By RUTH LUMIBAO
Back in college, the Solidaridad bookstore was a refuge for me. Inasmuch as I may not agree with some of the principles that its owner espoused, it served as a haven for someone like me who grew tired of young teen books, classics, and fictional novels, and craved for something real. Something grounded. Something different.
Solidaridad provided something different. Something unusual in a society flooded with mainstream books that evoked emotions and contributed to the art of writing, but failed to reflect the true people’s stories. It was in Solidaridad that I found thought-provoking books, less mainstream books written by Filipino authors based on the realities of Philippine society. Yes, some of them were fiction but they reflected reality. Some were about monsters but they were metaphors for the true monsters we despise in our society.
The vandalizing spree on two bookstores in Metro Manila, known for offering socially-relevant books to the public, only proves what state agents fear and want to avoid — the empowerment of the Filipino people.
Who would be threatened with the accessibility of Renato Constantino’s A Past Revisited and The Continuing Past? Who would be threatened with the accessibility of Tecson’s Philippine Politics and the Marcos Technocrats?
I remember in one class, we discussed how empirical studies found that a revolt does not usually start with the poor and the oppressed. Not because they do not want justice, but because of the unfortunate reality that they are not aware of their own rights and political power.
No wonder Solidaridad and the Popular Bookstore pose such a great threat to those who conveniently wield power and feed on the ignorance of the Filipino people. No wonder state agents have been rabidly red-tagging the vocal community leaders and legislators.
For the poor, knowledge is a source of empowerment. And empowered people fight for what is rightfully theirs — social services, equality, accountability, justice. Knowledge is, after all, power.
As Mao once said, “A single spark can start a prairie fire.” Someone seems to be trying to keep the spark out — restraining and repressing it. Someone is scared of the people’s awakening. Someone is utterly scared of the people’s collective strength.