The good Filipino citizen
There are countless issues that a media-crazed population is bombarded with. Most are non-essential. They serve nothing more but to whet an appetite for information like fodder for minds that cannot anymore tackle substance, only their ever-changing form. The inner emptiness of people is revealed when they have to be entertained or distracted to glitter, no matter how shallow.
Because of our propensity to look for and jump on topics that are neither here nor there in our lives or the life of our fledgling nation, we go through year after year, administration after administration, generation after generation unable to shed off our immaturity as a nation. We look to the outside, to the faults and errors of others, afraid to stand still and quiet enough to take a long good look at who and what we are. The noise and criticism we throw at one another are reflective of what we ourselves are afraid that we cannot personally guarantee to be innocent of.
We have had high-profile cases of plunder, a crime that not so long ago was punishable by death. I am unable to confirm with statistics at the Ombudsman and the Sandiganbayan but am confident from news reports in both traditional and social media that plunder is more common today than in the past. Bringing back the death penalty will not do any good when it can take generations for plunder cases to be decided. Worse, when decisions are made, they can be themselves suspect, as if the motive is to find the accused innocent despite the guilt.
The murder of public servants and journalists are always high up in the news, giving the impression that they are an epidemic rather than exceptions. It is hard to know whether it is worsening or improving. But one thing is sure – they are reported much more than before and can give an ugly and threatening image of our environment. The drug-related deaths are also a hot issue, both in whether they are necessary by law or simply the consequence of violence-prone police and political leadership. Coupled with crimes committed by policemen themselves on innocent victims, the total picture is not at all reassuring,
I can go on and on. I need not, though, because haters, trolls and simple mercenaries from all types of media, especially social media where identities of cowards can be hidden, will do most of the work. I have not even considered oppositionists with their agenda to bring themselves to power by putting down those in office. The oppositionists have their counterpart in government propaganda, news skewed not just by distorting the truth but by showing only the good side of it.
The point, however, is to objectively assess our state – as citizens, as a people, as a nation. Where are we today, where were we 25 years ago, 50 years ago, and 25 years from now? What are the recurring issues that have weakened us, that have shamed us, that will continue to do the same? And when we look at our political leadership from the ’70s to today, what did they have in common that helped us grow as a people and nation, or brought us deeper down the road to perdition? When we are to spontaneously point to individuals in our past and present as fitting models for all Filipinos, most especially to our youth, who are they? Do we have to go all the way back to Rizal and Bonifacio to agree collectively about the virtues we can be proud of? How easy, or difficult, is it to give more recent or living examples of Filipinos we can look up to because their lives are clearly clean, truthful, courageous, and beneficial to community or nation?
It is another new year, another opportunity to close the book on the mistakes we know we committed and open blank pages that we can fill up with the good things we do for ourselves, our families and our communities. That will, however, mean that we focus less on the sins of everybody as our primary concern and look more to our individual obligations as good human beings and productive citizens of the republic. That is a serious challenge – to look at ourselves, our faults, and our challenges to better ourselves. It is a challenge that is easier set aside and just resort to criticizing others. The noise out there, the hate and accusations hurl at each other this year, will determine how well we have lived up to the challenge.
We cannot address the major issues that challenge us like illegal drugs, like plunder, like poverty, like good governance, when we do not first address the simple things, from our childhood all the way onwards. I remember the book “12 Little Things Every Filipino Can Do to Help Our Country” by Alex Lacson and it may be time to make this a handbook for all schools and students.
- Follow traffic rules. Follow the law.
- Whenever you buy or pay for anything, always ask for an official receipt.
- Don’t buy smuggled goods. Buy local. Buy Filipino.
- When you talk to others, especially foreigners, speak positively about us and our country.
- Respect your traffic officer, policeman, and soldier.
- Do not litter. Dispose of your garbage properly. Segregate. Recycle. Conserve.
- Support your church.
- During elections, do your solemn duty.
- Pay your employees well.
- Pay your taxes.
- Adopt a scholar or a poor child.
- Be a good parent. Teach your kids to follow the law and love our country.
I remain absolutely optimistic that the generations already alive and those following them already have the Filipinos who can change the wretched course of our history. I also believe that the older generations had their chance but all failed to build the solid basics of good citizenship. Their focus was on power and governance. Too bad, really. One does not build a house from the roof.
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