Systemic inequality | Inquirer Opinion

Systemic inequality

There is a bigger picture, a broader perspective, to the ABS-CBN franchise controversy: The clash of power among elite classes in society, without relevance to the ultimate interest of those in the margins. In fact, those in the margins end up unwitting pawns to be exploited in the clash. It flows from a fundamental flaw in societal systems where the use of power serves only the interests of those in and with power — government versus ABS-CBN, for example — at the expense of the common good. The psyche of the people is conditioned to perpetuate this vicious cycle: The power of the elite, by the elite, and for the elite.

Thinkers in the past proposed alternate structures they believed would transform the flaws and reorient power for the benefit of the many. Plato’s “The Republic,” for instance, where philosopher-kings rule; or, Adam Smith’s “The Wealth of Nations,” with the built-in regulatory impact of the “invisible hand” on markets; or the vision for a workers’ utopia in “The Communist Manifesto” by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Unfortunately, even with the best of intentions, many “isms” fail the sustainability test. They flounder as governance falls short of the promise. They falter in the realities.


The principal source of the “isms” faltering could be when they break from the fundamental and self-evident truth that all men, women, children of all color, creed or no creed, sex and orientation, wherever they are in space and time, have been and are created equal. How can systems for and of equal people get sustained if the stewards of the systems begin to believe their power as their own? Any thought that contradicts the truth of everyone’s equality spawns the base for systemic inequality.

Transcending systemic inequality is a personal challenge, first and foremost. True societal transformation can become reality only when individuals manage to accept equality among all, and the collective reaches a critical mass. There can be no shortcuts. The home is where the challenge begins. When parents forget their role as a stewardship arrangement instead of being masters over their children, inequality gets ingrained in the mindset of the young. The seeds of biases and prejudices are generally planted by adults on the young at home, in schools and churches, in groups and communities, in media. Internet-driven social media has made the platforms very efficient.


The knee-jerk response to an absolute advocacy for the truth of equality among all human beings is that it is an unrealistic proposition. It has been said that many are born more, or less, equal than others. The truth of equality is not self-evident after all. In the “real” world, all are not equal.

Here lies the foundation of the challenge, the basic question every human being must constantly ask: Who am I really and why am I in this world? What is my life for? There must be a greater purpose to the imminent realization that you and I, with everyone else, are equal in a deeper sense than what is visible. Likewise, a media platform like ABS-CBN should be able to ask itself: Have we helped people get to the realization of who they truly are? And the government, too: Are we empowering people instead of exploiting them?

The call to many who are aware of their power is for the empowerment of the many who do not see their own power. This perspective is essential to be able to respond to the call for the emancipation of everyone. The realists will continue to argue: Universal empowerment is itself a utopia. But the key is the perception of what real power is. It is not dominance over others in status, knowledge, strength, or whatever metric may be defined by the world. Instead, it is power that serves, goes down, and by gesture uplifts the served through the facilitated self-realization of the power within them. And the outcome must be for them to be able to pass on the message.

No less than a unique revolution is imperative. Not a violent revolution where classes in society, like oligarchs, are “dismantled” allegedly, “weather-weather” style. The need is for one nonviolent revolution where one person’s power is exercised in the pursuit of the common good until many follow. Not one has to be killed in this kind of revolution. When individuals begin using the power in them to serve and empower others, the utopia of universal empowerment begins to be reality.

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Danilo S. Venida ([email protected]) is a former president of the Philippine Daily Inquirer and now a business consultant.

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TAGS: ABS-CBN, Danilo S. Venida, Inquirer Commentary. Mart del Rosario
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