If I lower my guard and take the comfy view that I am fundamentally defined by where I was schooled, I’d call myself an “Atenean”. When you are an Ateneo alumnus (and specially when you remain on as a faculty member), you usually come equipped with a lot of connections and the frame of mind to segue into “socially-oriented” projects if you wanna go down that path. But then I’m not really one to take “comfy views”. I may be “socially-oriented” but not, by any stretch of imagination, along the lines envisioned by my former Ateneo teachers.
By the time you graduate from the Ateneo High School (AHS), you will have been fully indoctrinated by the Tulong-Dunong (roughly translated “Help with Knowledge”) programme. The “TD” programme involves AHS students going off to disadvantaged public schools one day every week to tutor in Math, English, or Science the handful of elementary school students assigned to them. Participation is a mandatory part of the curriculum from the 3rd Yr to 4th years of high school if I recall right. The ACIL (Ateneo Catechetical Instruction League, I think it is) is an organisation for people who want to get involved in TD-type stuff beyond the mandatory requirements.
Usually high-performing students from these public schools are identified over the course of the programme and granted scholarships in the Ateneo.
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At the University of the Philippines, the ICTUS (could be either “Instructional Catechetical Teaching for University Students” or “In-Christ Teaching for University Students”, whatever…) organisation is the counterpart of ACIL within that secular institution. It was founded by Ateneans and seems to be run along a similar ACIL-like doctrine.
It is a model (almost one you can consider a franchise) that is often successfully replicated in many other institutions of learning. Like Media and political influence, it is a channel over which information and knowledge is disseminated. So my view there as far as these things go is that it comes down to the quality of the content transmitted through these channels. You can have a dense and extensive network of channels (read lots of classrooms and teachers in your education system just as there are a lots of newspapers TV shows and entertainment personnel in Media), but if your content is not rich, deep, meaningful, and of the right kind you end up simply mis-educating and mis-informing in a larger and more efficient scale.
I’ve experienced being a member of ICTUS in UP. Nice bunch of folks — but so totally emo. Like in most religious orgs (UP-speak for “organisation”), there are a lot of activities involving open exhibition of religious fervour – the Angelus prayer is observed everyday at the prescribed hour, masses are sponsored by the org at every Catholic “day of obligation”, and lots of other ad hoc prayers are murmured openly (grace before meals, thanking the Lord for little wins, etc.) every now and then. Singing of religious songs continuously emanate from the org Tambayan (a designated hang-out spot within the campus).
Unfortunately, I find that hypocrisy often comes with the territory of an openly religious lifestyle. Being openly religious entails great responsibility. If you can’t back up your open religiosity consistently with a correspondingly pious lifestyle that is seen to be compliant with the dogma of your religion, guess what: you end up with the ironic outcome of undermining the very religion you seek to promote. That’s where Jesus Christ seems to be coming from in his continuous denouncing of the Scribes, Pharisees, and other religious officials during his time.
Catholic dogma is quite clear on a few things. There were three such things that were particularly relevant to me as a late teenager and, later, early twenty-something aspiring (albeit unsuccessfully) to lead the swinging lifestyle of a university student:
(1) The matter of “mortal sins” involving “impure” thoughts and actions (if you know what I mean);
(2) The matter of how sin makes you unfit to commune with the Lord (eat His flesh and drink His blood); and,
(3) The matter of how the only way you can re-establish your fitness to commune with Him is through the onerous Sacrament of Reconciliation.
(Note that like the good Catholic School alumnus that I am, I banged the above away on my keyboard straight off the top of my head without googling one bit of it)
So back then, it was often quite a bewildering experience for me to watch as friends of mine, who just hours or even minutes earlier I had just been exchanging rude stories and jokes with in the Tambayan, lined themselves up at the aisle of our University Chapel waiting for their turn to receive Holy Communion. Was there some kind of express drive-thru Confessional box around the corner I was not aware of?
My own thoughts became even more disturbing to me when I realised that I’d routinely scan the Holy Communion queue towards the end of the mass and think “hey Jojo over there has been bonking Gigi over the last couple of months”. Then I’d go on to think about how I haven’t seen either of them go to Confession lately — or worse have seen them go to confession before every mass they attended.
Suffice to say, there was something quite wrong about the sort of thinking that imprisoned my mind at the time.
My point is (with apologies for having so far digressed and digressed from the digression a few times here), can we always be a hundred percent sure about our personal moral bearings? Is it thine eye that offends? Or is it thine beliefs that make stuff offensive?
I wrote this in an article quite a while back:
What does [the] trend towards increasingly abstracted and simplified representation of ideas, information, and data mean? Hold that thought while we consider the example of something more tangible – the transport and distribution of physical goods in an economy – that we can use to illustrate the point I plan to make.
In the old days when people used to produce what they consume, an “end-product” was not regarded in quite the same way a Twenty First Century tween would see her mug of Starbucks hot chocolate. A subsistence economy consumer would most likely be aware of most of the value of the tangible economic input into, say, the wild pig thigh he is munching into – the hunt, the kill, and the butchering of the beast. The value has substance and is derived from real assets and capital – the hunter’s skill and weapons and the planning that went into the hunt, for example. In contrast, the only palpable source of the value in the Starbucks drink a modern-day city slicker would discern is the brand experience – the stoking on the ego of walking in and out of a trendy establishment, the pride in being seen holding in one’s hand a tall paper tumbler that conspicuously sports the green circular logo. The coffee beans that give the beverage its rich flavour may have come from South America or Africa, the milk accounting for its texture from Australia or New Zealand. None of it matters. Indeed, there is no way the average Starbucks customer could be aware of such details.
We are at an age where we are on a day-to-day and even minute-by-minute basis served up a dense platter of symbolic ideas encapsulated in colourful sensually-appealing icons. And even before the technology was available to package them in the way we now consume them through our whiz-bang electronic devices, such persuasion tools have been around for some time and have been just as effective at capturing our sensibilities. The problem lies in the way these packages insulate us from the soundness (or lack of soundness) of the logic in their underlying ideas.
With that in mind, consider now what Inquirer.net columnist Conrado de Quiros says in his article Yes, he might:
Noynoy, like his mother, has the power to tap into People Power. That is the one huge ally he would need to fight corruption. That is the one huge ally that will be there to fight corruption.
Cory formally institutionalized People Power – it’s a provision in the Constitution – but never really used it in the course of her term. The provision was left for the politicians to pervert, not least Arroyo who used it to oust Grace Padaca and Ed Panlilio and to try to change the Constitution. Noynoy holds the key to it. If he discovers it, he will raise, like Aragorn who conscripted the dead kings and their legions in “Lord of the Rings,” an army mightier than any of his enemies can muster.
Equipped with the right approach to thinking, some of the right questions may now naturally emerge when faced with the sort of moronism exhibited above. Up to the challenge?
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.