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Commentary

Our political and moral commitments

In the history of every nation, there is often one paradigmatic leader who will rise above everything in order to champion the cause of the rights of the citizenry. Building a nation necessitates citizens putting an end to bad habits and society as a whole, dismantling unjust structures that have provided comfort and convenience only to a few. The things that great men and women have fought hard for appeared impossible in the beginning, but Mahatma Gandhi, Corazon Aquino and Nelson Mandela triumphed in liberating the people from tyranny and the evil of political oppression.

Social change can never be abrupt, and institutional reforms take time. The only real virtue in politics might come from the undying admonition of Graciano Lopez Jaena: “Neither gratitude nor appreciation has anything to do with what is wrong, censoring what is bad, and exposing the ills that afflict society in order to remedy them. When parents are wrong, we say they are wrong; when past generations committed mistakes, we say they had committed mistakes. For saying this, neither are we ungrateful to them nor disrespectful to their memory.”

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Whatever side of the political spectrum a person may be on, everyone actually is seeking the elimination of political injustice. In the ranking of values, the truth is above everything else. The actualization of unity within society will require that people first settle among themselves the meaning of the common good. Without this sense of solidarity, society becomes no more than a void filled with fragmented beliefs and self-serving reasons. In the past, propaganda served as the tool in destroying reasonableness in politics. Today, democracy has found a formidable adversary in the pieces of manufactured facts meant to damage the reputation of someone or prevent the truth from coming to light.

We enjoin ourselves in establishing a just and equal society with the important task of protecting the priority of liberty and promoting fair treatment before the law. However, this will also mean, according to John Rawls, that reasonable pluralism must govern the marketplace of opinion making. Reason, not violence, is the heart and soul of the power of the state. Without respect for political diversity, human life may not flourish. Laws can only be legitimate if the state enforces them without coercion. We cannot impose a predetermined way of life on people. Values are intrinsic and felt, rather than seen in terms of tangible results. While values appear to be mere ideals, they actually define who we are and what becomes of us as persons.

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Politics in contemporary Philippine society has mainly focused on the attributes of leaders, but not on the set of values that Filipinos possess. As a people, we are strong in terms of making demands about our entitlements as citizens, but are weak in holding ourselves accountable with respect to our duties to the state. For this reason, we unwittingly depend on the type of solidarity that is provincial and narrow. From a theoretical end, given the inevitability of moral conflicts and antagonism in our communitarian state, modern political thought teaches us that tolerance rather than conformity must characterize our public lives.

While history and the context of local thinking inform our political world views, such can also result in the myopic way of understanding things; thus, we distort the real meaning of the common good. We can commit ourselves to those political tasks that might serve what we consider the good of the people. Beyond this, however, is the idea that doing what is right is not about political correctness. Our moral commitment to the good of humanity is the only thing that will endure. It is the way forward in order to overcome the meaninglessness of the violence in any type of war.

Christopher Ryan Maboloc, PhD, is assistant professor of philosophy at Ateneo de Davao University. He was trained in politics and democracy at the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung in Bonn and Berlin, Germany.

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TAGS: Cory Aquino, Gandhi, Mandela, nation-building
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