Carvajal: Cultural blindfold

Break Point

EARLIER, I said our problem is how to curtail the decision-making power of elites. But it is stupid we who elect and give them that power. Hence, the more accurate way of stating the problem is how do we stop ourselves from being stupid, ceding power to elites that in a democracy properly belongs to us, the majority.

Social analysis points to radical structural reforms. Experience, however, has shown that we cannot expect elite representatives to restructure politics and economics away from their vested interests and towards the common good.

(The recent P305 billion pork barrel insertions and the wall they have built to insure the secrecy of their SALN are, for instance, clearly inimical to the common good.)

Democracy functions properly if all domains of society are organized democratically or if decision-making is done by mature members. (I define mature members as those who are unselfish, think critically, and take personal responsibility for their life, neither depending on nor blaming anybody for the way their life pans out.)

How do you get that in a society that is stuck in the quagmire of a culture of dependence? We are all socially constructed to look up to elders, people in authority or people with titles or degrees. Because of this cultural blindfold we cannot even see ourselves as stupid, just submissive as our authoritarian culture has conditioned us.

At home, father, sometimes mother, always knows best and must, therefore, be obeyed. The underlying cultural assumption is that one does not need to think but simply follow elders or superiors who always think right for you.

This culture exists in a worse way in Church. There we cede our moral decision-making to priests. One need not have her/his own moral convictions. She/he needs only to do what Father says. Yet judging from the prevalence of crime and corruption in Philippine society, it doesn’t look like too many people are listening to Father.

In school, learning by rote kills critical thinking because students don’t need to think but simply absorb like sponges the canned data teacher soaks them in. Doing away with grades is one way (there are many others) of developing critical thinking, but try doing that in any Philippine school.

Our society is still medievally authoritarian. Decision-making is in the hands of those with high social status without the participation of unselfish and critical thinking mature members of lower status. The latter are expected to simply submit to and depend on the decisions of the former.

A long-term cultural revolution is in order. But like any journey it starts with one small step. We can at least make that step by not voting for any clown or liar or thief in the coming elections.


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