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Hints and Symbols

Less and less human

/ 05:02 AM May 27, 2019

Are we becoming less human? On any given day, technology allows us to see what happens in someone else’s life; what friends had for dinner, what a colleague does on his summer leave. But something nameless yet substantial has trickled away from this connectedness. Maybe it’s empathy. Maybe it’s simply a quality of being human. We are given more ways to see glimpses into the lives of fellow human beings—people struggling with poverty, prejudice, homelessness; people seeking asylum and facing the worst of human catastrophes; people struggling with systematic and organized crime; people who have been stripped of human rights—and yet can somehow say: at least it’s not happening to me.

It isn’t difficult to see the way we’ve regressed as a society, and how the polarizing politics of our time has reduced us to bickering enemies, entities only looking out for ourselves, seeking more to be right than to be kind. There’s a growing unconcern over what happens to the man next door. We are not raising children as part of communities; we raise them and warn them to be wary of people in the community, or not to emulate other people in the community. From the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks—or in this case, social media does—and if social media is anything to go by, we have become infinitely more connected, but also substantially less human.

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This is why it becomes all the more puzzling to see movements in our educational system carry us further and further away from that humanity. On the one hand we’ve passed a bill that makes ROTC mandatory for senior high students. The education secretary emphasizes that it’s not all running and gun play, but that ROTC teaches nationalism and Philippine history. Isn’t that at odds with the recent resolution that excludes Filipino and Panitikan as core subjects in college?

One hopes that any sense with even a minimum of national pride would still include the subjects in the curriculum, but a message is being sent that literature, and the nurturing of creative minds with exposure to content that is originally and deeply Filipino, are less important. One subject teaches critical thinking and encourages empathy; the other places a premium on seniority and obedience, and has been accused by the League of Filipino Students of being a breeding ground for reserve foot soldiers of the government. In encouraging one and all but dismissing the other, which values are we going to encourage in our young? As far as I know, no Panitikan class was ever publicly condemned for irregularities, abuse, corruption or hazing, unlike some now-mandatory subjects which come to mind.

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Humanity is enriched by the appreciation of different perspectives, the immersion into stories, the sense of one’s own history. It is rounded by a consciousness of morals in literature. Through stories we understand that right and wrong aren’t mere words but the springboards and turning points of people’s journeys. Filipino is the language of the worker taking arms against a dictator, and the language of the romantic poet. In a world of social media and news outlets that use English almost exclusively as medium, Panitikan exposes the young to words and stories that are not going to come to them through their Twitter feeds. It becomes all too clear that we are more interested in investing in blind obedience, and less interested in raising
human and critical thinkers.

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TAGS: Hints and Symbols, humaneness, Humanity, kay rivera
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