What do we stand for?

What do we stand for?

/ 10:00 AM February 09, 2024

The polarization of Philippine society is a direct consequence of the polarization of Philippine politics. It has little to do with right and wrong, and much to do with whom you support – right or wrong. The twinges from conscience have become largely numbed when the anchoring values are not, yes, not anchored on universal truths more than partisanship.

I have no sympathy for those who are not poor or in great need of resources that they cannot get elsewhere unless they play the game of the rich, famous, and powerful. There are supposed to be, according to many uncontested statistics, quite a large percentage of rich and upper income families. In other words, their incomes insulate them to a greater degree from pressures of survival. If they are not anchored on the higher values of our culture and faith systems, that is their choice. It may be cowardly, it may be rationalized to the nth degree, but at the core, they have little justification for caving in to compromise after compromise.

Because that is where it begins – with the little compromise here and there until compromise is the norm and not the exception. My favorite experiences with this are personal friends with their integrity largely intact until they enter into public service, whether as local officials, members of Congress, or appointees to government agencies. I have seen many give up after a year or two because their resolve not to compromise on immoral or illegal activities becomes too strong a pressure to bear. And those who do stay, which most do, get entangled with so much compromise that I cannot see their integrity anymore behind the flowery words they utter. Pity.

How have we come to this? Why has the difference between right and wrong become so blurred, so nebulous? Because if the distinct contrast remains strong, the twinges from conscience will be unbearable. So will be the shame that they, and their families, will suffer.

That can only mean that as a whole, as a society, as a culture, we have lowered our moral and ethical bar. There can be no other explanation. Those who believe that they still for what is right and condemn what is wrong must examine themselves if their values are stronger than their fear. And they themselves must realize how much they have contributed to the propagation of what is wrong as now the greater norm than what is right.

The proof of this is our own admission, often expressed at that, about how corrupt the government is. It is not red tape, it is not inefficiency, it is actually the creation and expansion of red tape and inefficiency that is the wind beneath the wings of corruption in government. Just as worse, the private sector, from fear of the inconvenience incurred from complaining and standing up for one’s right or from the prospect of losing profits or more business, succumbs to the demands of the corrupt.

A weak citizenry is nourishment for the corrupt. A dependent or mendicant citizenry is irresistible temptation for exploiters – and there are armies of them by now from the barangay to the highest echelons of official power. Counting the mini armies who do their bidding to share with the loot, it is remarkable that the government still stands today. It does only because of the remarkably low moral and ethical standards that define Philippine society today.

There may be millions who, by the circumstances of the poverty that overwhelms them, cannot stay honest and truthful. They compromise to survive, and even the idealism of their youth can hardly save them. It does not help that their parents are no great examples of honesty and truth either, because they have been in poverty even longer. It just makes it more revolting that there are too many who have much more that hardly seem to care, yet are often willing to take advantage.

What is miraculous is how the younger generations who are less pressured by financial needs remain generally honest and fair to others. They may not be the majority but they are the critical minority. They have gone through or are now still in college, many are entrepreneurial, most are gainfully employed. Their idealism and independence already point to them as the leaders around the corner. Most of all, admit it or not, the very dependent and needy secretly look up to them.

It is necessary that we look outside of ourselves, take that objective and critical look at others, and realize we will not like much of what we see. But what is out there is the sum total of what is inside us – expressed by our actions and words. To address what is out there requires that we also try to fix our individual contribution to the collective problem.

I believe it is best that we review our fundamental beliefs and values, then honor them as faithfully as we can. If honesty, if integrity, if caring for one another, if contributing our share to the national responsibility – if all these are values we believe in, then let us live them out. Let us resist lying and stealing, and do not join those who do. Let us be productive, in spirit and action, so we have something to share to those who have less beyond our sympathy.

It is often said in many ways by many people in many nations, that it is not only those who commit wrongdoing that can be blamed, but those who silently stand by as they witness these wrongful statements and actions. If only one person lies to distort the truth, if only one person steals what does not belong to him or her (and especially our public funds), but 1,000 of us hear and know these yet allow it by our silence, we are 1,000 times at fault.

It is time to do the right thing, and not allow wrong to make us its slaves.

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TAGS: opinion, Philippine politics

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