Monday, April 16, 2007

Faith or Fatalism?

Some sociologists consider fatalism as one positive Filipino cultural values. However, I think too much fatalism contributes to the increasing poverty in my beloved country. I have been living and working with the poor almost all of my lives. I ministered in a church located in a squatter area east of Manila. They called themselves "Urban Poor." They are living in the city but do not have their own home and construct their shanties in abandoned land they can find.

We moved to the province before coming here to Thailand. I pastored a church whose membership is composed of, again, the poorest of the poor. But even these people are poor they are not squatter. They inherited the land and house they are living from their great grandparents. But they are poor nonetheless. They till a farmland they do not own, sell their crops and the income they get is just enough for them to last until the next planting season. They are poor but I can tell you they are happy.

Why are they happy? The answer? Fatalism that people mistakenly called faith. Teodoro Benigno commented about this. And I believe he points out the real issue for the continuous increase in poverty in the Philippines and nobody can stop it.
...I couldn't consider suffering people, a deeply deprived and oppressed people happy. I mentioned our poverty, the fact majority of our people lived in slums or squatter areas. I added our people were getting hungry, only able to eat one or two meals a day. Then I poured it on. How could the Filipinos be happy when many were getting sick, when babies were dying because they had no milk to suckle, when children were literally dying in their parents' arms?

I do not see how anybody can be happy in the midst of all this poverty, when the poor get buried much more often than the rich, when the curse of sickness deforms the human being, when a baby, who has all the right to live, shivers greatly and sinks into permanent darkness. Isn't life the gift of God? Isn't life to be nourished and preserved at all costs?

I couldn't stand the assertion that Filipinos were the happiest people on earth..., life on earth mattered little. What mattered was getting into heaven and if poverty hastened this, then so much the better. The more impoverished he is, the happier the Filipino becomes. Heaven swings into view.

Elsewhere in Asia and other regions and continents, millions worked very hard, sought jobs, sought education, struggled from morning to sometimes almost midnight not just to keep alive, but extricate themselves from poverty. They had a vision. They looked at tomorrow, well into the future. They had leaders that prodded them to struggle more fiercely at the oars. That way, progress would materialize, eventual access to better jobs, health, education, a decent, caring society, a leadership conscious of the common weal, love of self, love of God and love of country.

Against poverty and wretchedness, the Filipino had a coping mechanism. If everything was God's will, then his unhappiness was illusory. He was meant to suffer on earth, because this prepared him for the rewards of paradise, eternal happiness. And yet, even if I try to go along, it is crap, unadulterated crap. It somehow excuses the sins, the sordid shortcomings of the rich. It flattens out all reason, leaves one to the mercy of a medieval theology. Might is right. And when might is the sole arbiter of earthly things, so be it. The succor of heaven will come anyway. Whence this culture of ours? Are we Filipinos fated just to sing and pray, fall on our knees, accept every misery because this is the will of the Almighty?


SmileSleep said...

Why is it that I have to climb 1,000 mountains to get to you and all you have to do is smile to get to me?

^_^ Laughter linked to health, happiness ^_^

Steve Hayes said...

A bit irrelevant to the content, but I'm curious ab out the licture - is that a railway line running doen the street? Or tram lines? Is it in Man ila, or Thailand, or somewhere else? Is that where you are ministering now?

Joey said...

Hi Steve,

The picture is a common sight in Manila because the lands along the railway belong to the government thus a public space, the squatters put up their houses there. I once lived near such place.

Sorry to confuse you where we are right now, we are in Thailand now, in a place not much different with that where poor people cross the border from Myanmar to find a living. Although there is no railway here.

Steve Hayes said...

Wow, that must be dangerous for kids -- don't they get run over by trains?

The onoly part of Thailand I ever visited was Bangkok. It was very interesting, and I'd like to visit again, but don't suppose I ever shall.