The future of the Filipino
In thinking about the future of the Filipino, the next leader of our country might consider the age-old admonition of the philosopher John Dewey—that we have to “define the kind of society we have in mind.”
For instance, our educational leaders know that there is an underlying tension between the basic goals of nation-building and that of “freeing the powers of the individual.” The first may refer to the policies of the state that seek to determine which courses must be prioritized in terms of resource allocation. For many years, the government has given emphasis to developing engineers, accountants and technicians among our bright and deserving young men and women. On the other hand, the liberal arts have been left to the private schools to subsidize, given the fact that creative and intelligent students still seek to maintain their career of choice, one that is often derided as not financially rewarding in the long run.
Without a doubt, we need the technical expertise of scientists in building this nation. Without science, it would be difficult for poor farmers and fishermen to understand the importance of using technology in order to improve their lot in life. In addition, the Philippines has been losing the best in terms of skill due to the prospect of better-paying jobs abroad.
But the movement of peoples across borders and economies should not be seen as negative. Rather, it can be viewed as part of the emerging trend given the nature of a globalized economy. The problems that overseas Filipino workers face are not a byproduct of the market-driven character of the movement of human labor. Rather, they are a result of the incompetence of our own government to protect them from abuse and exploitation in their host countries.
Decent work, of course, is very important. Perhaps it is the most important thing as one grows into adulthood. Yet, there has to be a deeper meaning to the life that a human being has to live. The pursuit of happiness is a right that our Constitution guarantees. While the hard circumstances afflicting many people might affect their prospect of informed choices, this does not mean that they, too, should be deprived of the inner power of better judgment in their personal lives. Maybe, whenever one feels that human life is hopeless, the only option for one is to rise above self and look for the meaning of one’s life.
In “The Myth of Sisyphus,” the French philosopher Albert Camus writes that absurdity is the inevitable confrontation between two ideals. Man is facing clarity on one hand, and the cold, uncaring universe on the other. The only way forward is for man to actually make that one choice among three options: suicide, a leap of faith, or recognition. For Camus, suicide is an admission that life is not worth living. It is a declaration that human life offers nothing. In suicide, one simply chooses an easy way out. In contrast, a leap of faith for Camus is just a way of escaping the absurd. It defies human rationality. It mutes personal experience. The only authentic course for man,
Camus maintains, is the recognition of his own absurd condition. This recognition is the starting point of human freedom. The only way out for man is this: “to think, to choose and to decide for oneself.”
The Filipino values his or her future. Our problems have become quite clear for us right now. We have a dysfunctional basic structure. The poor do not have access to better opportunities because their powerlessness limits their options. Politics has not been of help to them. Ideally, it is the elected leader who should feel the huge burden when elected, not the constituent who feels the discomfort and guilt of voting a bad public official into his or her position. To elect someone is to give him or her a mandate. This mandate should rest on one moral ground: the protection and promotion of the common good.
Indeed, Filipinos as people who need empowerment on one hand, will look for their greater freedom in a society that might not provide them with the basic implements for making the proper judgments in life. On the other hand, our society wants each and every individual Filipino to contribute to nation-building without considering the fact that people have been so deprived of their entitlements by the same society that expects a lot from them.
The destiny of this nation remains within reach. The late Dr. Ramon Reyes wrote that “as we become conscious of ourselves as historical products, we also become aware of the historical possibilities that we have,” and being aware of our many limits, “as well as of the possibilities of history that are in us, we become a source of historical creativity.”
This historical creativity, as was shown in the 1898 Philippine Revolution and in the 1986 Edsa People Power Revolution, is the power that every Filipino, young and old, still holds.
Christopher Ryan Maboloc teaches philosophy at Ateneo de Davao University. He has a master’s degree in applied ethics from Linkoping University in Sweden, and is the founding president of Social Ethics Society.