A Journey Worthwhile

Hindi ka nagiisa. You are not alone.

This mantra was coined in the People Power movement but has since lost its political cachet.

Pity because the phrase is unmatched (at par, arguably, with  ‘All things must pass’) for what it captures, compassion, solidarity, and humanity, the values that ideally define a nation. They are the qualities that are sustaining the Japanese people in their time of crisis.

Yet even as the phrase has faded from the political lexicon, it still lingers in the hearts and minds of many Filipinos. There is, I suspect, a yearning in us to come together as a community, to go to a better place, to be a better people.

The question is how.

Culture is the soul of a nation. It is the store of our social mores, customs, creative expressions and values as accumulated over time. It is our software. It is our DNA. It is our conscience. It is who we are.

The President calls for a cultural transformation … yet we do not even have a Department of Culture. For everything else we have an organization and a budget, even for renaming streets; but not for culture, the very essence of our nation. That is how lacking we are.

The Dept. of Education used to be called the Dept. of Education, Culture and Sports. However in 2001, R.A. 9155 was passed removing the latter two from the masthead. Culture was downgraded to a National Commission for Culture, essentially an archive supervising the National Library and such. Sports was organized under the  Philippine Sports Commission.

In their wisdom, our elected representatives decided that Culture was not a big deal. That is how mindless they are, how they just do not get it. That is how far we are from transformation.

Yet we must undertake the journey of change. As a nation we have too much riding on it.

Here are some of the ways:

1. Restore culture to its rightful place in nation building- The President must internalize the issue and commit to it. Making Culture  a Cabinet position would be a first and symbolic step.

2. Prepare a longterm cultural agenda- This should define the vision and the road map. The plan would encompass value formation, creative expression and communication. It should be a critical component of the school curriculum. It should stress individual accountability and the greater good.

3. Strengthen enforcement- Social mores  -discipline, order, respect- are best developed by combining education with enforcement. The populace and the authorities have equal responsibility as watchdogs. As citizens we should not allow social indiscretions to go unnoticed (“Hey, pare, back of the line”).

4. Mobilize the youth-  Mao got it right when he marshaled the young to oversee the Cultural Revolution. He just overcooked it. Marcos had the same idea, the KB, but became otherwise preoccupied.
Properly mentored, the young are the ground troops that will bring about the new order. The Boy Scouts are a model to follow (as VP Binay has recognized). Use the Sangunniang Kabataan.

5. Engage the private sector- With their human resource skills and money, companies should be brought into the equation. The NGOs are critical to reaching the informal and rural sectors.

6. Combine livelihood, health and social justice with value formation- There has to be a holistic approach to development. It is easier to promote communal responsibilities when there is fair distribution of justice, social services and incomes.

7. Nail some big fish- This Government must walk the walk, not just talk the talk.

8. Adopt best practices from around the globe- For example, in Singapore it is illegal to express  sentiments that foment bigotry and social divisiveness.

9. Reform the bureaucracy- Nobility must be restored in civil service.

10. Take personal responsibility- National values are the sum of our individual actions. Reform starts with us getting in line, being thoughtful and respectful of each other.

11. Lead by example- The nation needs private and Government role models. The President and high officials must set the tone for work, integrity and frugality. Unhappily, adult toys must go.

Building national values is the work of lifetime but it is worthwhile, this I know to be true.

It is at the core of progress. It is what makes for a humane society.

As a community it is our protection against political abuse.

It is what completes us as a people.

Let us give voice and meaning to a new moral order in the knowledge and strength that, in this, we are not alone.

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About Leo Alejandrino

The blog is principally a commentary on Philippine politics and economics.
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2 Responses to A Journey Worthwhile

  1. Ging says:

    Language plays a huge part in how we appreciate/understand/value our culture.
    Tests conducted by Lera Boroditsky show that “linguistic processes are pervasive in most fundamental domains of thought, unconsciously shaping us from the nuts and bolts of cognition and perception to our loftiest abstract notions and major life decisions. Language is central to our experience of being human, and the languages we speak profoundly shape the way we think, the way we see the world, the way we live our lives.”*

    Could it be that our use of English as a medium of instruction have contributed to how we little we value our culture?

    (LERA BORODITSKY is an assistant professor of psychology, neuroscience, and symbolic systems at Stanford University, who looks at how the languages we speak shape the way we think.)

  2. manuelbuencamino says:

    Isn’t that what Mao, Pol Pot, and Lee Kuan Yew tried to do albeit Lee in a less brutal manner?

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