(This is a column I wrote back then that deals with the need for persons to listen, to make sense of meaning beyond the words spoken or even written. Although this was written with Filipinos in mind in critique of how our legislators debated a very specific issue (RH Bill), in general, this is also in critique of how we, contemporary human beings, communicate, how we resolve our issues regardless of extent. It is basically about how we have to make use of communication and language, in all its forms, to make rather than break. )
One of the things that I have learned by continually studying social sciences, i.e. philosophy, psychology, sociology, anthropology and history, is being able to see beyond “what is.” And this does not put me to sleep because seeing the “what is” disturbs me, makes me anxious to do something, to take action. I would convince people – like my students or friends – in any way I can to do the same; and if all else fail, force them to be disturbed so as to make them anxious to do something also. Being a teacher, this is part of my great mission, not only for the present, but also for the future generations of Filipinos to come. This is where knowledge is seen more, not as power, but a curse, but all else, still a responsibility.
The debate on the RH Bill surges on. Manny Pacquiao even said his stand against the bill to which many of those who are for the bill categorically retorted, putting him aside as if he is not a Filipino who can speak his mind. Come to think of it, a congressman at that, the representative of the Filipino people. Funny though that this sensitive debate can debase a congressman not qualified because he is only a boxer who earned billions from boxing. Hear ye, King’s men and members of the Royal Court? Would this then be the turf of the ilustrados? Or is this simply a problem of listening? When, after all, the people starts to speak – be it from any profession, from any walk of life, a nurse or a lawyer, an engineer or a clergy, a boxer or a simple mother – the learned can shut up and listen?
We have more than just a structural problem. It’s a problem far urgent than surviving another fiscal year. It is a problem we need to address – and that is LISTENING!
Language makes possible communication, be it written or spoken. Communication is a two-way process; there is a sender and a receiver. Both the sender and the receiver needs to listen – to listen as an act, to listen in order to understand, to listen in order to respond, to listen in order to act. Because of this relationship, language flourished into cultures, passed on to one generation after the other. It is language that made possible civilizations, societies in history until now. It is language who made us into a people, one in culture and identity.
If we stop listening to one another, we also breach the communication process. There will be no receiver who will listen to the sender and so, there will be no one to respond. If there will be no message from the receiver that the sender will receive, there will be no meaning, and ideas expressed through words will not have meaning. If ideas will not be expressed, no words will be known, and language will not grow, too. If language will not grow anymore, we will start to limit the world we are in, indifference will plague us, we will simply shrug and say, “who cares,” with everything, especially everything we do not understand or know because we have ceased listening; and so, we just keep quiet, blank. When we cease to make use of words, to speak and write, when meaning is not conveyed because we have kept quiet, we will never understand each other; and if we misunderstand each other, we will quarrel irascibly, irrationally; we will eventually kill each other in anarchy. There will be no mercy because mercy is more difficult, it is listening to the heart, and we could not do the least of listening to words, to each other.
It won’t take that long before we kill each other like animals. We slowly make it more possible, every time we refuse to listen. I am deeply troubled because it is happening now in our country by people who should have taught us to listen, to endure listening for the sake of a fellow Filipino, for the sake of the community, for the sake of something important. That should disturb us enough after having seen, time after time, how we lose grip of who we are and what we can do, what we should be as Filipinos, a people who have reaped the fruits of a noble history. That should disturb us because we have reached the higher levels of our own annihilation: indifference to one another.
Because we don’t listen anymore, progress, development, call it whatever you want, is going the opposite direction year after year. Because we don’t listen, the giftedness of the Filipino people, the uniqueness of its culture, its history and heritage, dies off. Because we don’t listen, we lost track working as a community – see how compartmentalized and difficult we carry ourselves to work for our development as a nation? Because we don’t listen, we can’t help one another, we tend to be more alone, aloft, afraid of each other, distrusting each other. Because we don’t listen, we are afraid of being silent, thus, we could not concentrate, and so we could not pray, and so, we could not hear what God is telling us as a people.
After writing my column, “Commitment and Conviction,” last May 11, 2011, I did not know I was to realize something worst than how we can be so dumb and doubtful of the Filipino people by putting us into the compromise of RH Bill. Since I stood for normative analysis, “what ought to be,” I have realized that it is the death of listening, something that also makes us human; is also the death of peoples.
We are losing so much because we don’t know how to listen. Look at each other and start to listen to each other. It is so tiring a mission – to listen; yes, but that is what we need first before we can move on to develop our nation. We need first to listen. By that, we will know what the Filipinos really need (or want); not the other way round, when the Filipinos listen to what we want (not need) for them.
I don’t want to say we are too late already; though I fear from how I see it, that if we continue to be “not disturbed,” I can see how it will go. But hope leads us on.
If Miriam knows how to listen to what Manny Pacquiao and Mommy Dionisia wanted or needed to say, it’s not about how wrong Manny quoted the bible or that they had no right to speak because they are not as educated as she is. He was simply standing firm on his legitimate say: that they are not for RH Bill just like many of the Filipinos who cannot speak in front of the “members of the Royal Court” in the “noble halls” of the senate or congress.
We can just listen anywhere…that is…if we listen!