There is no greater cause for celebration to any nation than seeing one of its children succeed as a world-class talent, be it in science, the humanities, or sports. The story of Tiffany Grace Uy, who graduated from the University of the Philippines with an unprecedented 1.004 general weighted average, tells us that some seed of genius is still insulated from the morally depraved spectacle of political nitpicking that plagues and threatens the future of our country.
Politics is bad for science. Antoine Laurent Lavoisier, the founder of modern chemistry, “did for chemistry what Isaac Newton had done for mechanics a century earlier,” according to Douglas McKie. John Simmons writes that Lavoisier was an initial supporter of the French Revolution, yet he was still charged by his enemies with having profited from the old regime. On May 8, 1794, Lavoisier was guillotined, of which the mathematician Joseph Louis de Lagrange was said to have commented: “It took a mere instant to cut off that head, and yet a hundred years may not produce another like it.”
Politics is dangerous for the humanities. Elie Wiesel’s “Night” documents the atrocities of the Nazi regime, but more than anything else, the book is a lasting legacy of how the indomitable human spirit can truly defeat hopelessness and human evil. Wiesel wrote: “Where is God? This is where—hanging here from this gallows…” But he survived the anguish and unbearable pain in Hitler’s concentration camps, and went on to write more than 40 acclaimed works. During his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, Wiesel said: “Our lives no longer belong to us alone; they belong to all those who need us desperately.”
The United States benefited from the migration of Jews from Hitler’s Germany, many of whom found research positions in American universities. The most prominent, of course, was Albert Einstein. John Rockefeller’s philanthropy made the United States the center of the universe.
There is a long list of structural problems and thick volumes of prescriptions from political and development scholars that describe and seek to address the predicament of our morally impoverished nation. Nothing is more scandalous than the fact that the son of a dictator is holding a seat in the Senate and is even contemplating on running for president. Our rule-makers are just totally different from us. But nothing is more insulting than the fact that the best minds out there cannot actually be put in government positions because of the pathetic brand of politics that controls the bureaucracy.
It is a demeaning experience for a Filipino scholar abroad when he or she is told that the citizens of the Third World only intend to take advantage of the riches of industrial societies. In point of fact, staying in a host country in order to find placement is a palatable proposition given the economic and social benefits. We cannot blame our scholars. Persons are no more than the choices that they make. The problem lies somewhere else. Indeed, we need not mention bad governance, the lack of resources, and the apparent absence of decent opportunities in the country.
Many of the brightest of minds in the Philippines have become lawyers, and many bright young minds out there are contemplating on entering the profession of law someday because of its prestige. You will no longer find one kid in any of the barangays who wants to become an astronaut. Thermodynamics in our schools is nothing but a subject that a student needs to hurdle in order to become an engineer, and not because she or he wants to contribute something novel to the world of science.
The seeds of greatness are not to be found in a mountain of gold. The very roots that ensure human achievement dwell inside the very classroom and departments of the Philippines’ best universities. Knowledge transcends the physicochemical reactions in the synapses of our brain. Given proper training, impeccable attention and commitment, Filipino children possess a natural gift or talent from God that will secure for them not only their future but also the freedom of this nation from the bondage of poverty.
There are many unborn Einsteins in the Philippines. What is necessary is for our government to provide the basic social platform that is crucial to human achievement. But we cannot put ourselves in that position if we do not act as a collective. Our children need to be inspired so that when they grow up, theirs will be a morally upright country that is able to respond to the agony, injustice and oppression that millions of Filipinos right now have to endure. Every poet, doctor, engineer, traffic enforcer, priest, school administrator, or bank manager will have to rise above self in order to defeat this sickening indifference to the plight of the poor.
Beyond every criticism, we cannot forever remain mere accomplices to the crimes committed by those who are in positions of power against the Filipino people.
Christopher Ryan Maboloc is assistant professor of philosophy at Ateneo de Davao University. He has a master’s degree in applied ethics from Linkoping University in Sweden.
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