The science of civility and inclusion in the Philippines
At first I wrote “The art of civility and inclusion” because sometimes it seems like we are just winging it, going with the flow, living our lives in chaos and contempt for all the problems others give us.
But I think how we get along together is a science, or should be. It is the science of drawing lines that separate us from sin, or bad behavior, or incivility, or bigotry. It is a rigorous discipline, much like it took in algebra to solve for unknowns in a quadratic equation, or finally grasping in trigonometry that the cosine is the relationship of the adjacent side of a right triangle to the hypotenuse (don’t worry about it).
Here is an example of how lines can be drawn. We can choose:
- To swear or not to swear.
- To steal or not to steal.
- To talk behind someone’s back or to their face.
- To judge a person by our standards or judge them by their standards.
- To praise a president for his successes or condemn him for his faults.
- To give of ourselves or take from others.
Civility is our ability to work well with others, to lift people up.
Inclusion is our ability to be civil to people who look, think, believe or behave differently than we do.
It seems to me that way too many people in the world, and in the Philippines, take pride in not being civil. Donald Trump and his supporters. Mayor Duterte and his supporters. Trolls, crabs, bigots and political candidates . . .
- Trolls are people who intend to be offensive as a way to challenge views they don’t hold themselves.
- Crabs are people who can’t stand to see others succeed and try to knock them back down.
- Bigots are those who see one trait they don’t like and ascribe it to an entire class of people.
- Political candidates lift themselves up by trying to undermine others and bring them down.
And bluntly put, if these people can’t do civility . . . by definition . . . they can’t do inclusion. They are divisive.
We don’t see in these people much sense of humility or integrity, where humility is our ability to let others rise and integrity is our ability to lift ourselves up. It is all pretty demeaning to the human condition to see the rancor and slanders that flow forth during political campaigns. Deceits, lies, manipulations, nasty memes, dirty tricks . . .
Well, the Philippines has problems to face. No doubt about it. Poverty is what drives most of them, along with its bar-bell opposite, entitlement and impunity.
The middle class is “stuck in the middle wit’ chew.” These career-building workers have the brains to understand integrity. They know that fair dealing is important when people are competing on a career track. I’d guess that most just want a simple, decent life but it may seem that they get very little of that. Their days are filled with struggle. One of the struggles is that they are the tax base of the nation as they pay their VAT for condos and cars and purchases at the mall. Too little money goes into the ATM account and too much goes out.
The poor elect . . . well, the actors and crooks and charlatans who make government policy and laws, and who seem to impose infuriating practices that just make things hard. Rather than help. These actors and crooks and charlatans are also consumed by the need to grease the pipelines of wealth for those of the privileged ilk, the oligarchs and businessmen and local mafia bosses disguised as mayors and governors. The Catholic Church is like the Greek choir, yodeling in the background as the priests play the part of enablers of both the poor (“No contraceptives for you!”) and the powerful (“Give generously and we’ll keep you in our prayers.”)
What’s left to the educated class, the decent people who are not users, not game players, not crooks?
- Many of them go to other lands and thrive.
- Some stay here and shade either toward poverty or entitlement, turning bitter or proud depending on which turn they take.
- And many, many try to live a life of civility and inclusion.
Because they know from parents or church or school or living that there is little dignity to be found in being rude and crude. That there is a quality of character to civility that is good. That drawing lines is important. That sacrifice is strength. That there is an enlargement of the heart that comes from being inclusive, as if welcoming others to the family were an everyday thing, not just a show for holidays. They know that Jesus and various fabulists and philosophers talked about higher minded values, about kindness and love and doing good deeds.
These principled members of the thinking middle class feel good by being good. It seems to me that these people make up the new heart of the Philippines. They are the nation’s conscience, its reason, its compassion.
EDSA was supposed to reset the nation on a proper track. But the twin powers of poverty and entitlement have worn away a lot of the good will. Some still exists.
And as for the new kid in town, the social media, we can also see a core of goodness to it as well.
Not to mention a lot of trolls and hostility. Crabs, bigots and politicians.
But I do believe that there is no stopping the Philippines from rising to meet her destiny as a pearl . . . not just of the Orient . . . but the tumultuous planet Earth. The core principles of civility and inclusion are too big, the character too strong to hold her back.
Now the poor may elect a batch of bad leaders once again, and the cycle will twist toward incivility.
But that is just a cycle. The downs that make the ups so cherished.
I wrote this in “Notes from the Editor” on the spur of the moment the other day. There is a secret wrapped up in the words, and it is time to let it out:
It struck me that the Philippines really is the fun capital of the planet. I mean, sports as entertainment, entertainment as sport, Miss Universe lookin’ good, Nat Geographic featuring the many gorgeous locations . . . an underground river, fer cryin’ out loud, where you have to wear a helmet to protect from bat droppings.
Rambunctious fiestas where everyone makes you feel like you are their long-lost cousin returned. Enough fireworks on New Year’s eve to keep China edgy as she sits in glorious splendor on a bunch of hard rocks in the middle of the rising oceans. A pack of candidates that makes those yahoo American extremists look normal.
I mean, Filipinos are stylin’ and funnin’ every day.
Do you know what it will take for the Philippines to become First World?
Confidence in knowing “who we are”. Satisfaction . . . and happiness . . . in knowing “who we are”.
The rest . . . all that GDP stuff . . . is the pragmatic way to take care of people who today don’t have a lot of things. That’s the brains part. We should do that, yes. And deal with other pragmatics like transportation, electricity and bandwidth.
But the Philippines will be First World when Filipinos stop trying so hard to be somebody else. And let the World come to them.
That shouldn’t take 30 years. The Philippines for sure has “the right stuff” . . . the heart . . . right now. The nation has the character right now. And the capability is there, but for the application.
It is not for me to lecture or pretend some great wisdom. But it seems to me the middle class . . . those earnest, underpaid, over-worked, over-taxed citizens . . . is where the science of civility and inclusion will emerge to give the nation its First World character and confidence.
Science, after all, is an exercise of mind and self-discipline. Civility and inclusion can power the Philippines to prosperity and fair dealing . . . and great personal satisfaction.
More power to the everyday scientists, and best wishes as you pursue discovery of a new brand of Filipino confidence and success.