The joys and costs of advocacy
By Prof. Emeritus Leonor Magtolis Briones / The Manila Times, March 3, 2014
THE JOYS. Advocacy is perhaps one of the most joyful and satisfying occupations one can possibly be engaged in. Friendships forged in a common advocacy are tightly bonded and can last a lifetime. The shared challenges, risks, the joys of learning together, planning actions and facing a common adversary add to lifelong memories which cannot be forgotten. And yes, joint sacrifices and difficulties strengthen ties of friendship and comraderie.
Few human experiences can match the “high” of pure sacrifice, the joy of giving and the satisfaction of pouring oneself into a cause without expectation of return and personal gain.
This is why those who give of themselves are the happiest people. As the good book says, “It is better to give than to receive.” The giver is always happier than the receiver.
Of course, there is also the joy of victory. These tend to be infrequent and short-lived but give inspiration and courage to continue the lifetime struggle to win the war, and not just the skirmishes.
THE COSTS. However, advocacy does not only give happiness. It has its costs, as well. Those who are in advocacy know this. Those at the sidelines think it is all joy, thrills and the excitement of challenging entrenched powers and bringing about change.
One major cost is family and friends. An advocacy can be so consuming one loses time for family and friends. Family gatherings are often sacrificed for meetings, lectures, fora, marches, dialogues and non-stop study and research. One drifts away from friends who don’t share the same political views or the same analysis of the national situation. One has very little time left to visit the sick and the dead. There is hardly enough time to attend weddings, baptisms and anniversaries. One can be too engrossed with the future of one’s country to have time for the simple joys of the present.
Personal advocacy cannot be sustained without support from family, friends and colleagues in work and profession. Families have to accept the neglect, the forgetfulness and the absences. They have to bear with family budget deficits because one is busy examining the deficit of the government. Friends have to pitch in when there is trouble—raise money, get lawyers, and in some instances hide the pursued from the pursuers.
And colleagues have to cover up when even work is neglected and abandoned. Without support from family, friends and colleagues, the person engaged in advocacy stumbles, crumbles and retreats in defeat.
Of course, there are real financial costs. One does not go into advocacy to get rich. The experience of parrying and debating, the added knowledge from constant studying, meeting and bonding with all kinds of people—these are all very enriching but never in financial terms.
Advocacy means spending one’s own money and in many instances, the family’s money. It means giving up lucrative opportunities when these are not compatible with one’s advocacies. It means having professional doors shut in one’s face because one is known to be outspoken and fearless. Who wants to engage somebody who just might expose shenanigans in an organization or office?
Giving up opportunities is an endless, matter-of-fact ritual. When one is young, it could be scholarships, a trip abroad, a cushy job or a major promotion.It could even be a downright, out and out bribe. When one gets older, it could be a chance to solve one’s financial woes one and for all, take care of one’s retirement, medical bills and the huge costs of the inevitable journey to the next dimension. All of these have to be given up and refused.
Finally, there are the risks which are just as real as the financial losses. Health risks are inevitable. Those who are in advocacy seldom eat properly and get enough sleep. They often travel under difficult situations and put up with primitive accommodations.The pressure of fighting for good governance, justice and human rights, women, children and the minorities are “bad for the health.” In extreme cases, the risks to life and limb are very real.
Inspite of the costs and the risks, why is it that more and more Filipinos are joining, participating and leading in advocacy? This is true especially of professionals who are not as disadvantaged as the peasants, workers and the urban poor. Why the explosion of rage from sectors who have been quiet in the past?
This is because the magnitude and range of abuse has exceeded what academics describe as the “maximum tolerable limit.” They are saying “enough is enough”! They have had enough of open stealing and abuse. They have accepted 10% thievery but will not accept 100% daylight robbery. They are putting themselves at risk because they know that indifference and inaction can only mean acceptance of the status quo.
For those who are new in advocacy, here is a message from those who have spent their lives in advocacy and defense of the peoples rights: there is nothing like giving, sharing and standing side by side with fellow Filipinos in the march toward a better life for all.
A quote from the oral tradition of the Aymara tribes of South America says it all: “The only treasure that survives after death is all that we have given.”