Alex Eala

[EDITORIAL] 2019’s lesson for 2020: There will be pushback
[EDITORIAL] 2019’s lesson for 2020: There will be pushback
From Greta Thunberg, the LGBTQ+, the #metoo movement, the fact-checkers to the Magnitsky activists, history slams us with one truth: 'power is not given, it is taken'

It’s been a difficult year, heck, it’s been a difficult decade. 

Kicked off by global financial crises around the world, the 2010s saw China flex its muscles as a superpower, while Japan’s economy dimmed. The decade saw Russia’s information warfare influence American elections that put in office the most divisive US president, right after it had its historic first black president.

In the Philippines, a president who lost his popularity to a botched military mission paved the way for a new leader who cemented his popularity on a foul mouth and a bloody drug war. Globally, democracy came under attack while authoritarians gained traction. And with that backslide came impunity. 

In the aftermath of Osama bin Laden’s death, terrorism epicenters shifted from Al Qaeda to the more virulent ISIS. Polarization grew among races, seeing a rise in right-wing identity politics. 

It was the decade of man vs machines: the internet of things, influencer marketing, and digital surveillance clashed with data privacy. It saw the rise of fake news and hate speech.

Social media bankrupted newspapers and shifted power to the new money-obsessed gatekeepers of information, Facebook and Google. 

It wasn’t all bad. In this decade, the kids are all right, as millennials were pronounced the best-behaved generation, with teenage pregnancies, alcohol, and drug-use at all-time lows.  

Also in this decade, the LGBTQ+ redefined love and marriage; the Me Too movement tore down the walls of silence and shame for abused women; fact-checkers and journalists sifted through the lies. This year, a 16-year-old wisp of a girl, gen Z Greta Thunberg, shook the world from its stupor on climate change.

This year, human rights violators all over the world realized there may be no such thing as impunity after all – as blowback came in the form of the Magnitsky Act and similar legislation all over the world including Canada, the United Kingdom, and hopefully Australia. Under the law, Philippine officials involved in human rights violations face the prospect of being denied visas and having their assets abroad frozen. 

In the realm of extrajudicial killings, human trafficking, fake news, LGBT discrimination, climate change, violence against women, threatened press freedom, and even weight and beauty biases – advocates, as well as ordinary people, are holding the line. But holding the line is a mid-game strategy.

2019 brought us an important lesson: there will be pushback. From Thunberg, the LGBTQ+, the #metoo movement, fact-checkers to the Magnitsky activists, history slams us with one truth: “Power is not given, it is taken.” 

People’s brains will still be splattered on the streets or in front of their children – if we don’t push back. Single-use plastic will continue to cause floods and poison our soil – if we don’t push back. Governments will not move on climate change commitments – if we don’t push back. Women will be disrespected, more and more in the guise of good intentions – if we don’t push back. Fake news and disinformation will plant more insidious lies – if we don’t push back.

Let us welcome 2020 with a clear mind and situational awareness. It’s an understatement to say it’s a far more complex world than 10 years ago. As the lines between right and wrong continuously shift and blur and the gray areas expand – it’s no longer simple to rally behind the truth.

That is why truthtelling and sharp analysis will need to go hand in hand. That is also why social media engagements will not be enough to build communities. It may be the entry point but will not be the foundation of social change especially in untangling lies and showing the way forward. Instead, we will all need to educate, inspire, and lead movements.

Some of us held the line in 2019, now it’s time for all of us to push back. –

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