The Culture of Hope: On the responsibilities of our middle-class intellectuals

We who seek progress in the real sense are always disappointed. We who seek progress say now is the time to pack up our suitcases and migrate to better pastures. Perhaps those who have visas and money will not find such a choice problematic; but there are still many here, like me, who do not have the same possibilities of escape. It has been pointed out to me that if I really wanted to leave I could find a way. In many ways that’s true, but then I do not want to leave. To leave, to want to leave, or even to joke about the need to leave, is to admit defeat. It is to admit that there is no more hope for us. And yet, how many times have we heard that before? Ang Pilipinas wala talagang pag-asa! (There is no more hope for the Philippines!)

Too many people keep repeating this and so for the majority of Filipinos who do not deliberate about their views, it has become a truth. Right now, despite all efforts, our country is what it is. It may not be what we want, but that is how things are. We may rant all we want and be frightened and lose hope, but what good would that do?

Instead, let us all be proactive. We need to understand that the majority of Filipinos do not want the kind of progress which results to the destruction of their unquestioned dangerous norms and backward way of thinking. But how exactly do you kill a large and vicious beast? It seems as if all the blog writing and ranting and intellectual discussions are futile when people do not want to listen anyway. What little percent of the population you can influence will be toppled down by the majority who are not exposed to such deliberations and instead stick to their reliable sources of information who tell only what they want to hear.

Perhaps now is the time to work smarter, not harder. Instead of merely spewing out great and virtuous ideals, let us learn how to market them to people in such a way that the ideas will really be heard by many, not just by those who are already in the know, but also by those who are still ignorant of such things but have the capacity to agree with our ideals. I have long suspected that this group, and many other similar groups seeking progress, has come together because of their frustrations about this society. We rant and we get angry because things are not to our liking; but perhaps now is the time to admit the fact that things really are not to our liking and we have to work with that fact to achieve what we want to achieve.

Historically, writers’ influence is limited to those who have access to their works, i.e the people who can afford to have such access. Thus, many of our readers are those who have access to the internet and who can afford a long view of it so they can leisurely read such articles without worrying about how to pay for it. Have you ever been to the far flung provinces where in some towns there is no ATM or cinema or Jollibee branch? Do you suppose people there will be familiar with our ideas? It is very unlikely.

Thus, I propose a more proactive approach to spreading our gospel of progress. While there is not much we can do if our society remains majoritarian and illiberal – that is for the citizenry as a whole and the lawmakers to change – still we can each of us have a positive attitude and go beyond ranting about the stupidity of the Filipino people. Let us work with this stupidity as a fact – a fact we want to change – and think of ways to achieve this goal. Currently, we have the internet and the AM radio waves as venue for our discussion. While I am not saying that these achievements are mediocre – for they are certainly a big help in achieving our goal – we need to admit that they are not enough. I think we need to extend our sphere of influence and try to reach more people in more varied ways in addition to what we have now.

Let us imagine what one person who has limited influence can do. We write, but good ideas will not spread by themselves. Perhaps spreading ideas is not like polite intellectual discussions which do not force people to join in. Perhaps if there is something more than personal intellectual progress involved, more prodding of people is required of us. There are a lot of (pseudo-intellectual) bloggers out there who present profound sounding ideas but upon analysis lack any sort of deliberation. They expect people to agree with them and if someone disagrees, that person is considered an enemy. They have the idea that we all should “respect” each others’ views as if our ideas are simply ways to express ourselves – subjective, instead of supposedly what we arrive at after deliberation. Let the person who thinks differently challenge these people to rethink their views.

Then let us imagine what other persons with higher ambitions can do. Seek to be a politician to more actively promote change, to write a novel which aims to be the next Noli Me Tangere, to create theatrical productions and films with liberal themes to be distributed to the masses, to reach out to current leaders and try to get them to think as we do instead of waiting for them to notice our blog posts.

My point here is that we should stop being like a group of graduate students circulating ideas within our group which eventually only leads to more ranting on our part. Let’s do what we do because this is the way we know how to get out of our unfortunate situation, not just because it is fun or because it tickles the mind and makes us feel good that we are being intellectuals compared to the rest of the population who watches Eat Bulaga, hoping to be the next lucky one to get the money and other freebies. There are already too many Filipinos who do not understand what happens when they do something without thinking. The stories I heard were frightening, of people who chose to vote for someone because everyone else will, and who refused to think about the possible repercussions of their choice because to think about them is headache inducing.

There is something real at stake here – the future of the Philippines. If we are who we say we are – people seeking true progress for the country – then this is not something we can give up on when things do not go our way. This is not something we only deal with as a hobby – to think about if we have the inclination to. There are too many of us who act like tourists or temporary residents. In acknowledging the ugly facts and in admitting that we seek real change, what is our action plan?

This, I think, is the culture of hope. It is our duty as middle-class intellectuals to maintain and spread it. The lower-classes will likely resign themselves to a life of poverty and it is difficult for them because they are not exposed to opportunities for their improvement. The upper-classes can be whatever they wish to be because they are secure in the safety their wealth brings. It is the middle-classes who feel the weight of the situation. They are able enough to give themselves opportunities and so are aware of the possibilities of progress, yet they do not have the security of wealth. It is the middle-classes who are able to feel the seriousness of the problem assuming they make themselves aware of it and they care enough.

And so let us ask ourselves: What do we want to happen? What do we need to do in order for this to happen? Is that what we are actually doing?


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