Monday, December 11, 2006

What Heroes Are Made Of

It really makes me sad how things can be twisted in the Philippines. Take for instance the word "hero." Manny Pacquiao, Efren Reyes, Precious Lara Quigaman and our numerous overseas workers are referred to as our modern-day heroes. We have lowered our standards again as usual. No wonder we are moving backward instead of forward. Our role models are those who do not finish their schooling most of the time. The implied message is as long as you have fame or fortune or both, who cares if you got an education or not? You can be a hero as long as you have the gold in your pockets or gold plating on your medal, your belt or your crown.
Hey, I have nothing against our athletes, beauty queens and OFW's. Our beauty queens and athletes do bring glory to our country in their own way. Our overseas workers help sustain our flagging economy by remitting dollars more than once a year. However, I just can't see them as our modern-day heroes. P-L-E-A-S-E! I'm sorry, but I just can't.
I've been hearing so many kind words about our overseas workers. According to our politicians, without our OFW's, we wouldn't be enjoying the kind of dollar reserve we have right now. We are told that while we stay here to enjoy their dollars, they are over there, far away from their families and making sacrifices for us. Hence, they are viewed as our modern-day heroes.
Hmmmmmmmmmm. I am grateful that our overseas workers do give our economy a boost but do we really need to label them as heroes? For crying out loud, if trying to earn a living is heroic, then I must be a hero myself. I mean, that is what they are trying to do-- earn a living. It just so happened that they couldn't make a decent living here so they are forced to find work elsewhere and that's it. Are the politicians saying that the workers who are staying here do not contribute to the Philippine economy? Are Filipino workers who work abroad better than Filipino workers who work locally? Well, it is not suprising that the dollar is worshipped more than the peso. We have a hard time shaking off our colonial roots.
It is quite insulting to lionize our overseas workers. Our local workers(me included) also make sacrifices. If the government had provided better working conditions here in the Philippines, I am very sure most overseas workers would have stayed here. There is nothing heroic about working abroad. It was brought out of necessity and not for the greater good. I doubt if our overseas workers were thinking of helping our economy by working abroad. They were thinking of themselves and their families. I don't begrudge them that, though. Self-preservation is but natural.
Of course, it is equally insulting to me as well to lionize our boxers, billiard players and beauty queens. Talk about blowing things out of proportion! Sure, I am very proud of them, especially if they win their bouts and titles, but I certainly don't think they deserve to be called heroes.
Our boxers, billiard players and beauty contestants are out there to win not so much for our country but more so for themselves. Since they are representing the Philippines, it can't be helped that they bring glory to our nation when they win. If they were really doing something beyond themselves, how come our boxers and billiard players buy extravagant toys for themselves when they get the money? How come, beauty titlists usually enter showbiz? Such acts cannot be judged as heroic. Again, I do not begrudge them that. It is their hard-earned money. It is their title. What they do with their fame and fortune is their own business. However, they do not deserve the label "modern-day heroes."
So who are my modern-day heroes? First, let me define what a hero is to me. A hero is someone who puts himself/herself second to the greater good, big or small. The sacrifices that he/she makes is not self-serving. Heroes can be seen in all walks of life.
On a bigger scale, my modern-day heroes are those bright people who have chosen to stay in the Philippines to serve our own people despite offers to work abroad. For example, there are good teachers who have remained here to teach. They endure the long hours, low pay, and sometimes even public scorn just because they love what they are doing and feel the need to make a difference. But we seldom see them as heroes. Many think they are stupid for not grabbing the chance of a lifetime to work abroad, especially in the US.
I remember reading about this science teacher named Biyo who bested other representatives from first world countries in a contest. I can't even remember that teacher's gender. I don't even know if I spelled the name right or what that contest was all about. My faulty recollection just shows how much our country trivializes an achievement like this since there was little press coverage of this contest. Such feats are deemed as forgettable.
The same thing happens to our scientists. They flounder in this country. They receive little support from the government and are seldom encouraged to make discoveries that will solve some problems in this country. There is little press coverage for them as well. No wonder we always hear stories of how some Filipino scientists sold their inventions or discoveries abroad to cover the expenses they have entailed while experimenting on their formulas. Our scientists are another set of unsung heroes.
On a smaller scale, I see heroic acts done by simple people. Look at those grandparents who become babysitters. They could have chosen to relax and travel a bit(if they have the money), but they have chosen to help their own children by looking after their children's children. Everyone knows it is very physically taxing to run after frisky little kids or to change diapers or to feed reluctant mouths.
On the other side of the coin, there are grown children who have to look after their ailing parent/s since their siblings are too busy with other things to help out. These conscientious people usually have to sacrifice their own jobs to be able to look after their sick parent/s and have to subsist on the allowance given by wealthier siblings or siblings who do not like to be bothered by this family issue. This sacrifice, as we can all see, is not self-serving.
There are also those kids who should be in school but are earning a living by selling flowers, cigarettes, etc. to make both ends meet just because their own good-for-nothing parents are too lazy or too intoxicated or too spaced out to care about their own kids. These kids have to sacrifice their education, time and youth to take the role of their irresponsible parents. Isn't that quite heroic of them?
One would think that a sacrifice is always done for the sake of others but this is not so. The sacrifices that athletes, beauty queens and overseas workers make are usually beneficial to themselves and cannot be called heroic. Plus, whatever contribution our winning athletes, beauty titlists, and OFW's give to our nation cannot be viewed as for the greater good.
I know that what I think won't matter that much to the media and the politicians. They will still continue to lionize the b's(boxers, billiard players, basketball players, and beauty titlists) and the OFW's because fame and fortune is more glamorous than the sacrificial giving of one's life. I just wish they would stop making heroes of non-heroes and start recognizing the true heroes of our country today. Give credit where real credit is due, PEOPLE, or I will slug you like Manny Pacquiao!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Political Mumbo Jumbo

I do understand this hatred for labelling people because most of the time it creates stereotypes and the much-scorned sweeping generalities. However, I believe we cannot avoid stereotypes or generalities, whether they are sweeping or not. Why do I say so? It is because it is hard to stay neutral. We have different opinions on how things are and how they should be.

I agree that there is such a thing as exceptions to the rule and individual traits, but there is also the existence of rules and categories and labels. The problem is this--humans have this tendency to label people and actions in a not so positive way so we associate labelling with put-downs. But don't we give both positive and negative names to identify or describe people, actions and issues? We can call someone a moron or a star. Both are labels!

Whether we like it or not, we cannot help labelling people or issues according to our perpectives. Those who call themselves as progressive or conservative have their own set of rules and criteria that color the way they label people and issues around them.

With the advent of the term "politically correct"(which has expanded my vocabulary, by the way), I have been forced to use terms like love child, gay, alternative lifestyle, visually impaired or financially challenged. At first, it was okay, since I have no problem adding new words to my repertoire of new terms, but it has become a bit tedious when those from the politically correct group keep questioning some terms that I consider acceptable.

And why should this group keep harping on how someone uses terms and labels? We all have rights to say what we mean. They question censorship but isn't it a form of censorship to stop people from using the terms they prefer to use? I agree that some terms can be harsh, but give us a break when we slip into terms deemed politically incorrect. I mean, what is wrong if you say blind, instead of visually impaired? Or homosexuality instead of alternative lifestyle? Or poor instead of financially challenged? Or illegimitate child instead of love child(of course, some will use the word bastard instead but then again, it is his tongue, er.... his/her tongue)?

Certainly, words can be hurtful because of the negative implications. However, some synonyms can be employed instead of sugarcoating a term to make it more palatable and hence, politically correct. As an example, the word "whore" packs a lot more whallop than the word "prostitute' but I don't mind using the latter version. Now, to sound politically correct, I have to use the term "sex worker." But what does "sex worker" really mean? It is just a way to avoid the truth behind the word "prostitute." Would you like to hear your kid say, "I want to be a sex worker someday."? I certainly don't!

The list of hurtful labels will most probably criss-cross the world many times, but maybe we must grow more thick-skinned and less touchy about terms unless we can prove that their usage has a malicious intent or a more sinister motive. Before, using nigger or negro will get you beat up by people whose skin is black(I just can't say African, because there are white people in Africa). Now, it depends who is saying it to whom. And I heard that some people whose skin is black take offense when you call them black. I still prefer to call them black, by the way. I don't mind if people call me brown for being a Filipino.

Language is so colorful and value-laden, but then such is the world we live in. There will be labels and labels and labels based on one's perspective and inclination. Progressive groups may mean well by trying to neutralize words deemed as prejudiced by replacing them with new terminologies. At times, I agree with this move but there are times when I feel that it is becoming too unreasonable. Thinking of terms that will be seen as neutral is so constricting and less tolerant(not to mention, time consuming). If, for instance, I use the pronoun "he" to represent the human race, I will be judged as anti-woman, even though I am a woman myself. Some will even question my use of the term "human" because of the word "man" in that term. By golly, can we just let it be?

Well, my politically correct brothers and sisters, if I want to label an action as sin or sinful based on biblical perspective, just let me be. That is my value system. Call any sin what you want, it is still sin to me. And to make things clear here, I am not pretending I am better than others by labelling one's action as sin. I am a sinner myself. Hey, I know it does assuage one's guilt if I just call sins mistakes. That way, if I do murder someone, it will just be a mistake and not a sin.

Life is already complicated as it is right now. Do we need to complicate it some more by nitpicking every single detail? If you think that by neutralizing labels, you are helping the world, then be my guest. I have no problems with that. But if by doing so, you will make my life more complicated, then please desist because I will just resist!

I rest my case.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

For Christ's sake!

Okay, here it goes. When non-Muslims make fun of Allah or say anything derogatory about Islam, Muslims usually react violently. However, when anyone uses the name of Jesus in vain or mock the Christian faith, Christians tend to shrug it off as if it is okay. So you hear the name of Jesus being used like a cuss word..."Jesus! Are you dumb or something?" or "Christ, you are so stupid!" In other words, it is like saying "damn it."

Well, damn it, it is not okay. Unfortunately, the Christian faith has always espoused grace and forgiveness so Christians like me need to be more tolerant, more forgiving and more gracious even if the mockery goes on and on and on especially on films.

Hey, people! If you hate Christians for being hypocritical or judgemental(and I can't blame some for thinking so), then just hate the Christians without dragging Jesus Christ into the picture. I mean he didn't deserve to be crucified, whether you believe he died for our sins or not, or whether you believe he was just a man and not God. He didn't do anything against humanity, so please stop using his name in vain. Why not use the name of the actual Christians you hate instead of Jesus Christ..."Pat Robertson! Are you dumb or something?" or "Bush, you are so stupid!" Isn't that a lot more fair?

Of course, if Christians would react the way Muslims react when the latter's faith is attacked, then I think others will be more respectful of the Christian faith. Fortunately, that is not the case or the world, being what it is today, will plunge into total chaos. Hey, I am not saying that the people known as Christians are not guilty of any crime. But these so-called Christians usually don't react violently when insults are hurled at Christianity. For crying out loud, some even say Jesus Christ was a homosexual while some say he had a sexual relationship with Mary Magdalene. Can you imagine what saying that Allah was a homo or that he had been dallying with a prostitute will do to the Muslim world? How about saying the same thing of Buddha? Then you will understand why I get pissed off by the way this world treats Jesus' name.

If you are just a Christian by accident and not by choice, then I understand your complacency. Jesus Christ doesn't mean much to you. But for Christ's sake, fellow Christians by choice, be more vigilant and less accepting of how this world treats Jesus Christ.