Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Moral Phenomenon of Dialectic in Contemporary Filipino Society (PART I)

Dr. Romulo G.Bautista
Ethical Development Strategies Phil. Inc.

Horrible Moral Phenomena in Contemporary Filipino Society

I have this text about a foreign investor who complains, saying that “I really have difficulty doing business here. Every one from Customs, BIR, Congressman, Governor, Mayor, Barangay, LTO, Register of Deeds and others,, always ask for a FEE. You should change your country’s name to ‘FEE-lippines, and call yourselves ‘FEE-lipinos’ and your president ‘FEE-noy’”. Now, “Fee” is the euphemism for Bribery. Bribery is the moral phenomenon of the dialectic between bribe-giver and bribe-taker. The text projects the impression that bribery is the ethical and moral norm of doing business in the Philippines. Alas! our nation has earned the perception that it is one of the top-most corrupt nations in Asia and in the world, where “private interests” normally prevails over “public interests”.


Apart from bribery, there are too many other horrible phenomena of moral corruption going on that it is psychologically understandable that a kind of moral disillusionment has set in, particularly among the younger Filipino Generations in our increasingly humanistic and materialistic society. Nevertheless, I hope to retain some moral backbone in spite of all the moral developments that make one skeptical, if not completely disheartened. I am aware of the two moral hemispheres of dialectic, namely, private life which is the realm of personal choice and public affairs which is the realm of social obligation. The two moral hemispheres are, however, inter-dependent, for we cannot live outside a society and our society stands to benefit by giving us independence. The simplest model for this is provided by traffic on the highway. The highway is a public means to our private ends. There is a network of public roads and an official highway code which enable us to make our journeys for any purposes whenever and wherever we like.

The Underpinning Dialectic of Moral Phenomena

Morality presupposes freedom. And freedom presupposes the natural dialectic between two opposite moral realities. I believe that moral corruption in contemporary society is a phenomenon of the underpinning dialectic between the opposing inclinations of our free-will toward good and toward evil – that these opposing natural inclinations are inherent in us. I refer to these opposite inclinations as the under-pinning dialectic of moral phenomena in our society. Without our inherent natural dialectic, we are not free. Said differently, what is moral is always natural, but what is natural is not necessarily moral. We are not free to escape from our opposing inclinations, but we are inherently free to moderate them.

God: The Author and Origin of Dialectic

The Genesis of the Old Testament narrates that in the beginning “darkness was over the surface of the deep; and God said “Let there be light” and there was light. He saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from darkness. He called the light “day” and the darkness he called “night”. In other words, God is the author and origin of natural dialectic such that the opposites, such as light and darkness, naturally complement each other.

God’s first ethical command to Adam and Eve in Paradise - “Thou hall not eat the fruit of knowledge, or else you will die” – presupposed freedom and triggered the first moral dialectic which is to obey freely and to disobey freely. And they freely chose to disobey. In our time, the term “FEE-lipino” suggests that we, as a people, have lost our collective exercise of free will in choosing public interests over private interest. But in reality, it is still within our collective moral power to choose the common good for as long as the dialectic lasts.

In the whole of our human reality, there are opposite beings, which for being so exclude each other. The Ecclesiastes enumerates several instances of dialectic, such as but not limited to, life and death of our human existence. The Ecclesiastes declared the existential fact that “there is time to be born and a time to die”. The conjunctive “and” between birth and death signifies that they are inseparable from each other, because they complement each other to give full meaning to our human existence. Let me give another example - the mutually exclusive yet inseparable and complementary terms - male and female. The term “female” embodies the inseparable dialectic between male and female. The term female embodies in itself male, she embodies he, madam embodies Adam, mother embodies he, and menstruation embodies men. Adam and Eve, representing male and female respectively, constituted the first dialectic of the human race.

It is impossible to eliminate our bad inclination, but it is possible to regulate and minimize it. To paraphrase the Ecclesiastes, there is a season and a reason for everything that happens under the sun; thus there is a season and a reason to do good and a season and a reason to do evil. In other words, moral phenomenon is a seasonal and rational phenomenon. And, we could do nothing to stop the seasonal and rational change of phenomenon, but we can act reasonably upon the natural source of moral phenomenon within us, which is the dialectic toward the good and the bad. By controlling and moderating our inherent dialectic, we change accordingly its moral phenomenon. We know the difference between good and evil, though, at times, we choose evil. Should we choose the dialectic of good, then we should choose the better over the good; and the best over the better, because by nature we always seek the best. On the other hand, should we choose the dialectic of evil, then we should choose the lesser evil over the evil, and the least evil over the lesser evil, because by nature we always seek the least evil. Either way, we reduce the evil phenomenon of dialectic, and accordingly, we keep a happy balance between good and evil. But, Alas! This is easier said than done! Why so? I shall explain shortly.

“Ideological Arms” of Moral Change beyond the Classroom

Karl Marx affirmed philosophically the reality of dialectic in Nature, and shared his own insights of dialectic which might help us to understand and appreciate the dialectic of moral change. He said and I quote: - “The philosophers have only interpreted the world differently; the point is, to change it.” He spoke of what philosophers should do beyond the classroom. He was not contented with philosophers who merely explained the world differently in the classroom; he would want them to unite theory with practical and revolutionary action beyond the classroom, where such unity might serve them as their “ideological arms” for moral transformation in the real world, which is in accord with his three laws of dialectic as inherent in the nature of all realities, to wit: (a) the law of contraries; (b) the law of negation; and (c) the law of transformation. These laws have been proven to be scientifically true. The incumbent Pope Benedict XVI himself made a left-handed tribute to the success of Marx’s ideological arms during the canonization of the first Brazilian saint, when he publicly lamented and blamed Marx for the continuing decline of Church’s authority and influence in Brazil, across South America and in many non-Marxist countries around the world. Why does Marx have a great impact and influence upon the hearts and minds of people, even among the non-Marxists? It is axiomatic that. In any ideological war, the superior ideology always wins. The ideological war is a dialectical war of winning the hearts and minds of people. For all you know, you might be a Marxist without a member of the Marxist movement. This is precisely what Liberation Theology among Catholic priests in Brazil stands for.

Unity of Abstract Knowledge and Practical Action beyond the Classroom

“The Communist Manifesto”, written by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in 1849, outlines a “modus operandi of ideological arm” for moral transformation of people around the world. The Manifesto opens with a declaration that “a specter is haunting Europe – the specter of communism (to be precise the Marxist Communism). All the powers of old Europe have entered into holy alliance to exorcise this specter”. Today, the specter of Marx’s influence and impact are not only felt in so-called Marxist countries, but also in non-Marxist countries, like Brazil and the Philippines. The Manifesto ends with an invitation exhorting “all working men of the world, unite!” The assembly-mode of production of trans-national or borderless economy and the out-sourcing of labor are living proofs today that “working men of the world have indeed united”. The mobile phone, for instance, is a product of assembly production – different parts are made in different parts of the world but assembled in one part of the world. Marx called on workers as doers or action men “to unify abstract knowledge and concrete action beyond the classroom in the world. The unity is consistent with the Marxist theory in Scientific Socialism where theoretical philosophy is in confluence with science and technology. The scientific and technological mode of production has changed radically many existing moral values and practices of contemporary men.

“Ako ang Simula ng Pagbabago” Filipino Movement

Marx’s dialectical unity of theory and action which begins with the self is a good model for our national movement for moral change dubbed as “Ako ang simula ng pagbabago”. We should first change the situation of the moral dialectic within our own reality as free and responsible human beings, before we can effect a moral change in others.. Let us first become ourselves “the change that we want others to be”. “Ako” and “Sila” constitute the two poles of the moral dialectic in our society.