Community Organizing is Self-esteem and Social Justice Building
I am always amazed at the goodness of the human heart in times of crisis like typhoons, floods, fire, earthquake and all the other phenomena aligned with destruction. It’s noticeable in every crisis situation that help always comes in the form of food, shelter, clothing or a sense of solidarity. It seems that society has no problem looking after people in need during natural disasters. But the whole picture changes when landless people are forcibly evicted from their homes to give way to a government project. When the poor assert their rights as citizens of the city, not many people from mainstream society run to extend a helping hand. Many negative perceptions of the poor surface leaving the poor with nothing but their self-esteem and dignity to hold on. Below is a video of a violent dispersal of urban poor families purportedly to give way to a government infrastructure project. The poor were saying that they were not against the project but against the process that didn’t consider humane relocation as a government response. In the case of the R-10 communities in Navotas who were dispersed on March 9, 2010, the people were promised by the local government an in-city development project as an alternative to eviction. But the promises turned empty. The situation pushed the affected families – 340 families - to have a camp-out at the office of the Department of Public Works and Highways. The camp-out somehow made the housing authorities meet to discuss a solution to what the 340 families were demanding - a) A just and humane relocation site b) A temporary site where the evicted families can stay without being harassed before the relocation site is ready c) A budget for the development of the identified relocation area and d) Justice to people who were harmed during the human barricade.Time and time again, it is as if the poor were born to struggle endlessly for their rights despite existing laws to protect them. When it comes to the poor’s voice in shaping policies, these things always take the narrow uphill road. Surely, there is something wrong in the way systems in society are arranged. Without community organizing as a process that unveils the root causes of poverty side by side with the built-in solutions to uproot those causes, the thought that will always prevail is that the poor have to be uprooted from the cities and brought to a place that is cheap and far away from the city. As if this is the correct way to solve landlessness. The people in power now who, by the way, got their power from the votes of the poor have yet to look into the values of good governance.