WOES AND VIRTUES

My last class had just ended, and I was on my way to the library when a thought suddenly came to my mind. And before I knew it, I was again off to another one of my intellectual escapades, which, I must say, has developed in me a particular liking for ideas I don’t actually bother to entertain in what might have been different circumstances.

At that very moment I had just passed by a small mob, which was staging a protest rally against one particular issue concerning the student population of the very university I am currently enrolled in. They were quite a vigilant lot. One, which I assumed to be the leader, was carrying around a megaphone, which he used occasionally to air out grievances against the school administration. The rest provided additional support through chants and banners that they constantly waved in front of the onlookers, such as myself. Their noise was certainly heard. It reverberated across the halls of nearby school buildings. And their passion was equally visible. Their eyes glowed with fiery fervor and unrelenting rage. People passing by could not help but take second glances at this bunch.

But, unfortunately, it was all that…. and nothing more.

As I stood there and tried to make something out of all the people that were present at that moment, what gradually dawned upon me was the realization of how pathetic and utterly pitiful the sight really was.

Here was a group of individuals who, despite their different backgrounds, found it upon themselves the responsibility to take up the cudgels and stand up for the rights of their fellow students. They saw the urgency of their actions and understood the cause they were trying to fight for. And then, just nearby were the rest of their fellows who did nothing as much as stand there and gawk as if looking at some circus act, themselves seemingly unaffected by everything that was actually happening right there and then.

Now this was no isolated incident. I have been in the university for, more or less, three years. I have seen how this spectacle has been repeated over and over again. And, after having done so, I cannot help but feel helpless and saddened at the very disheartening situation. I myself have joined one or two of such campus rallies. I have experienced how it feels to stand there and be stared at by people that I know. Their faces speak of wonder, and perhaps even amusement. In their minds probably linger questions like, “how could he join such pointless acts?” or “what could he probably gain by participating in things like that?”

I have no answers to offer them. For worthy endeavors usually don’t have some attractive rewards attached to them. You join a rally and you’ll probably miss a class or two. You join a rally and there’s a chance you might get hurt should it turn violent. You join a lot of rallies, and it’ll probably affect your academic standing, as you absent yourself from more and more of your classes, and miss more and more course requirements. You might be branded as a red. You might be called an atheist, a nihilist, a subversive, an enemy of the state, or by any other name the imaginative mind can most certainly cook up.

These and a lot more await any would-be activist. And it is not as encouraging and exciting as any prudent-minded individual might think. In fact, it is quite the very opposite of it.

But then, even as I say all these, I cannot segregate myself from the very people I appear to criticize. For as of now, I have refrained from continuing to join any of such mobs, which continue to exist in the university despite the discouraging times. And I hate myself for it. There are so many things to fight for, so many things to uphold. But there are fewer people to do so. And time is not just about to stop and wait before everybody realizes this.

Every so often, I wish I didn’t have my grades to worry about. If only education were utterly for free, and one could take it at one’s own choosing without having to think about of the people who also work so hard so that you might get the necessary knowledge that they deem you are worthy of. If only one were completely free, that, coupled with equal responsibility, one could easily manage to go about a carefree life. If only these were so.

But life is full of “if’s.” This is why we have choices. It is up to us to choose what, for us, is right at one particular moment. And whatever we decide to do, we will have to live with for the rest of our lives.

At this point, my brief mental adventure comes to pause. I start walking again, leaving behind me the situation I have just described. And so, as I near the library entrance I take one last look at the direction from which I came.

I sigh. I am ashamed of my indifference and of my selfish dreams. The only consolation I have is the thought that at least, I admit that I am wrong. This, while others continue with their lives carrying with them the false belief that their apathy and pride would hurt no one else but themselves. Perhaps before they die some miraculous event would happen and change their mind. At least they cease to exist, understanding their very existence.

As for me, the battle rages on in my mind, in my own dreams. Maybe the time will come when I will change my mind. Maybe not. There is no certain answer, and there is no certain future.

But then again, there never was.

 

NOTES: July 17, 2000. This piece needs little introduction to those who know me well. It’s my Youngblood piece.