As children, we are allowed to watch tv programs where the good guys always triumph and the villains get their comeuppance — the naughty little boy who stole cookies and then lied about it afterwards gets caught by a good little boy who always tells the truth (nevermind that he’s sometimes labelled a stoolie and a tattle-tale– he has to stand up for what is right). Bullies are punished and the nerdy or geeky ones are embraced and told that they are loved no matter what.
Then when we reach adolescence and attend high school, we’re prodded to have extra-curricular activities: join the Boy Scouts/Girl scouts, the English, Science or Math Club, the gymnastics group, the chess team, whatever organization that will supposedly bring one out of one’s shell and teach one how to socialize, how to make friends, how to grow up to be a stable, decent and well-rounded individual who will also be a good model citizen.
So what will all these lessons on how to be a good person, or why it is important to make friends and be upright individuals, shouldn’t it be expected that things would be much better for all of us? Because it’s not just the children’s tv programs or the books, it’s also school: up to high school and even college we are constantly bombarded with reminders that we should be upstanding young people. What happened?
What happens is this: society and our elders and leaders go against their own words and practice the opposite of what they preach to the younger ones. The truths they proclaim are exposed as empty rhetoric, and they fall desperately short of our expectations. They establish rules and laws that allow the weak to be exploited further and the bullies to be rewarded. Liars are given high posts in government and when they steal, they also get away with it. Truth-tellers are vilified, abducted, killed, or worse, their honor and dignity undermined and they they are accused of being criminals by the killers, thieves and liars.
As adults, we find work in the offices and the factories, but by no means is our socializing with our colleagues and co-workers allowed to become strong bonds of fraternity: we are discouraged from forming or joining unions or employee associations. When we seek to give depth and significance to the ties we form in the workplace — in the factories where we are victimized by the same unfair labor policies and the oppressive work conditions; in the government offices where we are witness to the corruption of our superiors — we risk losing our jobs and become targets of the management or the higher authorities in government. The groups we form with our friends — the unions, the associations — are banned, and when we assert our rights by speaking out in protest by holding pickets and strikes (all of which are inalienable rights), we are charged of the most ridiculous crimes like disturbing the peace, loitering and littering.
As children we are told to speak out against the wrong doings of others, to admit our own faults and apologize.
As adults, many of us would rather keep silent,and then there are others whose main duty is to silence others. Those who keep silent live in fear and ignorance; but they will not admit it, or worse, they do not care. They remain quiet as they watch society deteriorate. Society’s leaders, in the meantime, have no shame and remain stiff-necked and defiant against public outrage against the atrocities of various stripes and colors they committed in the name of public service, while in public office. They rely on the silence of the majority to remain in power, on their fear, their ignorance, their apathy.
They do not know what it is to apologize, or if they do, the apology is false and everything is for show. They escape punishment, and the judgment of history against them means nothing because they retain the immoral and stolen wealth they accumulated – money makes all the difference and can buy influence.
Many children group to become fence sitters; others grow up to become hecklers who also sit on the fence but make it their past time to ridicule those who choose to practice what they learned as children and strengthen their values and belief in what is right and just into adulthood.
The children who grew up to adulthood with the core values intact have no need for religion or faith not because they are godless, but because they are not out to save only themselves (often religion teaches that one must pray because its a requirement to go to heaven: the unforgetting ones believe in creating heaven on earth for the poor and the oppressed). They remember childhood’s lessons on how help must be extended to others in need; that they must give what they have in excess and always share with the less unfortunate.
They work for others in the same way they live for and love their families, and a sacrifice is no longer a sacrifice because it is often done out of love. The pledge they took as children to love their country, to serve it and their fellowmen/women they continue to take seriously, and many have already given their lives to the cause of daylight in a country where darkness is prevalent.
(This is dedicated to the young men and women of the League of Filipino Students)