OPINION | Are You 'In Love'?

by F. Bustamante

I remember being amazed at this experiment with magnets as a grade school kid. When you align the north and south end of two magnets, they connect. You feel the tug, the energy, as they pull together. It's a cool thing to see. When you try the same with the north and north ends, or south and south, they pull away. No matter how hard you try, they won't touch, never mind connect. There is a force that keeps them apart.

Thinking about that experiment, magnets can teach us at least one thing about the general state of politics and public service in the Philippines: they, too, are disconnected.

The words 'politics' and 'public service' are often used interchangeably, but they are two very different, although crucially-related, words. Politics is about 'power', the idea of holding, gaining and exercising power in government; public service is the work of delivering to the people. They essentially go hand in hand because to be an effective public servant you must be an effective politician. It's necessary for one to represent his constituents effectively in the halls of power.

One wonders, then, what that thing is, the force that keeps politics and public service from connecting. Corruption comes to mind. It certainly gets in the way of serving the people and is the most visible reason for why things don't work too well in the Philippines. But corruption is more the manifestation of that something, and not the thing itself.

I believe the wedge between public service and politics is something fundamental and profound. It is something that a person himself may not even fully recognize in a political environment that is more form than substance, myopic and self-absorbed. There is only one thing I could think of that might explain the misaligned world of politics and public service in the Philippines: the lack or absence of love for one's country.

The word 'love of country', of course, is an idea that has less to do with geography (you don't necessarily love the map) and more to do with the people, values, traditions and culture- those things that unite many into one and give the union a distinct identity. To love one's country is to be patriotic; to be patriotic is to foster unity with your countrymen and what your union stands for. There is certainly nothing patriotic about leaving 25 percent of your people behind in poverty and hopelessness.

The more I see photos of families in painful poverty the more I wonder if the Philippines is really free. It's history is that of bondage. For hundreds of years hardship was forced on the Filipino people by colonizers, now Filipinos themselves create it for each other. It defies logic. Isn't it time to be in love?