It’s been a week since Kumi Naidoo’s visit to Manila, but the “Kumi fever,” as a colleague calls it, has all but died down. During his brief stay, everybody in the Greenpeace Philippines office ached to shake hands, if not take a snapshot with the International Executive Director of Greenpeace.
Without a doubt, this hunger striking, oil rig-climbing champion of human rights and the environment has earned somewhat of a celebrity status among activists, who are usually the hardest to impress. That he was already spearheading protests at the age of 15, and that he played a huge role in overthrowing the Apartheid regime in South Africa, are nothing short of noteworthy. Not to mention, his remarkable influence in movements for poverty alleviation, women’s rights and of course, environmental protection, has moved many who share the same advocacies.
However, more than his activism background, I think it was his humility and openness that won many of us over. For instance, I was surprised that he was able to give a no-nonsense remark on Filipino culture, despite the fact that his three previous visits to the Philippines were only brief.
He said, “The culture here is very similar to the culture in Africa. And jokingly some of us from Africa would say that Filipinos are the Africans of Asia, because in Africa we love music, and dancing, and we have an ability--however bad things are-- to smile and have a sense of optimism and never be defeated. And I find that as a very common cultural trait.”
But if there’s one thing about him I appreciate the most, it’s his high regard for all forms of activism, and not just those we consider to be high-risk. “I think there are multiple routes to activism, but the important thing is we have to create a world where people can contribute to the best of their ability based on their specific needs,” he asserted.
Most of the time, it seems that being friendly to fellow activists is the least of our concerns, as we always think we have bigger fish to fry. But isn’t it true that the greater our battles, the more we have to strengthen our bonds and welcome new alliances? If someone with an extensive background in advocacy such as Kumi can espouse a broadminded attitude toward activism, then so can we.
“I think we should not paint activism as simply climbing up an oil rig and blocking production at a coal plant. I mean, all of that is actually very important activism. But every little bit helps.”
Thanks for the photo contributions, Isko Noveda (first 2 images), and AC Dimatatac (third image).