Tuesday, September 14, 2010

De-Colonization, Subsidiarity and Human Dignity

By Jamil Matalam
Ateneo de Davao University

Ryan Maboloc, in his recent political article, mentions as problems of Philippine politics the lack of human dignity in Philippine society and the lack of the principle of subsidiarity in the government. The former, he means that lack of recognition of the dignity of a fellow human person; and as a consequence the lack of care for their welfare. In lieu, he advances what he refers to as a centrist principle, whereby he means that political policies should not simply cater to the interest of the few rich, but above all everybody, especially the poor. The latter, he means the lack of recognition of the capabilities of small governmental units for chartering their welfare; a sort of autonomy. These problems tell us of the totalitarian or imperialistic tendencies of our government. Maboloc is trying to suggest that we democratize our institutions based on the said principles, together with the idea of a strong state.


At the onset, let me point out that I do not intend to make a distinction between the principle of subsidiarity and human dignity. I consider them to be quite related with one another. There is lack of subsidiarity because there is no respect for human dignity. They are both premised from indifference, a lack of confidence with fellow human persons. I leave the distinction and clear meaning of the two with Ryan Maboloc.

The lack of subsidiarity and respect for human dignity in Philippine politics also has its roots from our colonial past. Our socio-political institutions and educational system has long been suffering from our colonial heritage. The kind of political institutions that we have is modeled from our colonizers. The dominant religion is a colonial heritage. Our education takes pride in the mastery of the language of our colonizers. I do not intend here to be a wrong sort of romantic and argue that colonization is all too bad, my intention here is to show how our colonial heritage in one way or another contributed to the problems.

Our colonizers did not really care about how we as people govern our society. They were indifferent to our politics. For them our lands are simply objects to be exploited. Our lands are simply territories to be occupied and nothing more. Thus, they do not mind about how the different societies in the archipelago are governed and their differences. Worst, they destroyed it. Instead, they imposed a single structure to govern us for their own convenience. It would be easier that way for the administration of their colony. They define our geo-politics. Many of our political policies and our national political institution still adapt the same colonial definition. Politicians and political parties insist that it is unpatriotic and un-nationalistic to deviate from such national-imperialistic structure; it is un-Filipino. They even hate federalism. What then is the consequence of this for us? Simple, the dominant political parties can have their ways concerning the policies of the government. Industrialization, for instance, is monopolized by the Metro Manila, and Mindanao is left with being simply the agricultural base of the country and could not fully industrialize. Other regions cannot charter the course and progress of their lands but has to limit themselves with a national, and often Manila imperialist, programs. The budget every region get is structured in this manner. Therefore, subsidiarity would be hard and difficult.

Another great problem is the kind of educational system that we have. Our education takes pride in the fluency of our students in the languages of our colonizers. For instance, it is a mark of great education that a person is fluent in English, the language of our American colonizers. A learned person is one who could speak and write flawless English. Our education, in this case, contributes a lot in developing and maintaining an elitist society bred by colonization. For a person who could not speak good English, running for public office would be embarrassing; they would think that they are not fit for it. Worst are those who think that they are fit for public office by the simple reason that they could speak English. As a consequence, those who speak the tongue of our colonizers think of themselves as superior to those who cannot. A person who does not speak good English would seem to have no dignity. As such, they are presumed to be incapable of governing themselves and lack political wisdom. Those who speak English should be the boss, and those who cannot just follow, their opinions are of no consequence at all. If most of our political leaders are bred under the same colonial educational system that we have, it would be hard for us to adapt a principle of subsidiarity in government, for in that case there would be lack of confidence in the capabilities of those who are not well educated.

A proper de-colonial education is still an imperative in the Philippines. We have to look into the repressive dynamics of colonization that still affect the Philippine society today. Our lack of respect and confidence for our fellow Filipinos has roots in our colonial past. If we are to have a Philippine politics based on human dignity and the principle of subsidiarity we have to cleanse the Filipino psyche of the bad and repressive colonial education it has learned. We must retrieve our dignity as a people taken from us by colonization. Part of our moral education against indifference is de-colonizing the Filipino psyche.