Corruption, Poverty, and Education

In a third world country such as ours, even a blind man can see the face of poverty. However, it is a given that the Philippines is much better off than some other countries and that it is not in the lowest of groups in the GDP rankings and the like. But those facts only make matters worse as it can only mean that much more countries are living in much worse states.

There is a saying that goes, “Poverty is not a hindrance to success – which should be true. However, there are just too many people in the world who choose to succumb to their bleak circumstances and not do anything about it! It’s wrong but it happens a lot. Mostly, it’s because people have chosen to accept what has become “norms” in some societies: corruption. See, the roots of poverty can be traced back to this practice of the powerful and influential. Hence, the rich become richer and the poor becomes poorer.

Corruption exists even in the lowest tiers of governmental power. It is apparent in lots of things that are visible in the more physical aspects of a community – bridges hardly passable because of use of substandard materials, roads hardly suitable for driving in because of cuts in the budget, schools with hardly enough rooms to accommodate so many students due to poor budget allocation, and so much more I could probably fill pages if I went on. And because corruption has its foundations in the smallest of powers, it’s very hard to eradicate it, and even, decrease its effects on society as a whole. But, if one is to make a sincere effort to reduce poverty, like most things which must be done, one must start at the roots; in this case, corruption.

In a society with an established government, most social services, including health and education, are controlled by the government. Which gives for another reason why some people are powerless against corruption, some people want to do something but just can’t, They fear that if they try to do anything about it, like protest or try to bring down a long-standing dynasty, whatever little help they are getting from a polluted government will altogether be removed. But that is simply wrong. A government should not be a slave-driver of people but should, on the contrary, serve the people – it’s supposed to be what it was made for. But it never happens that way for a lot of people have lived in dependence and fear. And, a lot of times, these people are what make-up the largest portion of the population – those who are in the bottom of society and are most vulnerable.

However, these people need not remain helpless. Education is a very powerful tool which has already been proven to change lives for the better. But attainment of any level of education, let alone, a higher level of education is rather elusive to most, if not all, of these people. Like I mentioned earlier, “schools with hardly enough rooms to accommodate so many students due to poor budget allocation”. Therefore, the democratization of education is highly important, like what our founder, Mr. Shai Reshef, has done for us all with the University of the People. As he so put it, “Education should be a right not a privilege.”

I couldn’t have said it better even if I tried. Education should be something that is available for all and not just for a privileged few. And this should also reach the first steps in formal education – from kindergarten, that is. See, in my country, education is like some form of survival of the fittest. The number of students in a level tend to be less than the one in a lower level. The trend is a decline. Some people choose simply not to study and get a job instead, whatever it is so long as there is something even if it is the most difficult and least rewarding ones, while some have no choice due to lack of funds. It’s a sad picture, and it must be changed. And it can change if people are willing to put some energy to that effort.

Some other things must be noted, too: food and health. Why? Well, one most definitely can’t learn on an empty stomach. And, neither can one learn on a sickbed. So, besides access to education, access to food is also important. The efforts of the World Food Programme have shown positive results in the communities that they are attending to. See, there is enough food in the world to feed all of us, the only problem is access. Health services might be a lot more difficult to deal with but it can be done with proper motivation. In some of the most distant of villages in the Philippines, there are already doctors who attend to them. If only proper channels are given to those who need them, then everything will be much easier for all these people.

Now, the bottomline of all of poverty can be linked to one thing: access. And corruption is the biggest, if not the only, thing that blocks this access. Therefore, if a society must try to reduce poverty, it must first try to remove corruption. After that, things can flow freely: people have access to food, people are healthy, people are educated, corruption goes out. It might seem like a roundabout in the first turn, but once corruption is out, it will inevitably be replaced by the improvement of people’s lives.

Penitence

In a matter of a few days, the Holy Week will begin. In these days of solemnity, the world will once more see sights such as not seen in other times of the year. But one of the most curious of these is the way in which some people seek the forgiveness of sins: self-punishment – men flogging themselves, some beating themselves with nun-chucks, some walking around with the cross, some crawling on their bare chest on the streets, and even some volunteering to act as Christ or one of the two other beside Him to be crucified; among others.

Although the practice is not one which is officially endorsed by the Catholic Church, many people keep at it. Some, if not all who do it, believe that it is the only way with which their sins can be forgiven. However, there are risks involved in this method of penitence – physical and spiritual alike.

Physically, it is a fact that these people are giving their lives to chance. Although there’s not been such profound records of fatalities during these events, the risks are evident – from the nails used in the crucifixion to the wounds themselves. The Department of Health itself has issued a warning against these acts. Nevertheless, it is evident, from the preparations being televised, that people choose to be stubborn and not heed the warnings of some people who know better.

However, the greater risk lies in their spiritual being. Why? If these people are doing these things sincerely and to repent their sins and not just for show, we can fairly well say that it is an effort to seek for forgiveness. And, we can fairly well say that they believe in God. Which means that they are missing one very important element: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9, King James Version)

Another very sad aspect of this tradition is that it has somewhat started being commercial. The news has stated that this event is one of those that which attracts foreigners to visit the Philippines – most especially, the reenactment of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. It’s a good thing, though, the the Department of Tourism has explicitly stated that they have not done anything to promote this event for tourism in the Philippines.

We all know that reenactments of various events in the Bible are some of the most well-kept traditions of Catholicism in the Philippines. And a reenactment of the crucifixion of Christ is one of the most visited. However, these things need not pose danger and we should always consider the implications and results of all the things we do. In the aspect of commercialism, one can only hope that it will be kept like so, even decline, and not reach a point when things like these, which are supposedly Holy Traditions, will not end up being nothing more than an amusement for people.