Doubting Thomas

Did you know that cynicism was originally the philosophy of Cynics, ancient Greeks who rejected all conventions (religion, etiquette, dress, etc.) and advocated the pursuit of virtue in a simple lifestyle. I’m wondering what happened between virtue of the 4th century and today, when cynicism has become a distrust of anything that extols virtue, especially in a simplistic way. Modern cynics crack up when you give them statements about integrity, compassion and freedom, skeptical about every word that inspires change. Why have we become so jaded? When did we lose all hope, that we blow out even the tiniest flickers of light a few people are starting to spark?

I feel that we are digressing into greater degrees of cynicism. We sneer at every promise of an enlightened Philippines, titter at words like vision and enigma. We doubt creativity. Teeming with frustration and anger, cynics foresee a future without hope, without the possibility of meaningful change. They see a future where individuals have little or no chance to remedy their problems or improve their lives. They doubt the very possibility of collective action or a societal change made up of individuals. They make it sound so ridiculously naive. Why? Inside every cynical person, there is a disappointed idealist- George Carlin. Our history has been a past of broken promises. Past presidents proclaimed a vision of a prosperous Philippines and left it poor. Another pledged integrity and broke every rule in the book, erecting hypocritical institutions at her wake. Vows of progress have turned to progress in one’s wealth and power, never the nation’s. And so, why trust? When the past has certainly proven it cannot be done. More than apathy, go deeper and scorn at the people who say they might take us out of our misery. Be disillusioned. Disenchanted.

I believe the challenge we have now is not apathy but cynicism. It is hard enough trying to awaken people to take responsibility for their country. It is even more difficult rousing people who pretend they are asleep. I fear an epidemic of cynicism. They will doubt the sincerity of words, the truth of one’s motives, the possibility of one’s vision and action plans. It is almost as if they are immune to any persuasion. They prefer contempt and sarcasm, telling you these are illusions of grandeur, and they will drag you down, back to the reality of the past. Be stuck in the past, fearing the new, and not having enough faith in the possibility for change.

What will make us believe? As people are comfortable with the past, I will tell you about the past. There is another Philippines you have barely seen and heard. In certain parts of the country, there is a Philippines where: men and women are silently fighting to remedy injustice; new leaders have overcome political dynasties against impossible odds; children from poor rural communities go to a private school and are achieving high proficiencies in math, science and english; doctors who top medical board exams refuse the lure of foreign lands, remaining in Barangays to serve the poor; and a 12 year old girl has returned the P300,000 she found despite a greedy country. These stories of the past is only a microcosm of the new that can emerge. It is the truth, a source of our pride, proof of our honor, an attestation of our nobility. Cynics cannot doubt this Philippines of vision, integrity and achievement because these stories are real, not mere chance or probabilities. We have what it takes to rebirth the new Philippines. We have the bricks and blocks. All it takes is the courage to build it together, without sarcasm, without sneering, without laughing at “hearts of gold.”

After the final no there comes a yes
And on that yes the future world depends.
No was the night. Yes is this present sun.

Wallace Stevens

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