Lies we fabricate to fool ourselves

December 20,2016 - 08:45 PM

The nature and immensity of the sociopolitical and economic problems we face are universally recognized, and their causes are analyzed extensively.

Some of the solutions are even known. Yet we have not moved an inch toward mature democracy and making human progress truly inclusive.

That’s because we persist in fooling ourselves with the lies we fabricate about us:

A sense of nationhood held back by a lack of social capital, unity of purpose, political maturity and cultural harmony.

An illusion of democracy combined with a form of capitalism gone awry behind the mask of a feudal system.

“Split-level Christianity” arising from the failed task of evangelization.

An uncivil “civil society” because of its failure to carry out its mandates.

Uninformed and isolated individuals who abdicate their thinking to “envelopmental journalists” who purvey false public opinion and discourse.

At present, the greatest gift our leaders has for us is that they reflect back to us our own limitations. They are lacking because we, as a people, are lacking as well. The big problem is not whether we accept flawed leaders like Duterte, Estrada, Arroyo or Pacquiao; it’s the flaws we are willing to tolerate.

And we have tolerated a lot of flaws and nonsense from our leaders (politicians and priests). For decades we’ve let them cheat in elections, raid government coffers, pocket money from the collection box and impose their failed leadership on us.

The church’s preachments have been nothing more than words and manifestos; its actions do not conform to the words. Religion is supposed to make people more moral and less corrupt, with the church providing guidance. A distressing truth: Despite being a predominantly Catholic country, we are among the most corrupt countries in Asia, reflecting the ineffective moral influence of the church on its parishioners (who comprise 80 percent of Filipinos) and the government’s anticorruption drive.

The Philippine political system is ostensibly democratic in form, not in substance. The freedom that Edsa 1 won did not translate to economic and political benefits for the majority of the people. We failed to expunge the toxic elements of the Marcos legacy and allowed the Marcos family to fully use financial power stolen from the people in their efforts to rewrite history and bury the truth and horrors of Martial Law.

In the movie “Heneral Luna,” Gen. Antonio Luna’s signature lament sums up the film’s underlying message: “We have a bigger enemy than the Americans: It is ourselves.” In another scene, he says, “It is easier to bring heaven and earth together than have two Filipinos agree on anything.”

Indeed, a major change in attitude is necessary since fighting government is fighting ourselves — because we are the government. We citizens collectively own government and entrust stewardship of its institutions to elected officials and civil servants. However, the rules have been stymied by bureaucratic incompetence and machinations by the political and economic elite.

These facts reflect the dismal failure of the various sectors of civil society — from government to the church, families, schools, parishes and communities — in carrying out their respective mandates.

Thus, the Philippines, while not yet a failed state, is still in search of itself — its people in quest of true identity and purpose, of authentic Filipino values and national interests for our nation’s emancipation and self-realization.

We, the people, are a significant part of the problem since we have not conscientiously worked at our own personal sanctification. There is a need for all, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, to be fully aware of the active link between being a good citizen/Christian and society’s transformation. Political maturity does not happen by osmosis. All citizens need to be taught, nurtured and shown how to be good in thought, word and deed.

“Gaudium et Spes (Joy and Hope),” the Catholic Church’s teachings about humanity’s relationship to society, emphasized the supreme importance, especially in a pluralistic society, to work out a proper vision of the relationship between the state and the church; that for Catholics to be able to play their part in political affairs well, civil and political education is necessary and must be diligently attended to. Whither the church?

The bottom line is given how self-reinforcing the country’s political malaise is and the difficulty for constructive incremental reforms are, the decay of Philippine politics will continue until both the church and state are catalyzed into a true reform coalition, and galvanized into action. In the face of the formidable problems facing the country, setting the church and state at odds only diminishes our chances for success.

Regardless of how President Duterte performs in the next six years, the future of our country can only come from us — the people. No one else can rebuild the country. However, we still have to determine for ourselves who we are as a people and what democracy is for us. The 2016 elections have shown us that democracy means freedom from oppression and the tyranny of words. We need to ask ourselves how valuable this freedom is in terms of our desire to build our country and achieve the common good.

Tomas D. Achacoso is a former administrator of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration.

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TAGS: Capital, human, lies, social
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