Friday, February 05, 2010

Being Human

To deny the body its due is to deny an essential aspect of the human condition. While we are beings of reason and of will, these are tempered by the materiality of hunger and pain. Who we are and what we believe are products of the conditions in which we live. Our values – the things we value, are shaped by our material circumstances. To illustrate, a Canadian might not think twice about leaving leftovers in a restaurant. A Filipino would. Food does not comprise a substantial percentage of a person’s income in Canada. It does in the Philippines. And so, Filipinos value food more than Canadians – and behave in ways that reflect this value.

Interrogating the voters’ motivations for voting a certain way, Cocoy is disturbed by the reasons given by the poorest - “Feed us. That’s the only thing that matters. We don’t’ care whether you steal. We don’t care about your fight. Just feed us.”

He writes, “What I think this survey tells us is that right here, right now, more and more Filipinos are focusing on the material, the bodily needs, rather than the big picture.” Indeed, this may be true. But this reasoning has a logic all its own. Those who suffer hunger will make rational decisions - food and comfort now will weigh more than a nebulous future. When one makes do with P200 a day for example, what is the point of living beyond the mere moment?

Also, valuing a president who “cares for the poor” more than one who is “not corrupt/clean” reflects two things – the condition of powerlessness and quasi-feudal values.

The powerless will not think to question the actions of the powerful. The inhabitants of Tondo will not think it their place to question whether Manny Villar has behaved according to the dictates of the law. What is the point when they cannot do anything about it anyhow? All they will care about is that Villar, the quasi feudal lord, will provide as he sees fit. This system of patronage does not only exist between politicos and the many poor. It is endemic in our entire political system.

It is good to dream the impossible dream. But surely, we all must temper idealism with a little bit of humanity.