On Mutual Aid by Ricky C. Ornopia

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Share whatever you could with whoever is needy.” (“Bahaginan ng makakaya ang alin mang nagdaralita.”) It was 8th from the ten duties as a member of Kataas-Kataasang Kagalang-galangang Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan (KKK).

In the past few days, the Maginhawa Community Pantry along Maginhawa Street in Teachers Village, Quezon City caught the attention of netizens and the media. “Magbigay ayon sa kakayahan, kumuha ayon sa panangailangan” (give what you can, get what you need) was written in uppercase on the cut scratch cardboard box which was taped to a lamp post where a small bamboo cart was set up on the alley. It aims to help temporarily the people who are having a hard time finding food amid the pandemic. This is not the first case of compassion in the present time.

Nearly a year ago, at the height of the implementation of Enhanced Community Quarantine, ten (10) individuals got arrested while preparing to conduct a feeding program in Marikina City. It had a chilling effect on whoever wants to help and express their critical opinion. On the other hand, Marikina City Mayor Marcelino Teodoro promptly ordered the law enforcers to set free these arrested individuals. They were eventually set free and continued their feeding program under the loose volunteer group Bayanihang Marikenyo.
Various Community Pantries spearheaded by cause-oriented orgs, socio-civic organizations, or just kind-hearted individuals have become a trend in several (r)urban areas. Kababaeyanihan, Kusinang Bayan, Tulong Obrero, Libre Lahat, and Food Not Bombs have been conducting these feeding programs. The latter has regularly conducted feeding programs even before the pandemic. They also have educational discussions and cultural activities while participants are eating or doing barter for their “free for all” items displayed.
The Food Not Bombs movement started in 1980 in Cambridge and was founded by volunteer individuals who were anti-nuclear weapons and anti-war activists. They believe that food is a basic human right and it did not require to ask a permit to cook and share the food with others who are in need. It became a global network to address the issue of starvation and political repression.

Peter Kropotkin, a Russian revolutionary published 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘊𝘰𝘯𝘲𝘶𝘦𝘴𝘵 𝘰𝘧 𝘉𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘥 (1892) and 𝘔𝘶𝘵𝘶𝘢𝘭-𝘈𝘪𝘥: 𝘈 𝘍𝘢𝘤𝘵𝘰𝘳 𝘰𝘧 𝘌𝘷𝘰𝘭𝘶𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯 (1902), theoretical writings on how society develops through cooperation and competition. According to him, the tendency of human-aid is remote in origin and interwoven with humanity and has been maintained by mankind.

Last year, Bas Umali, an NGO worker and a propagandist of anarchist ideas explained in his book 𝘗𝘢𝘯𝘨𝘢𝘺𝘢𝘸 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘋𝘦𝘤𝘰𝘭𝘰𝘯𝘪𝘻𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘙𝘦𝘴𝘪𝘴𝘵𝘢𝘯𝘤𝘦: 𝘈𝘯𝘢𝘳𝘤𝘩𝘪𝘴𝘮 𝘪𝘯 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘗𝘩𝘪𝘭𝘪𝘱𝘱𝘪𝘯𝘦𝘴 that only providing food cannot change the world. Further, feeding activities is a kind of mass political action without any intermediaries. It could be a critique to machineries of hierarchy. Bas belongs to Local Autonomous Network (LAN) composed of several info shops and individuals who regularly conduct feeding program and cultural events. “Aparato ng Estado! Durugin! Wasakin! Gawing Pagkain!” (“State Apparatus! Smash! Destroy! Turn it into food!”) The slogan that usually associated to their network. He cautiously advised that whoever conducts feeding programs should contribute to education and realize the bigger issue of food security. Also, he espouses the idea that social revolution is a process by which people will be educated on the evil of the state; to abolish hierarchy and regain self-determination.
It echoed the characters in the novel 𝘉𝘢𝘯𝘢𝘢𝘨 𝘢𝘵 𝘚𝘪𝘬𝘢𝘵 written by Lope K. Santos. That work of Santos was one of the classic Tagalog novels and is considered relevant to the spread of socialist and anarchist discourse in the labor movement in the Philippines. The term social revolution (𝘳𝘦𝘣𝘰𝘭𝘶𝘴𝘺𝘰𝘯 𝘴𝘰𝘴𝘺𝘢𝘭) constantly appears throughout the literary work and its relation to human emancipation is discussed. One of the protagonists explains, “Because the genuine Social revolution that must take place, anywhere, is the one that will destroy the authorities who are a hindrance to achieving the genuine and natural freedom of people.” (“Sapagka’t ang tunay na Rebolusyon sosyal na dapat mangyari at saan pa man, ay iyang magguguho sa lahat ng mga kapangyarihang makakagambala sa pagkaganap ng tunay at katutubong kalayaan ng tao.”) An interesting book to be read amid great adversity and the failure of state and bureaucracy in providing rights and welfare for workers.

Interestingly, the pamphlet 𝘋𝘢𝘭𝘢𝘸𝘢𝘯𝘨 𝘔𝘢𝘨𝘣𝘶𝘣𝘶𝘬𝘪𝘥 of the Italian anarchist and labor leader Errico Malatesta is freely accessible online. Originally, it was translated in Tagalog and serialized in a periodical in 1910 and to be compiled in 1913. It was in the form of a dialogue. It is favorable and can be easily digested by someone who is curious and dares to read it during this time. Through that work, Malatesta briefly discussed the concepts of cooperation, good deeds, mutual aid, class antagonism and social change. For him, the oppressed must realize that the salvation lies in the maturation of their social consciousness and that they must take control of the mode of production for their class interest through collectivization. Here’s an excerpt from one of his works that can be access online for free. “We are to avoid competition and hatred between diverse countries, it is needful to establish perfect solidarity between the men of the whole world. Therefore, 𝐢𝐧𝐬𝐭𝐞𝐚𝐝 𝐨𝐟 𝐫𝐮𝐧𝐧𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐫𝐢𝐬𝐤 𝐨𝐟 𝐦𝐚𝐤𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐚 𝐜𝐨𝐧𝐟𝐮𝐬𝐢𝐨𝐧 𝐢𝐧 𝐭𝐫𝐲𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐭𝐨 𝐝𝐢𝐬𝐭𝐢𝐧𝐠𝐮𝐢𝐬𝐡 𝐰𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐈 𝐞𝐚𝐜𝐡 𝐝𝐨, 𝐥𝐞𝐭 𝐮𝐬 𝐚𝐥𝐥 𝐰𝐨𝐫𝐤 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐩𝐮𝐭 𝐞𝐯𝐞𝐫𝐲𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐢𝐧 𝐜𝐨𝐦𝐦𝐨𝐧. 𝐈𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐰𝐚𝐲 𝐞𝐚𝐜𝐡 𝐰𝐢𝐥𝐥 𝐠𝐢𝐯𝐞 𝐭𝐨 𝐬𝐨𝐜𝐢𝐞𝐭𝐲 𝐚𝐥𝐥 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐬𝐭𝐫𝐞𝐧𝐠𝐭𝐡 𝐩𝐞𝐫𝐦𝐢𝐭𝐬 𝐮𝐧𝐭𝐢𝐥 𝐞𝐧𝐨𝐮𝐠𝐡 𝐢𝐬 𝐩𝐫𝐨𝐝𝐮𝐜𝐞𝐝 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐞𝐯𝐞𝐫𝐲 𝐨𝐧𝐞; 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐞𝐚𝐜𝐡 𝐰𝐢𝐥𝐥 𝐭𝐚𝐤𝐞 𝐚𝐥𝐥 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐡𝐞 𝐧𝐞𝐞𝐝𝐬, 𝐥𝐢𝐦𝐢𝐭𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐧𝐞𝐞𝐝𝐬 𝐨𝐧𝐥𝐲 𝐢𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐨𝐬𝐞 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐧𝐠𝐬 𝐨𝐟 𝐰𝐡𝐢𝐜𝐡 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐫𝐞 𝐢𝐬 𝐧𝐨𝐭 𝐲𝐞𝐭 𝐩𝐥𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐲 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐞𝐯𝐞𝐫𝐲 𝐨𝐧𝐞.”
The stories of 𝘵𝘶𝘭𝘶𝘯𝘨𝘢𝘯, 𝘣𝘢𝘩𝘢𝘨𝘪𝘯𝘢𝘯 or mutual aid (𝘥𝘢𝘮𝘢𝘺𝘢𝘯) attracts good vibes and has influenced others to do it in their own areas and localities. However, only a few noticed that this phenomenon is the effect of the shortcomings and dismay to the state has caused its people. The dregs of the earth felt abandoned and needed to do several street smart mechanisms (𝘥𝘪𝘴𝘬𝘢𝘳𝘵𝘦) in order to survive daily while the the COVID-19 contagion still surges. An anthropologist once said that civilization started when early human beings started helping each other overcome their difficulties.

Let us plant seeds of moral forces and critical thinking today so we can reap the harvest of a better tomorrow.

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