Noblesse oblige

I sometimes see myself as a meritocrat with an aristocratic streak. I believe that while we have an obligation to help people get out of poverty, etc., any decisions on who is to run the country should be solely based on merit and one’s origins. In a perfect world, the Platonist “philosopher-king” is the ideal, but the best we can do is to make sure it is difficult for anyone to claim any position of leadership in politics or business without proving one’s self or going through the most rigorous education one can offer.

So it is that people send their children to the Big Four universities in our country so that they have a better shot at being leaders. Of these four, three are private universities operating under the once-dominant religious tradition (now grasping at a pair of condoms) and one is the oldest public university (if one does not count Gov.-Gen. de la Torre’s attempt to establish one during his time). Our universities, especially those four, are burdened with having to correct the inadequacies of an educational system which is way behind the international norm not only in terms of quality, but also of quantity (we are the last country in the world to require ten years of basic education). The government claims not to have the money, of course, but can find time to give bags full of cash to its most loyal supporters.

But these universities, very much like in other civilized societies, have the burden of forming part of the governing class, the aristocratic element of it. Being part of this class not only gives one great power, but also great responsibility. The idea of noblesse oblige ensures that one does not forget that a good number of the governing class weren’t born with silver spoons, that one has the obligation to be responsible for the welfare of everyone else. It is this obligation that prevents the governing class from hogging everything for themselves. It ensures that, if properly exercised, society won’t go into grave instability.

It is with these thoughts in mind that I comment on today’s editorial in the Philippine Daily Inquirer where they allege two things:

1. Ticket scalping, as Recah Trinidad implied in an earlier piece for the paper, is a pernicious evil that must be stopped, and it is instigated at the highest levels of the Universities Athletic Association of the Philippines or by very powerful persons known to them but could not be prevented because they may be likely “on the take.”

2. The two universities are not exercising noblesse oblige. This is the most generous way I can interpret their very bitter comments about the game this afternoon being a “private party for the perfumed set.”

If that is the case, then I am quite ashamed of two of the Big Four, and those who are connected to them. In fact, I am ashamed of myself, since I came from one of them. But of course, that gives me reason to hope in that other society I believe in.

For that other society is one where the distinctions of class and origin disappear, where it is possible to be truly human in a way different from what this world can promise. It is a society where our dignity can be recognized not because we achieved something, but we were willing to be subject to a different type of lordship—one exercised in weakness and defeat on the Cross—and to share in that suffering, death, and resurrection.

Now that is change I can believe in. That is the Church I believe in.

“I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.”

– The Baptismal, or Apostle’s Creed


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