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Commentary

The Filipino youth’s political responsibility

01:00 AM October 26, 2015

WE FILIPINOS are again at that crucial juncture where we will decide to whom to entrust the leadership of this nation. Young voters will naturally prefer someone untainted with corruption. But maybe, the problem is their lack of insight into the pragmatic reality of politics. In truth, a politician knows that one cannot win a campaign by means of principles alone. Machinery and resources are part of the equation. Even great leaders like Manuel Quezon and Sergio Osmeña knew by heart that they had to do some political maneuverings in order to secure their place in Philippine history.

But our young generation today does not have a moral duty to act mindlessly by repeating the mistakes of the past. Rather, what confronts the Philippine youth today is the moral imperative to act in a Christian way. The French philosopher Paul Ricoeur tells us that “what Christianity offers to the world is a certain vision of man, capable of bestowing a meaning to our action in the world.” This meaning rests in the message of salvation that was proclaimed by Christ. When the human person is exploited, what we see is an image of a poor gasoline boy who is degraded by means of low pay. Liberating this young man from the gates of hell is what being a true Christian is about.

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The restoration of our humanity in this respect is that attitude of openness to others and the basic recognition of their worth. From a political end, this comes in the form of institutional reform that a good Christian can initiate, or, in the words of Karl Gaspar, a process of “social conscientization.” Our greater problem right now, however, is the ever growing number of young politicians who are a byproduct of a fundamentally corrupt system. It is preposterous to believe that this country still has a future unless we recognize this crucial mistake.

Leovino Garcia says that “the Christian vocation in the present civilization is to wrest the positive from the negative, the human from the inhuman, and the sacred from the profane.” All rest upon the idea of Christian hope, which intends to reshape history on the basis of meaning and mystery. It is by way of embracing meaning that our young generation can confront the threat of ambiguity and hopelessness. Garcia suggests that, “in the face of this meaninglessness affecting our society, the challenge for us is to join in the struggle for meaning.”

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Today’s young Filipinos feel that they carry the burden of social reform. This is a good start. Garcia explains that “Christian hope neither renounces the tragic ambiguity of concrete history nor reduces itself to the optimistic rationality of abstract history.” Ideally, politics must begin with the choice of the right principles. But people end up debating about personalities and their unique attributes. The young Filipino in this sense may have fallen prey to messianic tendencies, forgetting that political power ultimately resides in critical thought and not in the disappointments whenever his or her chosen one somehow falls short of expectations.

But perhaps the majority of our youth will refuse political involvement. The refusal to embrace their political responsibilities bespeaks an all-pervading nihilist attitude. But you cannot fault them. The proper place for a young college student is the library. A young man or woman must hold books, not placards. Idealism is important, but it must not be confused with the right thing to do. For the young, the right thing to do, their ultimate political responsibility, is to bury themselves in books. Without good education, democracy means nothing. Without real democracy, young people will not be able to insulate themselves from the charm of a false promise.

Indeed, the young Filipino voter has to understand the value of true thinking in making a choice. Only then will he or she be able to choose what is truly indestructible—the right principles of moral action. It is not just about being politically correct. Real life is not just about the choice of words. Being a Christian is about offering a way of life that is tolerant of others. We have to rise above self. For instance, we have to work with our Muslim brothers and sisters in order to bring about a just society. Indeed, the political Jesus must be understood as that savior who will ultimately give preference to the poor, the hopeless and the marginalized. This is what selflessness is all about.

The most difficult task of a thinker is defeating human despair. People often lose hope, Garcia tells us, because they have “become oblivious of our origin and destiny as humans.” Men of God like Cardinal Luis Tagle, epitomize what service to humanity is all about. But in our present context, politics has never been about the moral good. It has always been about political expediency. This is the cruel truth that our young generation must resist.

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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