Listening to President Benigno S. Aquino III’s 3rd State of the Nation Address earlier, it was not difficult to find both positive and negative comments on what was being said in his speech. And while such thoughts are essential in a supposedly democratic atmosphere of ideas, I could not help but also think if the words that are formed in our heads, which later come out of our mouths, are also manifested consistently in our actions.
Do not get me wrong, I am no blind fanatic of the President. But I am also no unreasonable critic. I must admit though, I have always been the cynic when it comes to elected officials. And I have had this adversarial approach to persons in authority long before I even got into journalism.
It could have been generational, being that I was born during the Marcos years and my family stood up against the repressive regime. Or it could have been acquired from school since the Jesuits taught me to discern on matters which I suppose are important. Then again, it could also be cultural, since Filipinos have always had a distrust of authority, even after the Spanish and American colonizers have long left the reins of government to their Filipino proteges.
Whatever the reasons might be, I have always been the one who thinks of “what ifs” and “who knows.” And I have had several discussions and arguments with friends of mine who view this attitude as pessimistic - to which my retort has always been: “I’m not pessimistic, I’m just realistic.”
And that’s where I am also at odds with those who are eternally pessimistic - people who see nothing in government or society but corruption, poverty, hunger, illiteracy, etc. Yes, I agree, Philippine society is awash in all of these problems, and it has been decades already yet little has changed. But a little change is better than nothing at all. And very little has changed because very few also work to make Philippine society better.
There are many among us Filipinos, particularly those in the cities and more specifically the web, who pride ourselves as being “critical” and “knowledgeable” of the practices in government; the deficiencies in our institutions; the weakness of our social, political and economic systems. Yes, many among us claim to know all of these. But how many among us do something to right what is wrong and fix what is broken?
How many among us report the apparent misuse of the people’s money for yards and yards of tarpaulins with a councilor’s huge face, congratulating so and so for no apparent reason? How many among us report erring traffic enforcers to the agencies they work for? How many among us in government offices, exert our utmost in delivering the services to others which we are getting paid for?
50 million voting Filipinos demand so much from one single person. Yet not one single voting Filipino demands much from himself or herself in his chosen line of work, in his or her chosen field of study or in how he or she conducts herself or himself to the other people around him or her. How much we demand of others should be the same degree of demand we should have of ourselves.
If we demand diligence in work from our elected officials and public servants, then we should demand the same level of diligence from ourselves in our jobs and our studies. If we demand a greater efficiency in performance from government offices, then we should also make sure that we are efficient in our line of work. If we demand integrity from our leaders, then we ourselves should be men and women of unquestionable integrity.
How we live our lives should be a manifestation of the very principles and values which we publicly demand of others. It would be difficult for one to demand hard work and competence from others if one spends most of the day being the actualization of Juan Tamad. That would be a hypocrisy which only serves to erode the moral ascendancy of the claim to being a qualified critic.
I hope though that these Filipinos, both online and offline, who become seasonal “political critics” and frequently exercise a “holier than thou attitude,” not only against public officials but also against every other human being they came in contact with, would find the intelligence to look into themselves first and try to see if their lives exhibit the principles which they so often claim to believe in and “fight for.” Else, I pray they would find the wisdom to sit in a corner, silently.
Personally, I’m not saying that my life is totally a manifestation of every principle I believe in. But at least, I am doing my best to make it one.