THE war that matters is in homes and classrooms across the nation. This is where parents and teachers face opportunities and challenges to counter the half-truths and historical revisionism peddled on the Internet.
When professor Ian Vincent Manticajon recently showed the movie “A Dangerous Life” to his Mass Communication students at the University of the Philippines Cebu, he was addressing a dangerous gap in the education of Millennials.
The 1988 film narrates how a fictional American broadcast journalist covered the upheavals of Philippine society overthrowing the Marcos dictatorship. Aside from demonstrating the impact of the Aquino assassination, the movie also focused on the state-instigated torture and killing of activists and rebels.
Manticajon and some of his fellow teachers view the need to provide accurate information and historical context so that students develop a critical awareness necessary for evaluating not just the past but understanding, as nationalist historian Renato Constantino asserted, how the past continues to shape contemporary history.
Ignorance and apathy are far from the worst that can happen to today’s youth.
Last Dec. 10, observed annually as Human Rights Day, the United Nations reiterates the call urging the world’s citizens to respect and defend the rights of all, especially those vulnerable to intolerance, hatred, and persecution.
In the country, the observance of Human Rights Day was highlighted by street protests decrying the victims that have fallen in President Duterte’s War on Drugs. The nationwide rallies protest the deaths of almost 6,000 victims of extrajudicial killings (EJKs), as well as the families orphaned and widowed in the campaign against the illegal drug trade.
However, there are also others victimized by the unrelenting killing of persons merely suspected of involvement in the illegal drug trade. The War on Drugs is not just fueled by the administration policy to “sanitize” the streets but also by the culture of impunity, evidenced by popular support for EJK.
In this culture of daily media reports about and even firsthand experiences with the War on Drugs, children and youths are at risk of being traumatized into developing abnormal responses to violence and death.
According to a Nov. 21 report in Inquirer.net, a psychologist with more than a decade of experience working with traumatized children was concerned that the children’s “overexposure” to violence may lead to desensitization and increased aggression, delinquency and crime in later years.
Dr. Joanna Herrera cited studies showing that young children may grow a defensive reflex that makes them unable to empathize with other people going through pain. Children may also grow to be more fearful and suspicious of the world.
Herrera said that boys may tend to become more aggressive and oppose authority. Girls generally internalize trauma, which makes them at risk of depression.
Herrera said that while many Filipinos want the drug problem to be solved, she questions whether the side effects of the War on Drugs may be “worse than the cure.” She also said that the “tacit approval” for EJK shown by the country’s leaders and many citizens is “more worrying” as it “might shift (Filipinos’) moral schema on addressing problems,” particularly Filipinos’ compassion for others.
In these seemingly morally ambiguous times, parents and other guardians must step in and provide the moral and spiritual moorings. Herrera said elders must talk to children and youths so they will not lose sight of the complete picture, such as the importance of human life and dignity, social justice, compassion for other persons, and a critical attitude to the exercise of power and authority.
“It is also important to encourage them to critically evaluate the situations (surrounding the War on Drugs),” she said. “Instead of imposing their beliefs, parents should allow their kids to form their own thoughts and convictions on the matter.”
Respecting the intelligence and independence of children and other youths is necessary to nurture a consciousness to counter the historical revisionism and the culture of impunity threatening today’s society.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on December 12, 2016.
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