Allan S.B. Batuhan

Foreign Exchange

HOW proud can we be of being the only Christian country in Asia, when the description sits next to being one of the most corrupt nations in Asia? What honor does it bring us to be one of the largest Catholic nations in the world, when we are also one of the most corrupt countries in the world?

It is a paradox that has always begged the question – is our being Catholic the reason for our being corrupt?

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True, we have the trappings of being a pious and prayerful nation. Church steeples dominate our landscape, and our churches teem with millions of massgoers every Sunday. We have thousands upon thousands of students graduating from Catholic institutions every year. We even have large political movements based entirely on Christian affiliation.

So what has gone wrong?

As we said in the previous week, it seems to be in our ability to dichotomize sin – as “sin” and “need.” In other words, so long as we are “sinning” to fulfill a need, we have not done anything wrong. This is the premise that has made a perversion out of our belief system, and has made us caricatures of religiosity.

Everyone who is doing something wrong will be able to give a justification for his or her actions, based on his or her need.

From the traffic aide who collects bribes to let violators off for minor traffic infractions, to policemen who extort money from spas and massage parlors they have “raided” for being fronts for prostitution, to the politicians who demand payment from investors for locating in their turf – each one of these corrupt and crooked individuals will be able to find, in their conscience, some form of excuse for doing what it is they are doing.

The simplest reason, of course, is having enough food on the table. The traffic aide can readily relate to this, as being the lowest man on the totem pole, his hierarchy of values will probably lie on the lower basic needs.

Shelter and clothing may be the crooked policeman’s excuse for partaking of ill-gotten money. During raids to the Ampatuan henchmen’s homes following the mass murder of their political rival’s convoy, we were witnesses to pictures showing the opulence of the homes of some of the policemen involved in the crime. How could they have built such houses on humble policemen’s salaries?

And the politician? He has to fulfill higher level needs, right? His children have to go to De La Salle or the Ateneo.

Even if he did send his kids to UP, they would still have to have a car, and a condominium, right? That needs money. Of course, politicians and their families need vacations too.

Why do you think we have so many of them going off to see Manny Pacquiao in his conquests abroad? Oh, and the highest need of all? Politicians need money to further their careers as politicians. Elections these days are expensive, because even the ordinary voters need to be paid for their efforts. Lest we all forget, they too have needs.

How does this perverted manner of thinking get into the psyche?

At what stage in a person’s life does he begin to rationalize black and white into all manner of shades of gray? When does a person become comfortable in deciding that the sin he is committing is not really a “sin,” but a fulfillment of a human need?

More next week…

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