Monday, November 15, 2004

Blame the followers, but blame their leaders more

Blame the followers, but blame their leaders more

By Bob Garon
TODAY Newspaper
Sunday, November 14, 2004 10:32 PM

Dear Bob: It must be over a decade by now since your Today column started now and then to address what, if you’ll allow me, I’d like to call the age-old moral-intellectual sickness of the Philippine “soul,” to use a word that Allan Bloom wrote in his 1987 great book on the American mind or psyche. Your recent umpteenth reprise of that haunting theme that won’t go away called it “the moral quagmire we are in,” and I’d add, permanently it seems, in that Third World mentality morass. For perspective, may I comment that Rizal first exposed that deep-seated cancer in his aptly titled 1887 Touch Me Not.

I noticed that on the same day your piece appeared, your paper’s editorial re-echoed your general theme in calling the people’s elected House of Representatives the “House of Reprehensible Thieves.” Here is one hint of who is most responsible for so many reprehensible rotten fruits in this uniquely Asian Christian land. It is not, as you come close to suggesting, your own Catholic Church and priests. They must “accept much of the responsibility,” you wrote as you overblamed and explained, for this and for that.

Why don’t you blame the people instead as individuals and families as the chief culprits? Weren’t they as a whole the amoral demented voters who never read inquiringly, even for their reprehensible leaders’ record of competence and integrity? Don’t our corrupt officials and managers come from them, or merely reflect and respond to them in one way or another? Who voted for the crooks, felons, criminally charged, murderers, deceivers, mere celebrities, incompetents, tax cheats, influence peddlers, other benighted ones in national and local government? Why don’t we gadflies take a lesson from a Briton in this regard named John Michael Pocock? In his 1997 Rizal book, he wrote: “The root cause of the Filipino’s slide to nothingness [into a permanent Third World economy and mentality] lies with the Filipino himself, and Rizal does not spare the rod on his own people… [but] holds him accountable for his condition.” He cited his humanistic Enlightenment hero for stressing that “Filipinos should redeem themselves by deserving it, by exalting individual reason and respect for self, by loving the just, the good, the great, even to the point of dying for these.”

Bob, at our advanced age, let’s tell it bluntly like it is, no matter how “politically incorrect,” in hopes that large enough critical minimum members be challenged thereby to overcome their IQ-moral stunting (as I call it), or moral quagmire (as you call it).

—Roberto M. “Bob” Bernardo

* * *

I cannot disagree with your insistence that it is we who make up the populace of this suffering nation that are to blame for ills of the country. Of course we are! I do not, for one minute, wish to distract from the individual responsibility that we all share in the mess that we find ourselves in. Shame on all of us!

But shame also on those who exercise moral authority over us. Just as we fault lousy teachers for failing to educate our children properly, so too do our religious teachers have to take the blame for not imparting the right Christian values to their flock.

There is no way around this. If we are an exemplary nation that lives the values we are taught, our moral leadership will quickly take the credit—and rightly so. In the same way, they need to accept that somehow they have missed the boat.

I am thoroughly convinced that if our clergymen were more holy, we would have a holier laity. It just follows logically. And that’s the point that I have been hammering time after time, ad nauseam. And I won’t stop saying so again and again because there is no way that it isn’t the truth.

Christianity swept the known world because the disciples of Christ were men and women who lived the works they spoke. In short, they walked the talk. Later when corruption set in, there was big trouble and the Church began to fragment. Then, as now, the problem started at the top, not the bottom. This is still the case today.

If only the clergy was holier, then the effects would flow outward to the people and into our everyday lives. But somehow we are into rituals that do not translate into effective action that can turn our country around. (Emphasis on the word “effective”).As in everything else, those who would take credit for success must also accept responsibility for failure.


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