The Perfection Of The Working Man

Since the dawn of time, man has wrought life-giving harvests from barren soil, and stately kingdoms from jagged rocks. Only in earnest and honest labor can a man prove himself worthy to be called as such. The salvation of one’s soul lies in a Higher Power, but as Paul wrote, “Faith without works is dead.” Not ‘works’ in the sense of building a cathedral to gain Paradise, but rather, the re-focusing of the entire being to the pursuit of those actions that bring about the alleviation of suffering from those around him. As Pope XII said, “Work is not only, for every man, a means of decent livelihood, but it is the means through which all these manifold powers and faculties with which nature, training and art, have endowed the dignity of the human personality, find their necessary expression.” A man is born and grows into manhood, and in between are the crucibles of experiences that have forged his character. A man must work, if he is to live in accordance the dictates of his conscience, and it is precisely at this point in his life that complications set in. The most fundamental is the archetypical young man who wants to be an artist but whose parents wants him to follow the family’s tradition of practicing medicine. True freedom means economic freedom. Not necessarily being rich in the Forbes Park sense, but simply having enough to be able to pursue one’s true calling free from the twin Damocles’ Sword of starvation and homelessness. Convenient Boogeyman On the other hand, there are people who don’t work because they can afford not to work. This is the principal reason for the steady rise of the unemployment rate. Their lifestyle is subsidized by their parents and relatives, and in the process they accumulate what economists term as discretionary income, the allocation of which is subject only to whim and fancy. It is natural to see students spending hours chatting about meaningless trivialities and mastering mind-numbing games in internet cafes. More extreme examples include those youths who have stopped schooling by choice and hook up with liquor, gambling, bad company and illegal drugs. And if budgetary constraints prop up from time to time, they bewail their lot and indulge in self-pity. And since people with essentially weak characters are obsessed with their rights but never with their responsibilities, they look for blame, and the most convenient boogeyman is the Establishment, with mass media running close to second. Dr. Trinidad H. Pardo de Tavera’s insights on this phenomenon is timeless, and today, even more relevant: “Our very concept of happiness in life is erroneous. It seems we base it on the idea of tranquility and want to conquer peace by always fleeing from the struggle from all work that signifies bodily or mental exertion. We want a carefree life…We also want lucrative sinecures so that we may be able to earn more remuneration with less work.” The Greatest Cause The single greatest cause for this pervasive social malaise is the avoidance of assuming responsibilities for one’s actions. Vendors ply their trade and squatters build their houses on places they know are legally critical, and when the hand of the law comes down, they appeal to the emotions of the public. Some irresponsible members of the media are only too willing to cater to their exaggerated and imagined protests about tyranny and oppression. Politicians running for elections have mastered this technique. In their campaigns, instead of focusing on how to provide decent homes and livelihoods for the urban poor, they promise security of tenure and financial assistance in return for political support – which last exactly until voting booths close at 3PM. There is no such thing as a man forced into criminality. Poverty has nothing to do with character. A man with solid moral scruples would rather sell crumpled Coke cans to junkshops than snatch cell phones. This same principle can be applicable to everything. In situations like the above, the most common alibi is that their family is hungry and that they’re desperate – and that is precisely the point. A young man marries even though he hasn’t yet finished his studies and his bank account is zero. He may be earning, but he ignores the fact that the costs of living will dramatically rise especially with the arrival of the children: hospital costs, milk, clothing, schooling – not to mention the ever-present bills for food, rent electricity, water and dozens of miscellaneous items. A person who does not assume responsibilities for hic actions breaks down from the pressure of these kinds of circumstances. The “I’m Special” Mindset An equally important factor is the ‘I’m special’ mindset. A significant segment of the citizenry actually believes their self-worth will be lessened if they abide by established protocols in society. Traffic lights and factual Statements of Assets and Liabilities are ignored with the “Everybody is doing it” mentality. No decent and self respecting person will want to engage with someone who doesn’t play by the rules. A.T.Veloro said it succinctly: “The law was made for the purpose of maintaining order in a society which otherwise would be in a state of confusion. But one is caught violating, for instance, a traffic law when the offender asks a traffic policeman, ‘Paano natin maa-areglo ito? (How can we settle this?)’ This kind of attitude has encouraged the rapid growth of fixers.” The chief cause of this the widespread disillusionment brought about by the stark, vulgar thievery of certain law enforcers. Graft and corruption is universal in the sense that it exists in very country in the world, but in the Philippines, it has become so rampant to the point of legitimacy, reminiscent of the gangsters and bootleggers in Prohibition-era America. And it is precisely these same individuals whom the government wants to enforce the ill-conceived and unpopular National ID plan. Sense of Inevitable Doom. Another cause is what the late Senator Raul Roco termed ‘learned helplessness.’ Being cynical is not bad per se – ask Diogenes and King Solomon. But as in all things in the universe, ‘Balance’ is the key. Exposure to any form of propaganda should be in the context of disciplined inquiry and criticism, and at the same time, not succumbing to the false sense of inevitable doom. Reality is what we make of it, and the crucial factor here is ‘Attitude’ As F. Langbridge said, “Two men looked at prison bars; one saw the mud, the other saw stars.” Although society’s ills are too ingrained to be eradicated in a generation, within each and everyone of us lies the ability to make this world a better place in our own little ways. Aesop illustrated this principle thousands of years ago with his fable about the thirsty crow, the half-filled bottle and the little stones. A majestric molave tree sprang from a tiny seed, and Michelangelo’s Sistine masterpiece started out as a germ of thought. The pebbles we pitch create ripples in the river of life. The inverse is equally true, and the image that arises is of those social climbers at the Baywalk who throw their trash in Manila Bay – then wail about living in a polluted world. A Different Perspective A man who is gainfully employed, who desires only simplicity and peace, has a different perspective in life. His sense of empowerment, however small, lifts him from despair, and offers a glimpse of a brighter and more secure future. “There is perennial nobleness and even sacredness, in work,” as Thomas Carlyle wrote. “Destiny on the whole has no other way of cultivating us.”