Many moving parts
I have been writing weekly opinion pieces here since 2001. I was invited by the officer-in-charge then of INQ7, or what is now Inquirer.net. He told me that he had read articles written by me related to the Erap Resign movement from late 2000 and liked what he saw. He also invited another good friend of mine, Billy Esposo, and both of us agreed to contribute articles, me once a week and Billy about 3 times weekly.
Billy moved on to write at the Philippine Star and died from a lingering illness some years ago. I still write once a week for Inquirer.net. Along the way, and most especially since the Duterte Administration rose to power, I receive some very critical reactions from readers, less for what I say and more for being a part of Inquirer.net. I always accepted that was par for the course. What has been important to me is that the vast majority, either by their silence yet remain regular followers or expressed appreciation, understand the key messages I share with my general audience. I know they may not be in full agreement all the time but am confident they find my articles either intelligent or at least intellectually intriguing. This has motivated me to keep writing and to keep pushing certain advocacies which are really why I write.
I believe that most of us, writers and readers, carry a patriot’s love for our country. Following this, we want what is good for the people and nation. However, we do get caught in the details, so to speak, and experience too often our differences dominating us rather that what we have in common. The most controversial topics are also the most perennial. That means these have been around for a long time. It also means that it will take more time before these are favorably resolved. What has been built over centuries, or millennia, will not be easily reformed; and all the more difficult to transform.
Because our problems are centered on the most relevant aspects of societal life, from economics and religion to history and politics, they are always controversial. Whatever the field of interest, we have grown to be quite partisan. There seems to be this partisan virus spreading its destructive consequences to now epidemic proportions. Nothing holds back progress more terribly than the partisanship that divides us as a people. Rich versus poor is partisanship, just as Christian versus Muslim is. Even before we get to politics, we are already infected with the partisan virus, like Ilocanos versus Kapampangans, Bisayans versus Tagalogs, etc. It is no wonder that during the colonial times, many native Filipinos would allow themselves to be used by the foreign masters to betray their fellow Filipinos. Our conquerors must have seen how easy and effective it was to pit us one against the other.
What is pitiful is that we remain largely unaware that it is our partisanship, our propensity to fight among ourselves, that remain the guarantee for the perpetuation of poverty and corruption. We keep bannering poverty and corruption as the key monsters that destroy us when, in fact, these are only consequences of our being partisan. Poverty and corruption could not have emerged, and remained, our national malaise for so long if only a minority of Filipinos were involved.
Poverty and corruption inflict pain in the lives of people, and the victims could have overthrown the perpetrators by sheer numbers. But the reality of a divided people, of a people affected with partisanship, is that victims can take sides not against those who exploit them but against one another. Nothing blinds so powerfully as prejudice or bias born out of partisanship.
This is not a new prognosis. Many have written about this virus called partisanship. Ancient wise men to modern day statesmen have all pointed to unity as a society’s most potent asset. Priests give sermons on this, politicians speeches galore. It is simple to understand but extremely difficult to attain. For the greater population, it requires maturity. Or visionary leaders who can captivate the imagination of the majority of people and inspire them to follow suit by consistent example.
The sad thing is that our government and society as a whole give so much attention to laws, programs and projects, or even to studies of how to change the system of government, but hardly any focus or resources to build up unity among us. Worse, much spending is devoted to is to fighting one another. Victory is primordial, not unity, and victory creates losers thirsting for revenge. The cycle does not only keep on going, it becomes more vicious in spirit and in form.
Science says that so many moving parts tend to diminish efficiency. But nation-building has man moving parts – that is its nature. And when most of the parts are fighting one another, they become unwieldy and neutralize their own power. The worst thing our leaders can do is to deepen the division among us. A nation with its many moving parts also has to engage the rest of the world, which is another and greater set of moving parts. We simplify diversity with harmony, and the only way to harmony is unity.
Unity, togetherness, fraternity, family – these are natural values that have weakened over time and conflict among us. They are not impossible to rekindle because they are part of our culture, our collective DNA. However, our divisiveness has to be arrested, then reversed. If our leaders understand our crucial this is to peace, progress and prosperity, they must embed in their policies and programs the mechanisms that promote unity and harmony. It has to start in the family, the community, the schools, the work place, and, most of all, in political dynamics.
Do we have leaders who have the wisdom and courage to transcend their own challenges and lead the way for us?
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