Military vs UP, the uniform vs the book—a cultural rift
The now-familiar administration strategy of escaping by distracting inconvenient public scrutiny has become bolder. With yet another manifestation of the foot-in-mouth malady (vaccine pricing), a skillful tactic was displayed with soldierly sobriety.
The anticipated reaction from indignant UP communities past and present, plus sympathizers, promised to be loud and long. Even though perhaps this would prove to be more mild and temporary than hoped for, it was still mission accomplished. One insight glimpsed in the confrontation between the uniform and the book is the nature of the rift—it is more profound than political, it is cultural.
The university breathes in an atmosphere of established diversity in the numerous cultures of its membership and guests, in its disciplines, and in its deliberate exposure to all schools of thought, from the antiquated to the current, and from all corners of the earth. Grist to the mill of learning requires nothing less. its dynamism is schooled in process, critical analyses, and a holistic approach. The pursuit of intellectual excellence forms a disposition both informed and tolerant—not a bad preparation for a life of responsible citizenry. It has also benefited from leadership by consensus.
The military ethos prides itself in undeviating loyalty to authority. The strength of character it aspires to is guided by commitment to the letter of the law; to question it is unacceptable. Basic to this culture of conformity is the unequivocal interpretation of its objectives; to undermine this is to unravel its unity. “Uniform” has a unique resonance where there is clearly no call for diversity. “Thought police” would, for example, be consistent in this way of life. Monitoring would be another logical outcome. To introduce something ambiguous such as dialogue with those beyond the territory would be risky; but risk-taking is part of the training, which has its eye on winning.
There is a lesson that might be drawn from history. Once upon a time the leaders of the city of Athens condemned the philosopher Socrates to death for “corrupting the youth” when he introduced a pedagogy of thinking by questioning and dialogue. This was too unfamiliar and therefore threatening to the peace as understood by the powers that be. Tributes are still being paid today to that great teacher, posterity correcting a grave mistake.
In this clash of two cultures, where lies the hope? Their disciplines might be rooted in specific cultures, but these have life-giving powers yet, if allowed to produce meeting places where limited expectations are transcended and the indispensable belief acquired—that without understanding, there is no soul in progress.
Virginia Calpotura, RSCJ,[email protected]
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.