As I was growing up, I noticed a strange trend among the classmates I had back in high school and college. At the beginning of every school year, the teacher would always ask the students what they expected from him or her. While everyone said something different, the most common would be the following: “Please don’t be too strict with us.” It was as if just about everyone hated the notion of an authority figure who would impose rules upon them. I, for one, don’t really mind rules so long as they do not interfere with legal interests and promotes a sense of safety and personal order. Of course, I will admit that I also broke the rules every now and again back then but I can always say that most of us were teenagers at the time and you know how being a teenager can be.
But then, I soon came to notice that this attitude of derision towards being strict was not just inherent in teenagers. It was also very common among many adult Filipinos as well, much to my dismay. As I’ve said before in some of my previous articles, a lot of Filipinos have a problem with being “them”. Relatively few people in this country want to be responsible for difficult duties and make difficult decisions and not because they care about their fellows; it’s because they don’t want to be responsible for the mishaps that might occur. It’s like the Drow society of Forgotten Realms or the Skaven of Warhammer wherein theft, rape and murder are completely okay as long as you don’t get caught. So technically, you’re stuck in a place wherein committing crimes and atrocities is essentially permitted but the only things your accountable for are what you get caught with.
For instance, I remember an incident during my younger years in one of my ill-fated walks with my father. A police officer had called him out for urinating in public and was initially going to fine him for doing so. For some reason, when the cop saw me, he just decided to give my father a stern talking to instead of fining him. The policeman lectured my father on what kind of example he was presenting to his own son and that if he wanted to make a good impression as a father, he should at first think about discipline. Later that day, my father got drunk again with the excuse that he was blowing off steam because a police officer had called him out on his behavior and asking why don’t the police just focus on capturing real criminals like snatchers.
Then, in another incident, I remember the drunk driver of a jeep being arrested for driving drunk. Ladies and gentlemen, let me tell you that drunk driving has actually killed more people than shootings. It goes to show that driving drunk doesn’t just put you in danger, it also puts in danger people who might be sharing the road with you or any passengers who might be with you. Being a jeep or bus driver isn’t just a means of making a living. Being a driver of public transport also holds you responsible for the passengers your vehicle is carrying and driving drunk is a good way to endanger them. Still, the jeep driver went on to berate the police for being thieves and criminals even though the jeep driver could have easily gotten his jeep over a cliff while under the influence of alcohol.
Finally, no one can ignore the fact that the weather seems to be getting worse every year. The news keeps us well-informed of people who get killed by floods or those who have become homeless because of typhoons. What’s really sad is that most of the death tolls of these disasters can be mitigated if some people could at least discipline themselves into making preparations. For instance, consider the fact that littering is usually one of the major causes of flooding these days because of the way they tend to clog drainage pipes that are meant to control floods in the first place. Now, as I’ve said before, candy wrappers are certainly small but when enough of them are thrown away casually unto the street, they can cause quite a headache for the community.
Also note that this aversion to responsibility is also one of the major causes of cultural and intellectual stagnation in the country. No one can deny the fact that many of the country’s major institutions, be it political, cultural, academic or economic refuse to make any steps towards progress to improve the lives of its people. This is again due to the fact that the common Pinoy does not want to take any responsibility for any mishaps.
When the risk of failure and shame is too great, Pinoys tend to just withdraw in cowardice. I once compared the Philippines to a basement dweller and I noticed there were those who actually reacted negatively to that. Well, I’m not withdrawing that statement now because I see just how true it is with a lot of people. The greatest achievements humankind has made in its history is due to the men and women willing to took great risks to improve their fellow man and the institutions, be it a government, a school or even just a community of like-minded individuals, who supported them. Powered flight, the invention of radio, the development of the internet, all of these were developed through the risks taken by brilliant individuals and the people who chose to support them.
I’m not saying that we should simply go out on a limb to make achievements. What I’m saying is that we should strive to become better even if we run the risk of making failures. Failures are a part of growing up and life itself. When we learn to stand, we run the risk of falling down. When we learn to walk, we run the risk of toppling over. When we learn to ride a bike, we run the risk of falling over or getting pursued by neighborhood dogs. Unfortunately, many major institutions and the very Filipino people don’t seem to understand this. They cling to old ways, claiming such methods have always worked for them even if they are far outdated by more modern systems today.
Please people, it’s high time we, as a people, matured and developed. The time for petty differences and childish squabbles should have been long behind us. We are under threat from both within and without our nation and if we fail to face these as mature adults then I can assure you that our dear Philippines is going to die like the “Girl in the Gutter” I wrote about.
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