Running Around In Circles

There is a need to define the Filipino problem with urgency and definitiveness.

There is one thing that is clear at this time: we cannot keep on running around in circles.

We cannot permit this act of running around in circles to govern our lives and give us direction in the management of our public life.

We cannot allow this rite of running around in circles as if this is what sanctifies us as a people.

We cannot go on with this ritual of running around in circles as if this is what has been decreed by the gods as part of our punishment for sporting the name Filipinos.

Somewhere along the way, we have to stop, think, and revisit that which ails us, that which makes us at a disadvantage, that which makes us celebrate our smallness, our insularity.

We need to stop blaming on our country’s geography and topography: that we are made of up of islands and that we think in terms of the barrio and the purok and the clan and the family, that the soil is not fertile enough, that the seas are not giving us enough fish, that the leaders are not leading enough, that we are not praying enough.

All these are rationalizations—all false reasoning that appear to be true because we have been conditioned to think these are all true.

Our being insular is a non-issue.

Our ancestors looked at the seas and these vast waters as highways that they could navigate to reach out to each other and make commerce. They did this in their own rickety-rickety rafts and mano-mano bancas and vintas and here we are saying that we cannot bridge the divide between islands?

The key here is going beyond our islands in order to reach out to the other islands.

Unless one is a true-blue politician with all the resources of his office from the people’s money at his disposal, we cannot afford to keep on ensconced in our insular shells and think in terms of our islands, barrios, clans, puroks.

Our ancestors will laugh at us and will say to say to us that their soft technology—their knowledge and intelligence—was better than us despite our cellies, computers, and trillions of annual budgets.

Include here our penchant for political braggadocio and our capacity for callousness of the needs of the impoverished, we cannot come up with a counter-argument to dismiss the imaginary judgment of those who came before us about our collective inutility.

The clue to get out of this rut is to name this nameless menace—to christen it with courage and daring.

We can indict the actors of this foolish game of politics by coming up with an accounting of their deeds and misdeeds.

We get the list and we begin with their liabilities from A to Z.

Who are those who have owed us an apology, a sincere one, not dramatized, and not rehearsed for television and for the other media arts?

Who are those who have promised so much but did not do enough to fulfill that promise?

Who are those who are passing them off as capable but cannot distinguish public service from self-interest?

Who are those whose imagination is as pampelikula as those of some B-rate actors’—those who are passing themselves off as heroes in film as in real public office?

Who are those who are capitalizing on their self-inflicted misery, shame and embarrassment to catapult themselves to power and, by stroke of the masa’s ignorance, get themselves elected to office only the decent and the self-respecting are supposed to occupy?

Who are those who lent their hand and name to shame us and make us politically dumb during the dark days of dictatorship but now bouncing off as if they are our bundles of joy and the saviors we have been waiting for so long?

Who are those who inherited lands and now have the temerity to talk about social justice when in their own backyard they cannot even translate the basic requisites of social justice into action but make use of the loopholes of the law to justify their action of delaying justice to those who deserve most?

Who are those who keep on mouthing slogans we need to hear sometimes in order to assure us that we want those ideals but not those who are mouthing them?

Who are those whose ambition has been to occupy the highest offices of the land in order to wield power and accumulate more wealth for the benefit of their own grandchildren’s grandchildren but only for their own grandchildren’s grandchildren?

Some say that we have not been lucky to be born as Filipinos.

Here we go metaphysical—and this gives as an alibi for our incompetence.

It is not because we are Filipinos.

This is not even a wild excuse.

It is because we have not tried enough to become Filipinos.

This is the problem—and we have to define it as such.

Among the political elites, there is the convenient and voluntary amnesia in them. Power and wealth and entitlement make them forget who they are.

Among the middle class and enlightened masa, there is that collective sacrifice in them just to prove and demonstrate that they are Filipinos and they are trying their best to be so.

One proof is the remittance that comes from them—from the many that are eking it out in foreign shores to make the economy afloat. We need not look far.

Another proof is the sacrifice that the many will have to put in this Expanded Value Added Tax. We are afraid that so much of that which will be collected from the poor will go to the pockets of the political elites.

Perhaps there is a way to make do without this bad showmanship in governance?

Pub, INQ, V1N20, Nov 2005

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