
How can I explain and stand up for my politics without being red-tagged by my relatives?
Thank you – for your letter, and for choosing this path.
Every activist has a story of awakening, a story that begins with discomfort about things that didn’t seem right.Why are there people sleeping in the streets? Why do farmers go to bed hungry and workers live in shanties? Why do billionaires exist?
In our search for answers, we learn about forces that keep things this way. We become sad and angry and desperate for change. Then we meet kindred souls, and life is never the same again. There is, in a sense, no going back once we’ve shed our innocence about how the world works. You only either turn a blind eye to injustice, or you fight. Like James Baldwin wrote, “Precisely at the point when you begin to develop a conscience, you must find yourself at war with your society.”
I wish I could tell you it’s going to be easy. But this life, as you might know by now, is filled with risks, pain, and sacrifice. I can guarantee, too, that there’s not a lot of money here. But we learn along the way that there are risks worth taking, and things that give joy more than any amount of wealth and comfort can.
It doesn’t get talked about much, but activism introduces us to the best of humanity, the part that seeks to take care of others, the part that wants only the good things for others.
Many of us found, in the movement, a sense of purpose in an otherwise cruel world, and the chance to leave it better than we found it. Amid the struggle we discover strengths we did not know we have, the ability to bear so much grief, but also so much hope.
Here, we gain a community. We learn to lean on each other to surmount the insurmountable. There is, we realize, nothing stronger than kinships built around a common vision, nothing sweeter than triumphs achieved together, in battles fiercely fought.
One day, your family would see this too. And I think in the end, the way you live your life would be the ultimate testament to activism. You are your best weapon against red-tagging.
I hope you get to show your loved ones how, contrary to their fears, becoming ‘red’ is a wonderful thing. The movement molds young people into the finest of their generation: youth who are disciplined, hardworking, committed. Youth who do not cower in the face of might, and are unfazed by obstacles. Youth who are strong and brave, and open to all possibilities.
They find ways, not only through individual skills, but through the strength of the collective. They aspire not for piecemeal and selfish successes, but deep and lasting changes that benefit everybody.
I trust that your words, everyday actions, and life decisions will embody activist values and principles. That you will become a living example of compassion, and the ability to look at things from different perspectives.
Forgiving towards fellow oppressed (but not the oppressors), always mindful of the greater good. Reliably armed with brilliant questions, and a robust viewpoint on issues that matter to the people.
In case I’ve been too abstract, I mean that activist youth consistently show up, think deep, and act fast. They are considerate with other people’s time, and conscious of what needs to be done. They deploy their energy and attention smartly, and do not get consumed by the petty. When they speak to people, including their relatives, they are prepared to listen, and use the right language for the terrain. They’re keen on finding points of unity, and not just proving any theory.
They have not failed me thus far: always I get treated to inspiring accounts of getting over oneself and the expectations of society, of grit and determination to stay on this path, and from there, the gradual acceptance of and respect for their decisions.
I hope you keep choosing to be an activist. And I hope that, like many others, you find your happiness here.