Friday, February 6, 2015

Charity begins at home . . .

But doesn’t end there . . . “Much has been said about so-called negative Filipino traits. They have been blamed for the weak character of the Filipino; they are the culprits, the scapegoat of our failures, or at least, the explanation for lagging behind more successful Asian neighbors.” [THE AMBIVALENCE OF FILIPINO TRAITS AND VALUES, Prof. EMERITA S. QUITO,]“Assertiveness is frowned upon because it smacks of pride and ruthlessness . . . If for the Filipino smallness, meekness, and humility are ideals, could it not be that he is not this-worldly? Could he not perhaps be aiming, consciously or otherwise, at the life in the hereafter where the last will be the first, the weak will be strong, and the small will be great?”

But is that coming from our faith? “Split-level Christianity may be described as the coexistence within the same person of two or more thought-and-behavior systems which are inconsistent with each other. The image is of two apartments at different levels, each of which contains a family, one rarely talking to the other. So it is with the split-leveled person; at one level he professes allegiance to ideas, attitudes and ways of behaving which are mainly borrowed from the Christian West, at another level he holds convictions which are more properly his ‘own’ ways of living and believing which were handed down from his ancestors, which do not always find their way into an explicit philosophical system, but nevertheless now and then flow into action.” [SPLIT-LEVEL CHRISTIANITY by Fr. Jaime Bulatao, S.J., 1966,]

“Perhaps from another point of view, they may be described as two value systems, differing from each other in explication, one more abstract than the other, one of them coming to the fore under certain circumstances and receding to the background at other times . . . What is needed is some inner process of growth by which a man can reject principles which he really believes to be stupid or on the other hand subject his thinking and behavior to principles which he really sees to be valid . . .

“Pope Paul VI in his Encyclical, ‘Ecclesiam Suam,’ outlines a possible solution. Pope Paul says, ‘When the Church distinguishes itself from human nature, it does not oppose itself to it, but rather unites itself to it...The Church should enter into a dialogue with the world in which it exists and labors . . .’

“The priest has to take the initiative. Relying on his common humanity, he has to work with men on the common tasks of everyday temporal living, of developing the community's material and personnel resources on welfare organizations . . . He has to sit on committees whose organizational structure is secular and built by seculars, and in which he has no power except what is given him by the democratic organization. He thus sits with his equals and participates in their life. He learns and he teaches, he gives and he takes. His apostolate may thus be called the Apostolate of participation, the participation of the clergy in the life of the laity.”

It appears Juan de la Cruz may not be predisposed to change. Since I’ve been in town and met a representation of PHL society, I made mental notes of the hurdles we face: While we are “no longer the sick man of Asia,” poverty is still the worst in the region . . . Low investment in industry + poor agriculture productivity despite rising OFW remittances = not enough good jobs; poor infrastructure despite increasing FDIs holding back foreign investors; power or electricity supply + high prices dampening investments and growth; corruption + poor governance pervasive; public sector bureaucracy taken over by political patronage = demoralizing upright civil servants; incompetence in public service, including leadership levels, palpable; community sense + commitment to common good missing, while evident among SE Asian neighbors; crony capitalism + entrenched oligarchy fighting reforms (e.g., competitive business environment); restrictive economic provisions of Constitution = major barriers to FDIs.

Many would invoke a Higher Being all but resigned to our inability to deal with our challenges. But there were bright spots I heard. For example, infrastructure investment appears to have gotten traction. And between the secretaries of Tourism and Highways, four-lane highways are being laid out in regions where we have world-class beaches, for example. But for every good news there is always a “but” that would come out: Feudalism rules in rural Philippines personified by local lords and political dynasties. It will need external interventions if small farmers are to be educated to pull together and create a larger enterprise that will focus on managing the requisite ecosystem that will drive economies of scale, innovation and competitiveness.

Indeed PHL is yet to produce visionary leadership that can instill a sense of purpose in Juan de la Cruz. If we don’t learn to subordinate the personal to the community and the common good, “kanya-kanya” (which Prof. Quito translates as self-centeredness) will always prevail. And why I’ve raised the question: Is it then a challenge for the church and the education community and society at large to inculcate in Juan de la Cruz the imperative of community sense and the common good?

And Fr, Bulatao, almost 50 years ago, made reference to Pope Paul VI who outlined a possible solution for our dilemma. And at church last Sunday, I was riveted to what the priest was saying after he said he was suffering from Francis fever. And he was exhorting the faithful to take care of the poorest of the poor. Nothing wrong with that. But what about the common good, which is the way to address the root of poverty, i.e., accelerate economic development by ripping open the shackles of an oligarchic economy and a feudal society? And to learn about community starts with very basic behaviors that can blossom into more meaningful outcomes. And why President Aquino’s “straight path” was lauded. But then at the heart of the criticism that followed is: Does he represent our cacique culture where political opponents must be taken down while feudalism rules?

Dilemmas seem to follow us: “A policeman in the downtown district of Manila goes fairly regularly to mass and considers himself a catholic. Nevertheless, he collects ‘tong’ from the small stores in the district as protection money. He feels he has a right to it because he is their protector against gangsters.” (The Split; the modern Catholic principles of justice versus a feudal attitude that the lord may tax those whom he protects.) [Bulatao, Op. Cit.]

Help! “The priest has to take the initiative. Relying on his common humanity, he has to work with men on the common tasks of everyday temporal living . . .”

And as my wife would remind me, my sister-nun is on her second stint to Panama working with farmers employing organic farming. At Maryknoll, they have a group of contemplatives that pray in the chapel 24/7, and another group that participate in the life of the laity. Yet because of the fundamental given of economies of scale, do they need to move up to the next level, that is, pull small farmers into a larger enterprise as noted above? Which means the religious and the Church will have to work with the larger community in order to get its best minds pulling together.

Historically, they have relied on the wealthy if not our cacique masters thus perpetuating our hierarchical system and structure. Between Paul VI and Francis, is it time for the Catholic hierarchy in the Philippines to embrace a truly egalitarian society? In earlier postings, I talked about the father of modern R&D, Edison, who demonstrated the power of a team-driven enterprise in pursuit of excellence, creativity and innovation.

It is team sport, not one driven by a hierarchical system and structure – where deference rules. What does the science say? Exercise is good for the body and our mental outlook and well-being; and exercise – both physical and mental – is likewise good for the brain. The brain continues to develop (i.e., neuroplasticity) until we die. That is what’s behind the ability of progressive global companies to thrive in global competition. There is constant debate where even the CEO is not exempt from being quizzed. But the debate is not of the kind they indulge in in Washington – i.e., gridlock or “crab mentality” in the vernacular – because it is not outcome-driven. There is no positive learning when there is no positive outcome. Consider: why haven’t we learned the pursuit of progress and development in PHL?

If we are to indulge in team sport, we can’t leave the priests and nuns to work by themselves. “Kanya-kanya” being the human condition is indeed a hard nut to crack. “It has been said that at the root of our economic and political instability . . . is a moral crisis . . . Undoubtedly, moral recovery must go hand in hand with economic and political recovery. But such moral recovery requires an understanding of values . . . Short-term goals and long-term objectives have to be blended harmoniously, which requires a vision of what the country intends to be.” [Manuel B. Dy, Jr. The Philosophy of Value, the Value of Philosophy,]

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