You Can’t Workout 7 Times A Year…

… and expect to be strong and healthy.

That’s obvious, David.

It is.

But there are equally obvious things, common sensical things, that, for whatever reasons, we fail to understand, such as:

It’s not enough to do relief work.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad that people are getting involved. People do need our help. But the smartest way to help people is to live excellently and generously daily – not simply when there’s a disaster. Let’s take this last storm for example. I don’t know if the rainfall was as much as the previous typhoons but, according to one article, Metro Manila had double the the flood spots than the last one.

Yes, double.

So now there are more people to relieve. When you take into account that there are still many families displaced from past floods, families we’ve mostly forgotten since “disaster mode” is over, we realize that we’re not solving the real issues that hurt people during heavy rains. Along with the growing pictures of people helping on social media is the growing number of the affected, adding up each year with the growing number of flood spots.

Until we fix the issues of illegal settlers, urban congestion, and lack of provincial development (many times due to the corrupt people running these areas), we can expect more of these disasters. We already know that there will be a few periods of major rains and storms in the country, yet we don’t have a long term solution.

David, we can only do our part. You should be glad people are even helping.

I’m not saying I’m mad. I’m just saying it’s not enough. And if our part can be summed up to reactive volunteerism than we’re in trouble.

More on “our part” later.

It’s not enough to rally.
It’s a great step. But, again, it’s not enough. More than our right to rally, we have a right to vote, a right which should be exercised and exercised wisely. I like a song by Rodriguez that goes, “Public goes irate but forgets the vote date”. It perfectly captures the problem with most societies that suffer from corruption: Good at complaining. Bad at the most fundamental things.

The people leading us? We empowered them. We voted them (or didn’t vote at all). We recommended them to our friends, to our employees, to our congregations. We dealt with them. We made their jingles, made their campaign strategies. We drank their Kool Aid. We allowed them to get away with this for so long.

And it’s not because we didn’t rally sooner.

It’s because we have other rights we didn’t exercise daily. Particularly the much abused  word “Freedom”. We’re free to be amazing people daily – not just rich or powerful or influencial or sexy or impressive – but generous, kind, helpful, encouraging, law-abiding, developing, growing, helping individuals. Yet, where is the general focus?

When democracy was conceptualized, with the idea of liberty (or freedom) were two other pillars: equality and fraternity. Way back then, the brains behind democracy understood, that if it was all about being able to do whatever one wanted, we would end up with chaos. Liberty needed to be balanced with equal opportunity (as is possible under the law) and an understanding that we are all responsible for each other as brothers.

So the only way democracy was supposed to work, the only it could work, was if people used their personal freedom to promote equality and fraternity. The body that was supposed to promote and safeguard this was the government they setup.

Keep in mind that during this period in France, the people rose up because two powers were wielding an unhealthy amount of power over them: the monarchy (the elite) and the church (religious institutions). The elite felt entitled to the power and to the services of the people. Sound familiar? The church was influencing a relatively superstitious and uneducated people who were afraid of crossing the church because they would be sent to hell. Sound familiar?

Before someone thinks I’m a communist, I’m not, I want to say that I do believe in the importance of leadership and that leaders will take a prominent role in society – but not to gain advantages but to serve. To serve actually means to be disadvantaged by advantaging others.

I’m also not an atheist. I believe in God and the importance of the church, but not to control people with superstition, not to threaten people with damnation and curses, which will happen anyway to anyone who rejects the source of goodness, Christ, but to present the Gospel, a gift, that while we cannot save ourselves we can turn to Jesus who loves all and wants to save all. Like I said in an old post:

Paul (the apostle) understood that love cannot be enforced, as many of us attempt to do. Love cannot be coerced. You cannot threaten someone with punishment so that they’ll love you – that’s manipulation. You cannot bribe love with blessings – that’s prostitution. You can try to explain love, yet you won’t go very far. We can’t explain the taste of chocolate to someone who hasn’t tried it. What more love? Love must be shown and love must be experienced, over and over, and over again.

I just want to be clear. I’m not a communist nor an atheist, but I do believe in aiming for equality (at least under the law) and, like Nacho Libre’s friend said, “I believe in science”. Good philosophy and good science are not enemies of faith, in my opinion they are incredible supporters of faith, so use your brain.

Which leads me to the final part of this post…

It’s enough to do our part.
One of the problems I have with people who keep promoting “rights” is that many times they forget that these “rights” are only possible if there is a higher authority that is capable of enforcing these rights.

All rights have a cost, and the way citizens can enjoy rights is for government to promote and protect these rights, and government is able to do that if its leaders are held accountable to the people. So there’s a cycle, a theoretical correcting mechanism. People enjoy the rights a government is capable of enforcing because they’ve been given power by the people, who also hold them accountable.

The point of all of that is to say, you want a better government? Start with yourself. Because you are actually the power behind powerful people. Politics is a popularity contest. And in general, we have bad taste. Most of our popular people have incredible impact on the habits of people but have a very shallow understanding of social issues, of really deep concerns. 
Some of you might say, “But they’re not leaders David. They’re actors / celebrities / singers / politicians / whatevers.”

Exactly. That’s all they are. So stop giving them so much. Stop giving them such a disproportionate amount of your time, energy, and money. 

“We’re not giving them much at all.”
Yes you do.When you watch their shows instead of studying, you power the disease of celebrityism, and you lose a moment to be a better citizen. When you waste your time on noontime shows instead of working your ass off, you lose a moment to be a better citizen. If you’re always early for movies (because you want to see the trailers) but always late for work, you betray your priorities. When you know more about the latest gossip but don’t take the time to learn how your government actually works, how you can actually take part, you default on your ability to be a force of good in a big way.
We know more about the coolest new series and have so little knowledge on how the executive, legislative, and judiciary works.
“That’s for smart people David.”

If you really believe that, then you should be ok with only smart people enjoying the benefits. But you don’t believe that because you know that’s not good for those who have no benefits. 
 
Every right we want to enjoy is powered by a responsibility accepted. 
You want a driver’s license? You’re responsible for your driving. You want to go to school? You’re responsible for your grades. You want to be a politician? You’re responsible for constituents. You want to be a pastor? You’re responsible for your theology. And if you fail in these responsibilities, you hurt your right, you may even lose your right.
There are certain opportunities I know are no longer for me because I did not decide responsibly.
And this is our part as a citizen: to take the freedoms we’ve been given, abundant or little, and use it as best as we can to promote justice (equality under the law) and to daily build our neighbor up to become better (fraternity). 
Democracies thrive when individuals, out of their own volition, driven by personal conviction, make it their life’s purpose to live for each other.
Liberty. Equality. Fraternity.
As a Christian, the book of James says it well:
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. – James 1:27The religion that Jesus promotes, the role of the truly religious is to look after the widows and orphans (who represent the most vulnerable in society) – in their distress (in their lack, need, and hopelessness).
Widows and orphans had no chance on ancient culture. Jesus was saying that the religion God accepts is a religion that looks after the most vulnerable.

It is not only good citizenry to be an amazing neighbor, it is also what it means to be a good Christian. 
The verse ends by saying, “and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” When I look at my own life, I am most selfish, most apathetic, when I am most greedy for the power, recognition, and comforts that society offers.This is also when I am most blind to the needs of others. I am most blind to the vulnerable around me when I am most polluted by the rewards of society.And many times I find myself in this spot, when I’m actually making more money, gaining more recognition, and this is simply because that’s the human condition. Even in church, look who is exalted: the success story, the successful guy who also happens to be a  Christian. He’s the example. The successful girl who also happens to be chaste. She’s the example. Every sector of society has their own set of the exulted based on the criteria they value. And those who are far from this, who fail this, are rejected.

__________________

Note:
Success, virtue, these are good. But the practice of these virtues are not for gaining exultation but must be motivated by a desire to please God. I am guilty of this over and over: practicing virtues such as discipline and hard work and forgetting the source of all virtue, the Lover of my soul, God. Even as I am blinded by the pats on my back for the achievements, I must daily search my soul for the many sins that live in my heart, that no one but God sees, and isn’t He the one who truly counts?
__________________

Christianity says this:

Don’t be like that. Don’t go for the exalted. Don’t be overly impressed with the success stories of the world, even religious success stories. Jesus has a different definition of success.  Go for the vulnerable. Spend your time, energy, and money on lifting the vulnerable – these includes those you call sinners – because you’re one too. In fact, defend them from those who take from them, who trap them, who abuse them, who condemn them. Be the servant. That’s greatness. Make yourself last. That’s winning. Disadvantage yourself for them, that’s what Jesus did for you. 

If you see someone succeeding and using that influence to trap, and alienate and manipulate someone else, that’s a good sign he or she is missing it. If you see someone who is apathetic, who has no interest in taking part in the bigger picture or defending the vulnerable because it doesn’t or shouldn’t affect him or her, that’s a good sign that he or she is missing the point as well.

I see this a lot to be honest. I see this most when I look in the mirror – so I must remind myself not to miss the point of democratic  freedom, even more, not to miss the point of Christian freedom as well.

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David Bonifacio

David Bonifacio Entrepreneur, social worker, writer, artist, CEO of Bridge, CEO of Elevation Partners, Managing Director of New Leaf Ventures. #db

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