Today’s View: Of poverty and acts of charity

Apr. 11, 2013

In a society where the teeming majority of the population is poor — miserably poor — acts of charity are not only a welcome gesture.  It is generally regarded by the people themselves as a kind of saving grace.

Davao Today

You train your attention to the TV screen and your eyes will be fed with political campaign ads that are meant to touch your heart to sympathetic contemplation.  You are likely to be drawn into the dramatic pitch with which the candidates are presented.

One senatorial candidate promises “free medical services.”  Another one says he will deliver “enough food for everyone.”  Still another vow he will “bring down prices of basic commodities.”  Not to be outsmarted, another candidate “assures employment.”  And a scion of an education patriarch dangles “free education!”

And all these slogans invariably accompanied with video clips replete with takes of candidates tenderly hugging urban poor residents, cradling in their arms half-clad infants and kissing street children with compassionate expressions in their eyes, are aired as if they are meant to extricate our people from dire impoverishment.

The scenarios seem to be panacea for national salvation!  OMG!

You’ll find it hard to distinguish between these campaign ads and the teleseryes.  And our political aspirants are just as good-looking as our movie celebrities!  If not a case of dual personality — a politician and movie artist rolled into one!

And who could miss the charitable gestures of actors and actresses in their TV programs?  Their profuse display of kindliness and generosity (kabaitan)?

Verily, such acts of helping the poor, giving dole-outs, feigning identification and camaraderie with the poor people are popular and admirable.  And even considered saintly!  Kinsa bay dili ganahag  kandidato nga buotan ug manggihatagon? (And who wouldn’t like a candidate who is kind and generous?)

In a society where the teeming majority of the population is poor — miserably poor — acts of charity are not only a welcome gesture.  It is generally regarded by the people themselves as a kind of saving grace.

Politicians, since time immemorial, exploit this credulity of the masses.  This has its roots in the homilies and sermons and other injunctions of  Church peoples who give high premium to charitable acts as hallmarks of  true Christianity.

The first lady of a known dictator is a very skillful practitioner of this popularity trending act.  She uses it with rare dramatic excellence.  And she survives — politically!

There is nothing wrong with being charitable!  In fact, it ought to be one’s eternal commitment, whoever you are, politician or not.

But the point is this!

Acts of Charity will not change our impoverished reality as a people and as a nation.  Never!  It will only perpetuate poverty!  It will always be the convenient campaign forage of politicians.  It is an enchantment that renders an eternal spell of misery!

To insist on this chipped up aspect of our social reality as the focus or special concern of a congressman or senator is to admit his failure to adopt a comprehensive analysis of our society.  Without such analysis, there can be no honest to goodness viable program of action to steer the nation forward.

It is a manifestation that our candidates for national leadership have no real commitment to emancipate the nation from poverty — a manifestation that they are inadequate intellectually and politically.  They just rely heavily on image-building through sloganeering that do not at all lay down in concrete plans  the way to attain national prosperity.

This could be the reason there is an infinite lack of political will among our national leaders.  Apart from the lack of a unified long-term agenda for the nation, each of these national leaders in Congress is an ego-tripping explorer of projects for self-enrichment.

That is why no one among them is willing to shun the notorious pork barrel! This pork barrel which has been cloaked in different positive sounding name is, in fact, the constant resource for their “acts of charity.”

And so, in spite of the shamefaced abuse of these “acts of charity” by our politicians, poverty is here to stay.

Don J. Pagusara is a native of Mindanao, a multi-awarded author and a Palanca-awardee.

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