Personal responsibility

I was seated in the front seat of a jeepney today on my regular noontime commute. We were in the rightmost lane, waiting for the green light at an intersection. Suddenly a foreigner pulled up beside us and asked, “Hey, can you read?” He pointed at and read aloud a sign that said “Right lane must turn right”. “Next time, OK?” he warned before speeding off.

The foreigner was right, to be sure. We were in a must-turn-right-lane when we shouldn’t have been. This wasn’t the first time I rode in a jeepney that did the same thing; it was, however, the first time a fellow motorist reprimanded the driver. All the driver did was scoff at the rebuke. “He’s not from here and he goes around and does that,” the driver remarked (translated and paraphrased). “He better watch himself.”

I got around to thinking, perhaps this is part of the reason why the Philippines is in the mess we’re in.  We are quick to chastise immorality, lack of propriety, and selfishness in government, but we ourselves cannot be bothered to obey a simple traffic rule. We say we want an honest and trustworthy leader, while we ourselves remain selfish and indifferent. We swoon over the idea of positive change but meet even an inkling of actual reform with ridicule and defiance.

The way things are going, it would do us no good to have all the saints run our government. The common person needs to change just as much as our leaders do. To use a metaphor, replacing an engine, while necessary, is not enough to fix a ramshackle car. We want progress for our country and think honest officials are the be-all and end-all solution when in fact, the real change needs to be in ourselves.

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