IT’S VERY EASY these days for most Pinoys to go on social media and rant about the latest traffic jam or corrupt politician. Sarcasm is daily fare on Facebook and Twitter, and many feel free to heave big sighs of disgust with expletives to boot within their secure circle of friends. But take it out of cyberspace, and many go quiet.
There are those who will bellyache privately about a boss, a religious leader, the head of their association – name it – but will back down when urged to confront the trouble and hash things out. When the words are tied to a name and a face and must be supported by proof to justify a complaint, the fountain runs dry.
This is unfortunate, because many of those who do complain have reason to. On several occasions, I have witnessed grievances in the workplace, in church, in families, and organizations go unredressed because the offended party chose to keep silent. Why? So as “not to raise a fuss.” “To keep the peace.” “To preserve unity.” “They might say I’m divisive.” “Baka malintikan ako (I might get in hot water.)“ In these cases, the offenses (though not criminal) were not minor and needed to be discussed by the parties at least to clear the air and settle the issue. Because the aggrieved chose not to act, the offender got away with it and justice was not served. When chided about this, the offended party invariably said, “Hayaan mo na (Let it be)” with a dejected expression and deep feelings of resignation/frustration/anger/impotence.
I am no sociologist and these are merely events I have observed, but I reckon many of you have noticed the same. While there is a growing number of militant individuals emboldened by social media, there remains that silent sector that is loath to rock the boat.
Despite the westernization of our culture, the oriental “group mentality” endures in the Philippines. I would not change that; it is one of our endearing cultural traits. But it has its downside. One can love the group to the point of unhealthy co-dependence. The fear of going out of step, of not harmonizing, and worst of all, of ostracism and eventual eviction is enough to keep one in a virtual straitjacket. Which is fine, the reasoning goes: “I can take it because the group still loves me.”
When we do this we turn bad leaders into monsters and make idols of good ones. We perpetuate weak policies, we institutionalize inefficiency, we encourage excess, we abet abuse. This can happen in the smallest parish or the richest corporation. This can happen in Malacañang. This can describe the Philippines.
A long time ago, I was a government employee, and I both witnessed and was told about incidents of corruption in our office. The one I witnessed I acted on, and the grafter eventually got booted out. But those cases narrated to me remained dormant because the witnesses refused to make a complaint. I could not act for them. The initiative was theirs to take. They let it slide and the grafter got promoted.
I have had the misfortune to see similar incidents happen in the private sector and in the religious establishment, and I have had my fill of it. This culture of silence must be demolished.
It is most disappointing when found in religious organizations. Too many pastors have become petty tyrants because their bad leadership was unchallenged by the flock. There is a disturbing development in the evangelical Christian church today where pastors proclaiming themselves the “anointed of God” demand unquestioning submission from their members. Those members who do dare to ask are branded as divisive and gradually ostracized. Very seldom does anyone from the church leadership speak up in their defense. This is a far cry from the example set by Christ, who did not come to be served but to serve. He who washed His disciples’ feet said, “as I do, so must you.”
It is a Christian duty to speak up in loving rebuke against wrongdoing and it is a Christian duty to listen and accept admonition. I can only touch on my experience but I wonder now whether there are similar incidents in Islam and the other religions in the country, and what their scriptures say about these matters.
We spend a lot of time ranting on social media about how this country has gone to the dogs, but we cannot stop with pointing fingers. Real change comes by actual investment. If we are witnesses to abuse, coercion, extortion, graft, and any form of wrongdoing, let us speak up and act. Report the crime, file a complaint, identify the culprits, pursue justice.
A pall of cynicism hangs over us like a damp fleece and is rendering us immobile. Resignation is not the answer. We are not impotent. We have a voice. Let us use it.
Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.