The Gardener was asked to say his piece and this was it.

 What is the moral foundation for what we now call national transformation?

Consider that word: “transFORMA” referring to the shape or form or structures of society, for instance. What form or formation needs to be re-formed, what is in need of reformation and, beyond that, of TRANSformation (trans =through and thorough) implying both personal and societal change?

Yes, what are we talking about now?

Every time someone talks of societal reform what do we really understand by that phrase?  What is the relation between the individual and society and why is there a need to reform the latter? Someone remarked: the relation between the individual and society is like the relation between the fish and the water where it is swimming. I don’t really know whether the fish knows that it is able to swim not only because it knows how and is able to and likes to swim but also because the water in which it swims is beautiful, really fine and just right.

We too, we are not always aware, are we, of an ocean of air in which we live and breathe and have our being except when suddenly the poison in the atmosphere has reached serious levels; we have a very hard time breathing and we suddenly are forced to ask: “what is going on? What’s wrong? Is it inside us, outside us, or in both?

When all around us society becomes so oppressive that we can’t take it anymore – we can no longer breathe well – on account of joblessness or low salaries, consequent inability  to pay water and electricity bills; when food prices are so high, and we’ve long run out of funds for tuition payments and hospital bills; when we’ve reached that juncture, what is it that needs changing –our individual self or the structures of society or both?

Let’s go back to the analogy of the fish and its water: if the water is exceedingly dirty, toxic, carrying all sorts of pollutants and really dangerous substances, no matter how skillful a fish is at swimming, it will realize it is having a very hard time trying to swim smoothly and comfortably, till a point is reached when the fish begins to believe that there really is a problem after all –he does not know how to swim. What, have you gone insane –a fish that does not know how to swim?

Transfer that fish to different waters and see what happens. That’s today’s Philippine story. Millions upon millions of “Philippine fish” are suddenly seen to be such superb swimmers as soon as they have transferred to other waters, from their Third World ocean to new First World situations – ten million of them any old day, whom we can refer to as the Overseas Filipino Nation, whose GDP is three times greater than the home front, new “heroes” that are earning a living for close to a hundred million Filipinos at home who do not have the right amount and kind of “water” for a good, decent, peaceful and prosperous life, who have no economic and political systems to give glory to God by enabling his children to achieve the fullness of life – lacking the right systems for agriculture and industry that would have been able to create new and true wealth for the prosperity and development of all. None, Brutus, none.

What we see instead is the opposite: one of the worst poverty situations ever, complete with new historic levels of hunger and unemployment. The Philippines gets richer but Filipinos become poorer. Pope Francis said: this is the worst thing you can think of, that with the development of an economy, only a few rich get richer, exceedingly so, and the majority poor find themselves worse off, destitute and hopeless. He called such a political economy of exclusion the modern equivalent of murder – contrary to God’s law, “Thou shalt not kill!”

Look at the mothers, heroic (?), who must leave their children behind merely to have a chance to earn a living, even as foreigners in another land.

That’s why we say: if the Philippine fish is transferred to waters different from his native one he immediately works miracles! The whole world incessantly admires Pinoys, their competence, integrity and creative abilities. Is this not, perhaps, because they have to show off, really shine, be noticed and admired, even adjust to foreign cultures and languages because in the home waters there is no hope, no chance for righteous progress?

How sad and what a shame that on the average and as a matter of fact, the Filipino can succeed anywhere in the world but in the Philippines. It is as if he or she is not allowed to succeed here at home because of unfair and twisted societal structures, where propaganda substitutes for governance, and an oligarchy is masked by a spurious democracy, yes, a fake democracy not installed by the people’s will but machine-made by the ruling class – not a government of the people, by the people and for the people but a government of a few by a few and for a few excluding the majority from the benefits of growth and bringing out the meaningful joke that we indeed have a government off the people (pwera ang tao), buy the people (pera pera lang to) and fool the people – lokohan pa, hocus pcosin mo sila.

Hence, the advice of our moral leaders now – whether Catholic, Protestant or Muslim – they are urging the same thing: let’s get involved and help reform the messy world of economics, politics and culture; let us be grounded in the material basis of our daily existence. And why? The truth is that before our current religions came around, way way back in the time of the Greeks, the times of Philosophers Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, this was the situation: if anybody asked, “what does it mean to be human?” their answer was “to be human is to be political;” the definition Aristotle gave  for “human being” or in Greek “Anthropos” was simple – “Anthropos zoon politikon estin (Man is a political animal)”; man equals political living being, and political meant having a sense of the polis, meaning a sense of the community, a concern for the establishment of a just and  prosperous society.

And the opposite of “zoon politikon” was the Greek word “idiotes” – one who kept to himself alone, who had no concern for others, who did not recognize the essentially social nature of human nature. Hence in the view of Philosopher Aristotle, if you were not political, you were not fully human; you were merely an idiot.

So, politics is really too important to leave to politicians alone. Pope Francis and Archbishop Arguelles are right: you can engage in political activity without becoming mere politicians. In our country today there is way too much of spurious politics, and very little of the real thing: (Sobra sobra ang politika lamang, pero kulang na kulang ang politika talaga) – very few are committed to the systemic reform of the economy and the political order so that all humans could have a chance to be fully alive, which, according to St. Irenaeus, is the essential manifestation of God’s glory.

And yet, quite fortunately, an increasing number of us know in our guts that a mere change of political personalities may only mean more of the same – the same traditional politicians, the same attitudes, the same practices, and the same results that differ only as the years go by because they become worse and worse. Its opposite is the movement for national transformation.

And this is what all religions, for instance the Abrahamic faiths – Jewish, Christian, or Muslim – are telling us quite clearly: that the center of all reality is love – love of God above all and love of neighbor as one self. Yes, acknowledging the unity of being, we either love God, our self, our neighbor and all creation or we love no one. Did you say love? What does it mean? Is there anyone who does not understand love? But wait; do we really know what the true meaning of love is?

We read in the bible that one day a lawyer, a doctor of the Law, went up to Christ and asked what is the most important thing of all. And Christ said love: “Love God above all, and love your neighbor as yourself.

As lawyers go, this one was no exception. He had a follow-up question: who is my neighbor? In other words, how should he love his neighbor, or – how would one know and what really is the proof of love of neighbor?

Well, Christ took him seriously and answered, as was his custom, by means of a. A man was travelling from Jerusalem to Jericho. On the way he fell into the hands of robbers and bandits, who took all his money, beat him mercilessly and left him on the road half-dead.

Now, according to Christ’s narrative, a priest came down the same road and saw the man who was almost dead. The man was a priest. I could almost be sure then that seeing the man half-dead, he must have felt pity for him. He may even have prayed for the man, like lifting his hands toward heaven and crying, “Lord, have pity on him.” Or, out of pity, the priest may have stooped down and given the victim precious advice like saying, “Hey, do be careful next time.” The bible does not say. But what Christ underscores in his narrative is that the priest who saw the dying man merely proceeded with his journey, apparently undisturbed.

Before long, another man, a Levite, came down the same road toward Jericho. What does “Levite” mean? A Levite was a member of a religious group. Again, I could almost be sure that when he saw the poor fellow almost dead on the road, he too must have had feelings of pity for the victim, and like the priest before him he may also have prayed for the man and given him some advice. We do not know. The bible does not say. But this is what the story-answer of Christ emphasized – his answer to the lawyer’s question regarding the test of true love of neighbor – this religious person now, like the priest before him, just went on with his journey without any need to act effectively. Dedma.

Continuing his story Christ said: a third man came down the same road after the Levite. Levite and Priest were definitely iconic in function. But the man who had arrived was different, an enemy. The man was a Samaritan, one of those hated and despised by the Jews despite their belonging to the same family. They differed mainly in their devotions because they really had the same common father Abraham.

Did the Samaritan pray for the dying man on the road, or did he also give advice as was done earlier by priest and Levite – honorable religious leaders? Maybe so. The bible does not say.

What Christ emphasized, however, in his story-answer was not that but this: the Samaritan acted immediately, though it may have been clear to him that the poor victim was a Jew and therefore a probable foe; he set aside for now whatever urgent business awaited him in  Jericho, and  gave urgent priority to bringing the poor victim to a hostel or hospital and the next day told the guy in charge: “A favor please, do continue the care for this poor victim because I must go on to Jericho. Here is some money for expenses, and if this is not enough, on my return I shall pay.”

The lawyer’s original question for Christ was: what is the proof or how do we know the authenticity of love of neighbor. Christ’s answer was: “I shall pay”– action at the material-financial level where it normally hurts. Christ knew that formula prayer and hackneyed advice are easy to come by for a suffering victim. How does the old saying go? “Talk is cheap.” What really hurts and is often hard to do is to part with money or to act decisively at the material-financial level, and on the plane of economics and politics.

The Samaritan even put aside the traditional politics of his time, the traditional enmity between Samaritans and Jews, – he transcended this enmity and embraced a new politics: he showed how to love one’s neighbor as oneself not only in thought and word and affective emotion but in effective material action.

This story-answer of Christ is not surprising because the truth is he also said that at the Last Judgment, love of neighbor will be proven by means again of material action. At our Last Judgment or Final Exam there will be only six (6) important questions.  Even if there may be other questions, these six must be the most important of all. If not, why does Christ the King mention them and not the others?

Let us see: It is not important to Christ whether you became President of the Philippines or Cardinal Archbishop of Manila or if you became Miss Universe or undefeated boxing world champion. He will only say to those who already passed the exam and are now grouped together at his right: “Come to heaven, because when I was hungry you gave me food; when I was thirsty, you gave me drink; when I was naked, you clothed me; when I was sick you visited me; when I was in prison you came to me; when I was a stranger you took me in.

Look again at the Just Judge and see how clear his words. These material-financial-socio-economic-political issues of food security (you gave me food), water security (you gave me drink) , clothing (you clothed me), shelter (you took me in), health (sick and you visited me), basic justice (in prison, and you came to me);solidarity (you did it to the least of my brethren);  all these are modern political issues of governance and social justice; and all these will be asked us as living members of families, towns, nations and even the whole world – meaning, did we get involved in these issues and did we put to action all that we could to manifest the true love in our heart– and not merely in words and wish.

Every time we did these good deeds – to whom? “to the very least of the brethren,” to whoever we encountered in our journey through life – we did or did not do so to him, the Cosmic Christ, of which we can all be living parts, mandated to love each other as our Self.

And this is what we must never forget, ever, while we are still in the testing period on the Earth plane: we will be judged not so much for what we have done but for what we failed to do. In other words, we may not be asked what sins we committed. Rather, we will be reminded of the good things that we could have done but did not do.

Christ’s words are clear at Last Judgment day: “Away from me. When I was hungry you did not feed me. When I was thirsty you did not give me drink. When I was sick you did not come to me…etc.

Today it is clear that these six issues of Last Judgment Day are no longer mere individual issues challenging the charity of one for another; they have deteriorated to become sociopolitical issues affecting big numbers of people on a social scale – mass poverty, mass unemployment, and mass exclusion of people from participating in and benefitting from economic growth. The expected action is also equally clear, namely, that we all unite towards achieving national transformation.

If all that is clear, shall we do it or not? If we do it and we achieve true democracy, and social justice, and the hungry get fed because of their participation in the economy and political order, the chances are great that the Judge will tell us: “I was hungry and you fed me.” If not, “Away from me. I was hungry and you did not feed me.” You could have but you did not because there was no love in your heart. You had no energy for anything but your shallow and vain pleasures.

Now it’s our moral leaders taking the lead. We are being united to change the spurious democracy, the oligarchic democracy that is not the will of the many but the mere machination of a very few, a machine-manipulated deMOCKracy that has nothing to do with truth.  At first you still preferred the bad habit of deceitful electoral games for a few pesos’ worth. But now you have decided to set up your own Transformation Councils, Councils of Conversion and Metanoia. You would now put an end to the stranglehold exercised by corrupt and incompetent political dynasties, and let the people go – free at last. You would refrain from holding any farcical election and install instead a fraud-free electoral system.

You listened to Pope Francis and you saw that the oligarchic form of your country is the root cause of many of your social problems. You struggled against the set-up of a few rich daily getting richer while the majority hardly make it out of the poverty trap.  And you accepted that the real solution involves the messy start of political action – the assertion of power by the majority populace, or the practice of truly democratic politics.

You also emphasized that a just political order is characterized by the rule of law, a dispensation in which the law is sovereign and not the caprice or arbitrary will of the powerful and the rich.. You would have the State ruled by law, and on the basis of a correct conception of the human person and not the arbitrary will of individuals.

Make your new start now. The Kingdom of God encompasses you, and may you do His Will on Earth. Continue and strengthen your initiative of Transformation Councils. FINIS

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