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Freedom is a duty to care for fellow Filipinos

/ 05:02 AM June 17, 2022

There is a philosophical discourse by Jean-Jacques Rousseau which says: “Man was born free, and he is everywhere in chains. Those who think themselves the masters of others are indeed greater slaves than they.” Interestingly, the first sentence is so popular to many yet very few know the next line on Rousseau’s reference to masters and slaves.

We think that it makes us feel good, or better if we are above everyone else. Psychologically, we have a hidden desire to be better than our “kababayan” (countrymen). This must be a positive value, but it becomes so detrimental to many of us that we become secret enemies to each other. We love to compete with each other. There is jealousy among us. Crab mentality.

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Sad, I know.

How can we freely move as Filipinos when our own brothers and sisters prevent us from maximizing our potential? How can we assert ourselves as positive contributors to our community when we always receive harsh criticism from our kababayan? How can we be free when many would want us to fail?

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Many Filipinos love to be the masters of others. “Ayaw natin na mas nakaaangat ang iba” (We do not want others to be greater than us). We feel a different kind of self-satisfaction when we see other people who are falling from grace. It makes us so ecstatic when we can prove to the whole world that we are the best. This should not be bad at all. But it becomes worse when we push so hard to the extent that our fellow Filipinos fall from the cliff, fall to the grave.

I do not deny that we possess many good traits. We are resilient, kind, humble, respectful, helpful, creative, intelligent, hardworking, hopeful. But on the other side, we practice crab mentality, “mañana habit,” “Filipino time,” gossiping, over-dependence on other people, regionalism.

Perhaps we can fulfill our duty to freedom if we learn to free ourselves from the demons within us. When we learn the value of humility, perhaps we can treat our fellow Filipinos with respect and dignity. If we become happy with the success of others, then we can be successful as a country.

Today’s generation lives in an era of bullying. When we look at how we behave on social media, we can see the worst among us. We have lost decency and respect, and not just common sense but basic values.

We enjoy so much freedom that we lose who we are as rational and moral beings. We treat freedom as an entitlement to abuse others. We exercise our freedom without considering our responsibility to become decent individuals.

As opposed to Rousseau, I shall say: “Man was born in chains, and he is everywhere pretending to be free.”

We can only be truly free if we are free from hatred and arrogance. Freedom is not just a human right but a duty, a duty to care, a duty to love our fellow Filipinos.

Rado Gatchalian,Sydney, Australia

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