Against Individualism

8 November 2007. Thursday of the 31st Week in Ordinary Time
Romans 14, 7-12 Against Individualism

There are different forms of individualism. There are those who profess to be Catholics, but refuse to subscribe to the Creed or to submit to any external religious authority. These are people who would take what article of faith is convenient to them (or justify their actions), or take their personal interpretation of the bible as the final authority. For Catholics, belief in all the articles of the faith as purported in the Creed is constitutive of their faith. Allegiance to Church leaders such as the Pope and the Magisterium as the final scriptural authoritative interpretation, reject individualism. Second, there are those that take their own pleasure as the final criteria of right and wrong. What they find good for them is therefore good. And they think that there is no objective moral rule that they are accountable for or bound to.

However, our rights protect our uniqueness and individuality. Our individual rights such as our right to life and our pursuit of happiness should not be trampled upon by other people or a political leader. These rights are within a context or a limitation. Paul writes, “None of us lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself.” Our life therefore is lived not for ourselves, but for others and the Lord.

What gives meaning to our daily activities is how it brings people together as societies, communities, associations and groups. A community of people is a group with common concerns, interests, values, culture, financial background or geographic associations such as our provincial organizations. That means we also have community responsibilities. Our unique selves as well as our faith grow within a community of people. We affirm that forming communities is valuable and therefore our social responsibility is of great importance.

I have been watching the 5th Season of The West Wing. In an episode titled, “An Khe,” Ken O’Neal, Leo McGarry’s (Chief of Staff) friend who saved his life in North Vietnam, accepted bribes from defense contractors to obtain military contracts. The point for our purpose is in the dialogue. Leo said to President Bartlett (Martin Sheen): “Men died for us. We had a responsibility to live our lives with integrity and honesty to honor their sacrifice.” And President Bartlett responded, “Corruptio optimi pessima. Corruption of the best is the worst. You’ve done more, much more, all on your own to honor their sacrifice. They’d be as proud to know you as I am.”

Our being Filipino challenges us to look at our history and honor the sacrifice of those who shed their lives for our sake. Not just our heroes or our saints, but our family members who brought us to where we are today. What should alarm us is what President Bartlett said: that the best of our country is being corrupted. That is indeed the worst.

Every action affects people including the innocent, and the best of our country. Every right therefore has a corresponding duty to the community of people. This tenet is embedded on our culture. Our culture tells us that our individual uniqueness has a corresponding obligation in the community. We then are given the task to keep our standards in our lives and on the other hand, make sure that our standards protect the rights of individuals. When the crème de la creme of our country have been corrupted, they could later be more vicious than their predecessors.

*students building houses for flood victims in last year’s disaster in Bicol.

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