The change we need | Mercedes B. Suleik

THESE days—which we consider as the modern age—we seem to have lost the values we knew in our youth: values that have slowly been replaced by consumerism; demand for all the “good” things in life in the easiest way without having to work hard for these—a culture of “having” instead of “being.”

Somehow, eventually shunted to the side is the idea of being accountable for one’s actions, as the sense of “sin” became a medieval concept and totally unfashionable in a modern world that sought pleasure and making more and more money at all costs.

There has to be a change in attitude, which is not merely a change in political processes, in merely reviving a world economy that has been seriously affected by Covid, an unexpected problem that is beyond the pitting of “mahirap” (poor) versus “mayaman” (wealthy). The change should really be about revisiting the values that shaped our nation until corruption reared its head with political ambition for power that sadly turned into an aphrodisiac leading to excesses that eventually cursed our way of life.

In our own society, we have somehow been contaminated by this seductive dream of “having”—of creating a “utopia” where all material things could be had by every person, so that we too have come to embrace an acquisitive, consumeristic culture. For many of our citizens, the idea of hard work to obtain what we need has been suborned by finding an easy way to get what we want—the full-page ads and pictures of accoutrements of the “good life”—have infected our sense of propriety, our sense of balance. Juan and Juana dela Cruzes have been enticed by the magic of credit cards that allow them to get enmeshed in spiraling balances because of the ease of paying only 5 percent of their purchases each time the bill comes around.

The change that we need is a change in perspective. Certainly, I am not advocating that modernity as such is anathema. Neither am I saying that our people should not aspire to better their circumstances.

We need to change our attitudes towards mere possession of goods, so that the desire to have more of everything becomes our over-riding aim—an attitude shared by both rich and poor (for example, the “need” to possess a cellphone even to the extent of cutting down on nutrition to be able to buy “load”, or worse, to theft, on the one hand, and on the other, to various schemes to further enrich themselves such as engaging in corrupt business practices.

The change we need is a return to what we used to call “Filipino values” but which indeed are Christian values, or surely, human virtues. Thrift, honesty, truthfulness, generosity, care for one’s fellow human being—in contrast to greed, duplicity, selfishness, a disordered “me first” attitude. Perhaps, if we were to consider these, we would have less corruption and rapacity in government and business, we would have more caring communities, we would enjoy economic well-being without excesses.

We have just had elections. Hopefully we have elected a President with the foregoing values (which I don’t know at the time of this writing).

One change that we need to do at this time is to stop our bickering, our self-styled holier than thou attitudes that paint everything in government as evil and corrupt—our penchant for “change,” which is merely a desire for one group to grab the reins for its own benefit, so that eventually disappointment sets in and another call for “change” is made.

This is not the change we need. The change we need is that which provides opportunities and challenges for those who would improve themselves and their lot, one that ensures that one person or one group does not take advantage of another, one that recognizes the dignity of every human person in our land. And this change can only begin when each of us can honestly and truthfully look into our hearts and then be able to say: “I am a child of God, I have my faults, but I can and must rise above them by responding to the grace He provides.”

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