Let’s Talk About the Me and You

Highschool, St. Scholastica’s College Manila. Home of women leaders, social activists and articulate speaker. Set the stage. 

The commute home from school is long. I have to ride the LRT, a handful of jeepneys and tricycles. Time and time again, I’ve seen the same beggar on the flight of stairs going up to the LRT. It has been a couple of years now, and an old little woman is still carrying her child and is still carrying the same plastic cup from Jollibee, asking people for alms. She has never been relocated to some place better, and yet passing administrations have promised so much.

– A Scholastican’s Role in Good Governance, 3Service

I joined (and won) an oratorical contest hosted within my school, and I delivered a speech which represented the hearts and efforts of my whole class, and which apparently also represented the hearts of the audience and judges. It began like that, with the flair and pathos of all high school drama.

And I realized, quite belatedly, that I was wrong. We were wrong. That the winning speech, however moving and convincing and honest, was based on a dangerous premise. It’s not bad governance at fault. It’s us. 

Why? Imagine the scenario, but think about it in terms of reality. Thousands upon thousands of Scholasticans have walked those same steps I described. I have personally walked that path many, many times. Countless aspiring servant leaders have taken the daily commute by the LRT and passed by the same beggar, broken. And who do we blame? –the government. It’s the Bystander Effect, all in motion.

My sister taught me the Bystander Effect. In a park full of people, no one is going to help if one of them suddenly chokes on air. Everyone is working under the assumption that there’s someone else more capable (a doctor), more experienced (or a paramedic) or, just. More. And you don’t move, not an inch, because moving forward puts you in the spotlight. You save her or she dies. Quite similarly, every Scholastican who has climbed those stairs probably thought the same thing. It’s not my responsibility. It’s not my time. Someone else (the government) is accountable for him. I need to go home. DSWD will pass by again (*soon, as they do this regularly to no effect).

Who else is accountable? The mayor? The LRT station guard? Look how I painted the picture of Philippine society (it looks like I lost all hope):

This is the typical Filipino setting, where the poor and innocent get slighted, and the rich and powerful go free. Again, the Philippines’ political landscape is marred by instances of corruption and inefficiency permeating the levels of the government.

But then, thankfully, we move on to being less absolutist. There are other people to consider:

the poor governance still present in our state cannot solely be blamed on the officials within the government itself, but can also be attributed to the passiveness of the people as well.  With this realization, our brothers and sisters have taken up the responsibility of moving for change through various social movements.

And sometimes there’s nothing wrong with holding others accountable. There really are other parties at fault here. It definitely wasn’t you who put those beggars there. Right? Maybe. But notice how it will never be the Scholasticans at fault. Never. It will be the government, or the mass, or the media. And here’s the implication to this scenario:

Accountability will never start. We are at the young, undeveloped stage of our present dilemma. Right now, we shrug off even the little things on the basis of technicalities. Trash on the streets? That’s MMDA’s job, they’ll be here later. Soliciting children outside Ministop? This is DSWD’s territory, best not interfere. This sad interpretation of “passing it on” becomes so dangerous because it ingrains in us a selectivity in advocacy. If something doesn’t have to be done, it will remain a work-in-progress indefinitely. No one’s going to look for a second go.

And so the culture we build is frustratingly relevant to our present system. These people we’ve seated in the government probably grew up with the same mentality as us, constantly asking “Why?” and more commonly, “Why me?”. Maybe a poverty program is brushed aside in budgeting because, oh, the private sector is already working on that. Or maybe looking for technicalities: this really isn’t my job, part of my job description, etc. This isn’t my part responsibility.

The dynamic goes on and on and on, in so many different forms. We’ll always find a way to make someone more accountable, because we don’t feel fit or unfortunate enough to be saddled with the responsibility of another’s life. Anathema, I think, to the idea of leadership, and to the Scholastican value of initiative. Funny, considering my closing words:

In time, and through heartfelt action, the words ‘service’ and ‘social awareness’ will cease to be simply words on paper and hollow actions, but will grow to be something Scholasticans do out of the deep desire to actively help in the betterment of the country.

How could change ever be possible, when there’s a failure to understand the problem? A cancer in society isn’t a virus or a parasite or an injury. No one external to body is commandeering the decay. It’s cancer, the malfunctioning and failure of units in society to understand the problem. And the intellectual-to-self-aware revolution starts with understanding that you are a cancer cell, we are all cancer cells, every time you note with apathy the beggar on the street, or act with indifference towards rallies and media. It’s never a matter of what you do, but why and how you do it. How do you serve when you don’t practice what you preach in the little things? What’s this “betterment of the country”, when no one realizes that they are part of the country, not observers or spectators to the teleserye ride?

What’s the conclusion? The conclusion is this: start with the man in the mirror, yeah? Nothing happens if you don’t acknowledge what’s really up. Not just the stinky smell of Philippine politics, but your own confusion and mistakes.

Correction, my and your and our own confusion and mistakes.

Personal

#wordvomitdone

Tired, but the first sentence (now no longer the first hihi) of this came out of nowhere, so. Might as well.

Did not proofread, as I am sleepy as hell. :) Good night!

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