SWIMMING AGAINST THE CURRENT
By DR. JESUS P. ESTANISLAO
For Filipinos to take on the duties of the “office as citizen” in a manner that would most enable us to become the greatest possible assets for the governance of our country, we would need to go beyond professing core values. We also have to effect change, first in ourselves, knowing that these changes are the foundation for the changes we wish to see in our polity and economy. Moreover, that change will have to be transformative, i.e. they have to be for real and substantive, such that at the end of five decades we shall have a country made up of individuals who shall have transformed our country, mainly because they have paid due attention to transforming themselves.
Indeed, this is the first transformative change in the Filipino holding the “office of citizen” — that instead of asking for true, deep, and genuine change to be led and delivered by the President of the Philippines or the Archbishop of Manila, we would focus first on changing ourselves for the better. We do need to up-turn the paradigm under which most of us have been operating: we have been waiting for a good president, who can make a whole difference, within a few short years, in the life of our people. We have been pining for an archbishop of Manila who would thunder down in clear and strong fashion his condemnation of a president who has gone beyond the normal moral pale.
The wait has been long and frustrating. Moreover, there may be no end to it unless we get hold of one basic reality: not much will change in our environment unless we — as individual citizens — begin to change ourselves for the better.
There are countless ways. But one way to begin is to change our attitude towards the value of life. We have to put a very high premium on it; its value has to be placed at the highest possible level, even at the level of the “sacred”.
- We have been living a contradiction. We snuff out life as though it were not anybody else’s business.We have shown little restraint in shooting down people, and maltreating them in sub-humanly over-crowded jails. We have been living in fear of the million mouths to feed, the additional number of children to send to school and educate. At the same time we have been proclaiming to the rest of the world that our most important economic resource is our human resource. And we are earning big from the human resources we have deployed. And while saying this, do we really want to cut, control, and reduce the very source of human life?
- Moreover, we have been very poor stewards of our natural environment. We have let nature protect itself from our predations. We continue to throw plastic and garbage to our seas, with abandon. We pollute our rivers and streams. We clog our canals. We then move on to complain about the heat, the dirt, the floods, the pollution that is choking us up, let alone the traffic that is testing the patience of us all. We may have to take greater heed of the exhortation of Pope Francis’ “Laudato Si.”
- Urban life and the physical aspects of our towns and barangays are not only dirty. They are also ugly. Moreover, nobody seems to care that eyesores keep popping up all over the place. Use of public spaces is with little rhyme or reason, and we do not seem to be bothered by all the ugliness that envelops us wherever we go. And we show very little hesitation in repeating the cliché about the “beauty of the Philippines”!
Yes, indeed, as citizens, we need to change our mind set regarding life. Human life — everyone of it — is sacred and inviolable. Nature has to be protected and cared for. Urban and community life (its physical aspects) has to be cleaned up and beautified. A task for all Filipino citizens in the next five decades.