Mark of This Day

by Nathaniel C. Chua

This is the full text of the speech given during the Alliance Graduate School Graduation Banquet of Batch 2009 on April 5th at the Manila Grand Opera Hotel.

As Neil Armstrong made that historic landing on the moon said, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind…” He then plants a flag symbolizing this moment of greatness in human achievement.

We have recently been witness to the great winds of change. There is no denying the importance of our history today and what our time means for future generations. The world has seen the recent demise of the rigid ideology and angry rhetoric. There is now a groundswell for a new message of tolerance and respect and a renewed search for common ground and common hopes to share. Tonight our message is that we the graduates are prepared for this change to embrace, engage, and effect. This idea that we can have unity in our diversity, and that we are all people of one race serves as the backdrop of our presentation tonight. Whether we are Christian or Muslim, man or woman, rich or poor, brown or yellow, black or white, we all share a common hope. We all weep, we all laugh, we all love, and we all long for peace and prosperity. To put it simply, we need only to go back to our one shared humanity.

Ladies and gentlemen, tonight we plant this event as a symbol for an achievement as well as for a new beginning. It is my pleasure and honor to welcome you to the day’s culminating presentation. This is our symbolic gesture in beginning our task of embracing our fellow men and women regardless of belief or background; of engaging in dialogue where dissonant voices converge; and effecting the change we all need for a better humanity. And maybe today during this, our time in history, as we like Neil Armstrong discover new frontiers in our search for other possible homes in other planets, we can also rediscover that we have what it takes to make this wondrous planet we call earth a better place to live. Please give us your attention as we share part of us with you.

Corruption and the Political Will

By Nathan Chua

This is the unedited and original version of an article that was printed in Light Touch Magazine.

I often hear the phrase “political will” thrown around in late night television talk shows.  It’s become a political dissident’s trademark catchphrase as the (only) solution to the endemic corruption that has beset the country for decades.  It is from the lack of political will that we supposedly suffer.  The underlying slogan seems to be, “Political will, will eliminate corruption.”  One is anathema to the other.  One is disease and the other is antidote.  What then does it take to have political will?  How does it answer the problem of corruption?   What is the root of corruption?  What does “corruption” have that makes it such a permeating problem in the Philippine context?  Bribery and corruption has become the norm of transacting in a so-called predominantly Christian society? 

As a student of psychology, I’d like to deal with this from the perspective of motivation and emotion.  In order to effect change, counseling psychology traces the root of the problem and deals with the primary emotions or motives behind behavior and thinking.  Although there is no doubt that evil does exist in the world and no denying the role that greed plays in our government today, I still refuse to acknowledge that this country is mainly run by evil and ravenous people.  I refuse to deny giving a lowly clerk who sits behind his desk waiting for some bills to drop into his drawer, the benefit of the doubt.  I venture to say that it is not greed that grips the Filipino…but fear.  It is for me, the primary emotive reason for corruption.

Fear of Sudden Loss

With the just recently concluded state of the nation address (July 2006) of the president, one politician had a very apt observation of the address’ content.  With all the enthusing rhetoric about more and better airports, infrastructure, and facilities and so on and so forth; health, social security, and education seemed to take a back seat.  In many a US presidential debate that I’ve been fortunate enough to follow, discussion on each candidate’s approaches and platforms for health, pension, and education were of prime significance.  In the times after the Pentecost, it was the church that provided these safety nets (Acts 4:32-35) that ensured a decent life for all, most especially the underprivileged and the bereaved.  In today’s world however, government has assumed this role.  By collecting taxes, Medicare (Philhealth), and Social Security contributions, government has been given the task of wisely handling these funds and redistributing them when needed.  Lately, I hear very little discourse about this in the cacophony of voices in government.  Better security for the future of every citizen which includes the “corrupt” government employee will eventually (or hopefully) induce people to work with integrity and redound to more honest government and society.  When people are secure in staking their own as well as their children’s future in this country, we can begin to make a dent on corruption.  

Fear of Shame and Ostracism

Pardon me if you, my readers would think that this category is not an excuse for corrupt behavior, but I sincerely believe that the shame and fear of being left out in the cold as a loser in a performance-oriented society can be very debilitating.  In the fear of being ostracized, many Filipinos would go to great lengths to prove others wrong.  What of the perfunctory fiestas or baptismal parties that the probinsyano obliges to splurge on; selling his carabao lest he lose face.     

Wrong concept of bravery

Ratatatatatat…no thanks to the action movies of the past, we often have a stereotypical view of the brave as a gun-wielding amok who systematically eliminates those atrocious human beings who have in the past killed or harmed his loved ones.  Forgiveness and compassion are not the acts of bravery that we know of.  Power and revenge are.  Unfortunately, power can breed corruption.

Real Bravery

Too often we mistake overt displays of meekness and submission to pain and strife as signs of cowardice and weakness.  A prayerful man is more construed as rather weak than bold.    We hardly see the honest worker who comes to work every day fighting back the temptation to make a fast buck, as brave, committed to his integrity, and steadfast.  Obviously, what goes against fear is bravery.  What then is the right or Christian concept of bravery? 

Let us consider these:  How brave it was that Jesus never drew a sword in the face of his impending arrest.  How brave it was that he faced the jeers and mocks of his own people and endured the cross.  How brave it was that he forgave and loved each one who stood below gaming for his robe and smiting him with ridicule.  How brave it was that his cry to his Father atop the tree betrays the breadth of his emotions.  Throughout his crucifixion, Jesus stood the test and never lost the integrity of his word to become a ransom for many.

Am I just being like everybody else; always glum about the Filipino?  The answer is no.  In fact, I’m just the opposite.  I believe we can rise up to challenge our fears by listening to and imbibing what God tells us in his precious Word.  He encourages us to trust in his faithfulness.  A soul in trust of an unseen God is brave.  God said to his frightened people.  “Be strong and courageous, do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9).  Bravery is not seen in a holster or a title, but in people who, like Jesus, endure and stand their ground no matter what; in people who don’t fear to admit their emptiness and fear without a Father.  They don’t jump ship; they don’t sell out.  God’s people have genuine fears but are given to trust.  They trust because they know of a God who sees the troubles and persecutions they suffer in the defense of their faith…they are like Hagar who stood rejected and downtrodden by a well and beheld the Beer Lahai Roi, the well of the Living One who sees (Gen 16:14).