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The great contradiction | Inquirer Opinion

Most of us keep reading experts from all major fields of life who wisely say that we, the people, are the answer to our own problems. I cannot say that they are wrong, especially because we are supposed to be a democracy where the power resides with the people.

Reality, though, says we are not yet a democracy. We may have aspirations for democracy without even understanding the fundamental principles on which the essence and features of democracy are anchored. When people are impoverished, marginalized, and have little or no opportunity to grow and mature to productivity, they have no power. A powerless people cannot give power to a democracy.

Leaders in government and the private sector have to raise the powerless to opportunity and productivity first, open the world of options and technology to the poor and marginalized, then walk with them in their transition phase. After centuries of poverty and powerlessness, the transition can take a lifetime; more than one if society’s leaders will not actively guide and support.

Meanwhile, we will go through a harrowing lifetime of cyclical turbulence. It is like our climate patterns bringing us typhoons, floods, earthquakes, landslides, and droughts. We learn very little, very slowly. We cannot do much about our being in the path of typhoons, or that we have more than our share of active volcanoes. But we could have done much over the last 70 years, but we did not. We just did not take away our people from the most dangerous and vulnerable areas, or give them adequate protection from the harsh elements.

Our only hope for the present are models of both leaders and ordinary citizens. Some see more light than most, others have walked the difficult and dangerous paths ahead, and they have much to teach and share with us. Of course, we have to listen to them, which is easy enough but we usually do not.

On the surface, it seems we have the best of many worlds. Our natural resources are among the most abundant in the world. Almost anything and everything can grow in our fertile soil and our marine resources are awesome. Filipinos are among the most resourceful; therefore, naturally intelligent. Our culture favors hospitality and spiritually, naturally friendly, entertaining, and prayerful.

Many social scientists have mentioned that both culture and history influenced Filipinos to be respectful and obedient to elders and authorities. On the surface, that seems good. Yet, the results have not been in proportion to the assets and the potential. Diamonds in the rough have stayed rough. Obviously, we have had ineffective elders and superiors, unable to make us grow productive and strong. They have been better masters rather than enablers.

Take the most simple things. In our homes, our parents and the adult generations when we were children taught us not to lie, to steal, or be violent. Aside from spiritual or moral reasons are the practical – lying, stealing, and violence disrupts both order and harmony.

Precisely because the benefits of truthfulness, honesty, and harmony to collective life are undisputable, what we were taught at home were the same virtues and values that the community taught, that the churches taught, and that the schools taught. While there are always deviants among us, the majority usually sets the tone and the pace.

It stands to reason that truthful, honest, and peaceful people will be the models of the community, especially since the laws of the land praised their virtues and punished their violators. Yet, at the present times, we see fake news, thievery, and violence becoming more popular. Vices attract and, then, are tolerated because money, lots of money, are usually involved.

There is now a living contradiction. Lying, stealing, and violence are condemned by the teachings in the home, in the school, in the churches, in the communities. Condemned by the teachings, though, does not mean compliance by parents and authorities. The ascendancy of fake news, of corruption and bribery, or EJKs and assassinations tell a different story.

There can be little contradiction in behavior if elders and authorities had enhanced their teachings with living examples. However, since the teachings have not changed, all of them enshrined in our Constitution in one way or the other, then the living examples must have deteriorated badly enough to confuse the younger generations.

Elections highlight the contradictions. Many political followers and even ordinary voters can promote candidates whose records are badly stained with lying, stealing, or violence. Yet, they still teach their children, students, or members that lying, stealing, and violence are wrong. If there is consistency in the teachings, and there seems to be, the hypocrisy and duplicity must be in the behavior.

This clash of teachings versus contrasting visible behavior leave children, students, and the faithful in confusion and contradiction. That is our challenge today, that facts and truth are overwhelmed with falsehood, that the honest stay poor while the thieves grow rich – and unpunished. And violence is not a last resort but one that is simply available for the most petty of reasons.

The gullible, the blighted, and the compromised can deliver votes to liars, thieves, and the violent. When liars win, they will not grow truthful; they would not know how. When thieves win, they will not grow honest; they would not know how. When the violent win, they will not grow peaceful; they would not know how. And the nation, which includes all of us, the wise and the stupid, the rich and the poor, the good and the bad – we will suffer together.

The cycle, then, continues. The rollercoaster rolls and twists, the pendulum swings harshly. When the pain comes, the learning will happen, gradually. Many, though, cannot stand much more pain, and they will react. Let us not let that happen. Let hope and aspiration drive change, not frustration and anger. While we can.

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