In school, we were told to watch the news or read the newspaper daily. As journalism students, we were supposed to make it a habit to read about current events and watch the latest broadcast on what was happening in the country and around the world. We were not told to understand what these events meant, all we were asked to do was see if the stories were well researched or well written. The implications of what was happening were always lost in our search for other angles that could have been explored or which facts had been left undisclosed.
Every news article was put under a microscope as we checked if all the rules and exemptions of journalism had been followed. It was a mechanical search for protocols, for rules, for compliance, and for the validity of each word written or uttered.
For some time, the thought that I was actually reading an article about a 12-year-old girl who had been raped and killed or about a family that had been murdered in their own home didn’t bother me. I was concerned only with the semantics.
That was how we are trained: although how events affect the readers is essential to evaluating news worthiness, it was given only cursory attention. All we saw was a string of events, voiceless, colorless. Everything was just a specimen that had to be studied for its news worthiness more than how it affected the people involved. We were being turned into an emotionless editing machine with nothing more in mind than observing correct grammar and punctuation.
It was only when I stopped going to school and went to work that I realized all the things I missed. I had known all along what was happening in our country. I had read every angle imaginable and heard all sides of the story. I had even given my own logical interpretation of the situation. But as a human being, I had forgotten the most essential part: the ability to feel and to be affected by what was happening. It was as if I had forgotten to be human.
I wondered if it was just me, but looking at the people around me, I know I wasn’t the only one.
Schools trained their students to be the best in their fields of choice. Journalism students where trained to be logical, to have a nose for news. Nursing students were trained to know the correct medical procedures. Future teachers were trained in the art of teaching. Police officers were trained to enforce the law and maintain peace and order. None of us were really taught why we should be doing what we were supposed to do. We learned the basics, but not the heart of our professions.
Ask any student why he took up a particular course, and you will hear reasons as stale a pandesal that has been left on the table for two days. Most of them will tell you it’s the one thing that would bring that pandesal to the family table. Seldom will you hear about passion. It would come as a surprise if someone said that it was what he always wanted to do.
Education is now about marketability and the possibility of finding work, not about being passionate about what you do. It is not about being the best that you can be, but choosing a career path that will pad your bank account.
We call it being practical, but dehumanization would be a better term. We hear the tick of the clock and think of the money we can earn instead of the good that we can do. We work day and night with our paychecks in mind instead of doing service to our fellow men.
Ours is a world of balance sheets where every action is measured by the pesos it brings rather than the happiness and sense of fulfillment it gives a person. Yes, a fat paycheck can be fulfilling, but is that all that matters? We can buy all the material things we like, eat in the most expensive restaurants, travel around the world when our workload permits, but then we will always go back to the kind of routine where we can’t wait for the clock to tick five so that we can go home and rest and prepare for another day at work.
People will say you can try to love the work you do and put all the passion you can summon into it. But passion is a burning desire to do something you have always dreamed of. It’s not about settling for what you have and making the best of it. That is a disgrace.
There is one question we should answer honestly: Why are we doing what we are doing? If we are there for the money, then we have taken our hearts out of our work because we have no use for them.
We have missed a lot because of our obsession with preparing for a future that may never come. We have forgotten how to live each day as if it were the last. We have forgotten that we have no hold on time and everything we have can be gone in the blink of an eye. We know that nothing lasts, yet we live from day to day as if everything is black or white and a rainbow is nothing but a colorful picture.
When we die, all that can be written on our epitaph is that we did well in our work. No one will say that we lived like a human being. We are nothing but stale pandesal.
Jayson Arvene T. Mondragon, 24, is a customer service representative at Convergys Philippines.
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