The Campus Ministers

Just ask June Mar’s mother


            In 2011, the German police used up only 85 bullets in total. As if that wasn’t impressive enough, more than half of those bullets (49) were fired as warning shots. It’s not just the numbers that are amazing, but the fact that the German police can even account for each and every bullet they used. In contrast, in 2012, 90 bullets were fired at a lone, 19-year-old target in the United States.

            The example of the German police shows us not only what it means for a country to be governed under the rule of law, or how the police can perform its duties within the bounds of the law, but also that this is possible.

            When people say it’s simply not going to work in a place like the Philippines, are they stating a fact, or merely expressing the refusal to do what is right? Is it a question of possibility or impossibility, or the will to do what is right?

            Of course, we need to look into the culture to see whether it will work or not. But is not culture also a product of what a people, both collectively and individually, choose to do? This might well be a chicken-and-egg situation (the culture shaping the individual, and individuals shaping the culture), but we have to start somewhere, and do what we can, collectively and individually, to shape the culture we want.

            Do we want a trigger-happy culture, where violence is the default solution to problems, or one where the rule of law prevails? Each one must answer that for himself or herself.

            It doesn’t help, of course, if our leaders themselves — whether as a president or a basketball coach — incite people to violence. We know how words coming from our leaders can have very real consequences. Words can be contagious, and can infect the very moral fiber that makes up our nation.

            When people say, for example, that our basketball players did not have a choice but to retaliate in the face of the bullying of a foreign team, are they stating a fact, or a refusal to do what is right?

            The fact of the matter is that some of the players did choose to do what is right. Gabe Norwood, June Mar Fajardo and Baser Amer chose to do the right thing, and thus rightly earn our praise. So did Gilas Cadet Troy Rike, who instinctively tried to shield with his body a fallen Australian player who was being mobbed. They showed us that violence is not a matter of fact, but of choice. It is a matter of will, of what we will to do.

            As Rappler reported: “June Mar Fajardo displayed the highest level of restraint when he held back from joining the free-for-all that marred the Gilas Pilipinas’ default loss to Australia. But that, he said, was largely thanks to his mother.”

            The ability to show the highest level of restraint did not come automatically to Fajardo. Moral instincts are shaped by long years of habituation, of doing the right thing over and over again, as Aristotle taught us. June Mar is right in giving credit to his mother for teaching him the right thing to do.

            We now know how the President’s open and public inciting to killings actually results in the deaths of thousands upon thousands of mostly poor Filipinos. Same is true for a coach in any sports. They can help fan the flames of anger and violence, or work toward the exercise of restraint and sportsmanship, even — or precisely — in the most volatile of situations. But we now also know how a mother’s words can shape the mind and heart and will of her children.

            Words, as much as actions, do matter. Have we forgotten what we used to say when we recited the “Panatang Makabayan”? “Sisikapin kong maging isang tunay na Pilipino sa isip, sa salita, at sa gawa.”

            Culture versus individual? Chicken and egg? Sure. But we can start somewhere. We must start somewhere. Each of us can help reshape our culture. We must reshape our culture.

            Just ask June Mar’s mother.


Remmon Barbaza PD Inquirer, July 8 2018

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