I went through the liberation theology subject during my last college year at Ateneo (1996-97). We got immersed in an Aeta reservation in Bataan for a few days. It’s an attempt to make us “privileged” students aware of the plight of poorer people in remote areas, with the part-expectation that we would return and try to help them with some sort of “charity.” Perhaps a few did, though I remember some returned with more the intention of leisure than help.
But even if real help came, help for the long term is rare. Short-term assistance is the likely kind that students will give. It will not work without the intention of teaching the “fish-receiver” to go fishing themselves. That’s one flaw of “liberation” theology.
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Another flaw of this ideology is its basis on the rich-versus-poor conflict. Let’s say you’ve got a job in this world’s “capitalist” system and bought luxury goods for yourself. Liberation theology implies that you stole from poor people just by gaining wealth. That’s accusing someone of a crime they never committed.
Mother Teresa seems to be one figurehead of liberation theology. She’s been in a lot of controversy lately. One of her charity houses has been closed by police after children were found to have been sold from it. But aside from this, critics especially hit her controversial core beliefs, especially saying that “suffering is beautiful.” It’s implied that she rigged her charity houses to keep people poor, to make sure people stay suffering – because it’s beautiful for her. That is contrary to Biblical teaching that encourages relieving or removing suffering.
The Ivory Bubble
I hold that in monastic orders such as Mother Teresa’s charity, their being locked away for a long time affects their views of the real world. Trapped in a bubble, they are forced to see the world through a colored lens. They often are unable to see other lenses. Their bubble limits their understanding of the world
But this is not just limited to clergy. This attitude is borne by lay or ordinary people as well, especially those who are spoiled by their ivory tower lifestyles. Perhaps some have mothers who would scream, after the children bought a snack for themselves, “how dare you buy for yourself! Next time, when you buy a snack, buy for everybody!” Those who give in to this would begin to make a habit of treating people out, though for no reason. I respect more the people who resist this.
Then it moves to children seeing more of the world, such as the provinces, squatter areas, or people poorer than them. They are so used to their own lifestyle that they are shocked upon seeing others in different states of life. But there are certain beliefs that can add to a person’s reactions to what they experience. One belief is to accept that one’s lifestyle and ideals are different from others, and they accept this, there’s no need to make the other the same as you. The other is to believe that one’s own lifestyle and ideals are the only right ones and should be the standard for all, so if others are do not live by them, one must enforce it on the others. Musician and famed “ambassador” to white supremacists Daryl Davis is the former. He accepts and befriends white supremacists despite their beliefs. The latter is what leads to people becoming “woke.”
In other words, being spoiled tends to create these knee-jerk “caring for the world” idealists. These kinds of people could have joined the monastic orders I described and or become laity who use the church, schools and other places tools for spreading out their ideals. They may become school administrators of the likes of St. Scholastica and subversive “revolutionists” in U.P. and in the mountains, with the goal of imposing their ideas on the world.
How One Goes Woke
Some of these people might also have been raised with servants in the house. They grew up with “assistance” and little independence. Then they see people in the poor areas of this country and other countries. They get shocked and say, “these people need assistance!” without taking a closer look and understanding how different people’s ways of life are. Still driven by the idea that everything must be the same as them, they become like the child who throws a tantrum because a person refuses to do what they say.
Since they believe that their way is right, they desire to make it a hegemony and force it on the world. If someone disagrees with that, they want to get rid of that someone. They join the terrorist New People’s Army to get the means to do that. They look for easy scapegoats to blame, such as President Duterte, based on barbers’ tales (kwentong barbero) of people executed en masse by him. But in the process, they themselves become murderers, and support people who are also murderers.
Other similar people might find someone who doesn’t give to the poor at all, they will publicly scorn such a person. They tend to believe that goodness and giving should be forced. They will promote reckless giving, even if such giving is actually terrible and could help the wrong people. Such people become reckless in other things as well.
One such reckless belief is the Mother Teresa one described above. It’s based on the idea that if you can’t make poor people as rich as others, then pull the rich ones down and make them poor. That is probably why suffering could become beautiful – it’s revenge. It’s reckless, stupid and wrong.
The problem with such people is that they are not willing to check whether their beliefs could be mistaken. They are seized by a stubborn arrogance and self-deception with a touch of Dunning-Kruger effect. My way of life is right and perfect, I cannot be wrong! So they hate people who are not like themselves.
The feeling of invincibility of youth makes it easy for them to believe this. The irony is, they often join such “activism” saying their parents are “dictators,” but when they go out and do their thing, they are dictators themselves. They’re so out of touch with reality that they call living a normal life “adulting.”
The attitude above is not liberation. On the other hand, it is enslavement. Such people are enslaved by their bubbles and narcissism, leading them to deceive themselves that the wrong they do is right. They are not free; they are slaves of their desire to shape the world according to themselves.
The Real Kind of Liberation
A myth about empathy is that, if you’re not carried away by the emotion of the moment (in Tagalog, hindi ka nadadala ng damdamin) , you have no empathy. Ergo, you are uncaring and evil. No. If you get carried away by emotion, it does not result in useful action. It more likely results in knee-jerk reactions. This is what I believe drives the monastic orders and ivory tower laity to the kind of beliefs I described above. True empathy has thinking along with feeling. You try to understand with sobriety what one needs, and you are careful not to force what you assume they need.
So I imply that the wokes are not following Biblical doctrine when they claim to be; they are deviating from it and using their own interpretation in its place. This is what I pointed out in my article “We are not our brother’s keeper.” I attend an evangelical Christian church instead of a Catholic one, and we do not promote reckless giving. Help is better when purposeful and not reckless. It also reminds us of the part of the Bible that says he who refuses to work should not eat, and that ildeness is a source of a lot of wrongdoing in the world (2 Thes. 3: 6-12). Anyone who promotes freeloading while defending it and denying that it is idleness are doing wrong.
So wokes want to liberate others from things such as poverty, disease, corruption, and more. But people are limited. For example, wokes assume that bringing down a dictator such as Marcos or Duterte will immediately bring in a golden age. But history has shown that after deposing one dictator, another or even more, worse, ones will replace them. They might start a feeding or aid program in another country, but might get shocked later on that their program did not work or the aid got stolen. That’s how reality is; just because you have a good idea does not mean it will always work. We are not entitled to success in everything we do.
Another angle to this is that the wokes hate the feeling of powerlessness. Facebook shares, attacking perceived “dictators” and “dictators supporters,” forcing people to give and share and attacking people with different values from theirs is all for gaining a sense of power. Problem is, that kind of power is corrupted and selfish, because they’re doing it all for themselves, not for others. They have to accept powerlessness in life in certain areas.
Another thing about life they need to learn: hardship is not always man-made, and thus isn’t something that you should find someone to blame for. It comes naturally, and we should accept it and go through it.
You might ask me, so you don’t want people to be liberated from suffering? Of course I do. But we must do it the right way.
Self-empowerment is liberating. Cutting down entitlement is liberating. Learning to let go when we need to is liberating. Accepting that the world will not obey us and doesn’t need us is liberating. Not being demanding is liberating.
But here’s something that “liberationists” will hate: Sometimes, you have to liberate people from yourself. You have to let people solve their own problems. You can encourage and assist, but never take over from them.
I encourage such people within the liberation theology school, or any forced sharing/giving/”goodness” school, to rethink their ideals. When they move on to more practical ideals, they will realize how wrong and useless ousting “dictators” and forcing their “goodness” on the world are. They will realize that no one can control the world, and such desire for control is what the “evil ones” really do.
I believe, as my cohorts here do, that what Filipinos embrace as their culture is what actually pulls the country down. And those who seem to be anti-dictators, who may also believe themselves to be “heroes,” are the real dictators.