Tuesday, November 13, 2007


Rewrites of Jottings: COMPASSION
Published Mindanao Post 12 December 1996

In the Christian world, raised levels of compassion are felt during the Christmas season. Purse strings are loosened, and gift giving is widespread. Most significant of all is the community concern shown for the poor, led by private civic organizations.
But such laudable gestures are transient features of our society. After the season’s greetings and hangovers are over, the generosity fades away, and indifference reigns once again.
A yearlong Christmas season is devoutly to be wished, and the beneficiaries of community graciousness continue to be given to those who are most helpless: the orphans and abandoned children.
For this reason, a poor struggling nation like ours should not be too quick to condemn child labor, for this is a means, however distasteful to the `bleeding hearts’, of survival for the poorest of families and desolate children. And we must seek a solution to the plight of our street children who have been placed on detention in a feeble effort to save them from a drug habit and a future of drug addiction and the crime inevitable to support the habit.
There exists a clear and present danger, and thus a loud warning, that, if not carefully dealt with, the situation is just one step away from the Brazilian solution whereby businesses finance policemen to exterminate street children

Update November 13, 2007
As the Christmas Season is just around the corner, the stark contrast of the haves and have-nots are again haunting the nation with the 11-year old Marianet Amper suicide in poignant emphasis. Despondent and depressed over the poverty of her family, she took her own life. Little did she know that ending her misery would create unintended consequences. Speculations of hazy origins started swirling at the heels of her burial, raising doubts about the real cause of her suicide. The insinuations tended to smear the family reputation, forcing her parents to accede to exhuming her remains and conduct an autopsy.
There is a moral lesson here for poor people: beware of the fake compassion shown by political leaders who take advantage of such tragedies to burnish their image.

Children are usually victims of unethical dishonest adults, and schools are fertile ground for such occasions as the following op-ed shows. It describes a common incident in primary school where pupils are coerced into accepting raffle tickets to a lottery.

Rewrites of Jottings: Diogenes’s search
Mindanao Post 12 March 1997
Raffle, a lottery in which prizes are won by one or more of numerous persons buying chances, is considered an innocent undertaking.
Even the Church dabbles in it -- of course, in the name of charity.
So any group in society may exercise its right to engage in this legal activity, schools included.
And an educational institution, as part of the learning process and acquisition of knowledge, may ask their pupils to sell raffle tickets, so they can obtain practical experience in marketing, money math and cash management.
Neat and memorable lesson, right?
Now teach the art of peddling a product with a paltry price tag of Peso 0.99 (one centavo less than a peso to avoid the scrutiny of those nosy taxmen) but disposed and sold for a whopping Three Hundred Pesos. That’s the essence of superb marketing and salesmanship.
Right again?
But drat that confounded Diogenes, that crank philosopher whose spirit should have died with him 2,300 years ago. He must bring up a silly query about the semantics and rhetoric of school minions’ use of the phrase “considered sold” when the child clasps the raffle ticket, and makes some irking remarks about ethics on such a simple educational transaction.
So the Diogenes search for an honest man perforce wends on.

(Footnote: anecdotal tales of honest persons returning lost or forgotten articles to their owner is uncommon news. The write-up of the event rarely attributes the act to innate morality or whether it is prudence, the good sense of avoiding a charge of theft.)

Update November 2007
The odious practice in schools is a no-no but persists. This style of fleecing kids actually starts at every school opening in June.
“When we say free education, we mean it.” This is the stereotyped message the Department of Education emphasizes when it reminds parents to register their children for entry in Grade 1, citing no fees would be collected upon enrollment. But the howls of parents denouncing collection of fees upon registration are the rule not the exception.
With the connivance of Parent-teacher Associations, fees for the Red Cross, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts though modest are collected during registration.

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