The examined life

CHASING THE WIND - Felipe B. Miranda -
"The unexamined life is not worth living." This comment is attributed to a Greek who enjoyed and analyzed the Olympians of his time but apparently never excelled in any of their games. Across the ages, Socrates has been held in the highest esteem by people who came to know him well. They laud his unrelenting attempts to look into every dimension of life in his community and not even the tragic cost of his unbounded curiosity — capital punishment by drinking the hemlock, a penalty imposed by his fellow Athenians — deter those who would probe into the nature of things. Not only those things that provide much-needed comfort and consolation like poetry and music, but also those things that often go critical and upset mostly everyone, like the state of a nation’s economy and the nature of its politics.

Had he been a Filipino living in current times, Socrates would have enjoyed pursuing his natural bent. Practically every facet of life in this country has been subjected to extended scrutiny. Whether it is the country’s people, their culture, history, economy, politics, international relations or natural environment that beckons, there is some database an interested person would find available and, often enough, quite helpful.

Whether one is interested in public finance, private enterprise, educational policies, religious developments, social deviance, cultural stress, or overall political governance, s/he is bound to discover that Filipinos cannot possibly want for relevant data. Statistics abound on the nation’s health and nutrition, morbidity, family income and expenditures, macro- and micro-economic performance, employment, price movements and many other social and economic concerns.

There is enough information regarding practically everything and a resourceful examiner will find looking into sensitive power circles, insurgent groups, criminal networks, lucrative deals, electoral frauds – whatever – perhaps not cruisingly easy, but certainly possible. The challenge then for the socially curious is not so much designing revealing databases as accessing many of those already in existence.

Media people and most particularly those working with the Center for Investigative Journalism and the Probe Team – arguably the two most effective groups of responsibly inquisitive journalists – are living proof of how those who would examine their nation’s life truthfully need not despair and view it as an impossible dream. (It may be formidably costly at times, yes – after all the mortality rate among inquisitive Filipino journalists appears to be a world record of sorts – but the undertaking is also, as some people would put it, "doable". That is to say, one can do it and live to tell it.)

Assisted by media, often even critically dependent on media’s biases and proferred perspectives (some media people actually boldly refer to their public affairs program as "ang tunay na sandigan ng katotohanan"!), most Filipinos access their society’s numerous data systems and ultimately form opinions and pass judgment on the viability of their national conditions and the quality of their personal lives.

Millions of Filipinos appear to have joined Socrates in suspecting that the unexamined life is probably not worth living. However, making contact with socioeconomic and political data showing mostly failed governance and worsening national crises in the past thirty years, they may not be faulted for also concluding that in this country the examined life may not be worth living either.

So, by the millions, in search of a life deemed worth living, they leave to work abroad and, whenever possible, to permanently settle there.

Millions more are hesitantly mulling the same thought – a life worth living, wherever that life might be located. A patriotic leadership will obviously govern in such a way that its citizens will situate that life in mostly their own country.

Between now and 2010 if not sooner, Filipinos will judge the quality of the present leadership. The most critical social indicator will then be the number of people forced to flee this country in search of a liveable life.

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