Monday, September 28, 2009

People in Charge: A Letter to the Filipino

It is perhaps part of our culture to have blind faith in many things, not least faith in two social forces that most shape our collective lives – god and government. This weekend has clearly demonstrated that our faith can only take us so far. God only helps those who help themselves. And government will only help itself unless pressured to do otherwise. We should perhaps take stock of what burden, what “charge,” we should place where appropriate. We cannot have blind faith that god will provide and succor. We cannot have blind faith that government will govern.

Of force majeure Ondoy, we have no control over. But we need not remain resigned to the caprice of nature and fate. Civilization tells the story of man’s battle to tame nature. All of science is a monument to this undertaking. For each difficulty posed by nature’s tyranny, humankind has dreamed of and fashioned solutions. Why can’t we? Typhoons, harbingers of disaster, come and go like the tide. Yet all these years, all these decades, we succumb blindly to fate. Fatalism is a condition that belongs to olden days. If there is progress, then there is no room for blind acceptance of what becomes of us.

And government – oh government. As we see names and personalities play their roles before us on our TV screens, we ask ourselves where the make-believe ends and where reality begins. The President wades in water in her pink boots while her son searches and rescues booze in a liquor store. Our leaders, ourselves? I despair. Yet perhaps this statement is unfair. Government or no, we have seen stories of people who help themselves. There is heroism in grand scale committed by humble nobodies. There are unknown soldiers who have gone beyond the call of duty. There is that 18 year-old construction worker who has saved thirty lives only to lose his. There is that father who mourns the computer for which he scrimped and saved to gift his son. His house and all he owns buried in mud, he endeavors to go on.

And so, here we are. The people we put in charge, the people to whom we entrust our monies and our fate. There is so much we do not know, so many questions to ask about the nitty-gritty of governing. For now let us ask this question, where did it go, our P5 billion supposedly spent on “flood control projects” last year?

The people we put in charge, bearer of public monies and public trust. Our state of affairs need not perennially begin in helplessness and end in tragedy. In 2010, when we choose people to put in charge, let us have faith in ourselves - that we deserve so much more than we have been given. And if we believe we so deserve a rational, functioning and clean government, then so must we exact.

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