Freedom and Responsibility
Although I never claimed in that letter (and in the rejoinders that I have written) to speak for the middle class, or for anyone else for that matter (I said "I" and "many among us" in that letter; if memory serves me right, that middle class assertion was made by the other letter -that anonymous letter written in Tagalog), but nevertheless, I do feel that this rush to make judgments and to categorize people - particularly those with a contrary opinion - is at the very least uncalled for and irresponsible.
Many of the vicious responses have unnecessarily portrayed the middle class in a somewhat unflattering and undeserved light. Such generalizations do not add anything to the debate other than throw aspersions on groups of people. I think we can do away with that. To begin with, I do not think that any cohort - moral, demographic, political or whatever - can lay claim to having a monopoly of the truth, or at the very least, homogeneity of opinions. The supposed members of the middle class (or other "classes" for that matter) do straddle the extremes, as well as other sides of the argument.
Thus, I think that the accusation made by a leader of a civic group that it is members of the middle class like me who are dividing the country is way off the mark. After all, I did not bring in the class issue into the discussion. He did.
As a member of the working class, yes, I do feel frustrated when I get stuck in a monstrous traffic jam caused by rallies and demonstrations. As someone who looks forward to getting home at the soonest possible time after a hard day's work, I do yearn for some conveniences. However, being stuck in traffic is an almost daily occurrence, so to be honest about it, I do feel that rallies and demonstrations per se aggravate, but can not be solely blamed for the traffic jams.
What I rant about is the irresponsibility and often reckless disregard for others that often (though not always!) characterize the way these public expressions of rights are conducted. We can quibble about the real intentions and their merits. However, I must draw the line at deliberate attempts at holding commuters hostage as a way of provoking policemen in order to gain more mileage in terms of media attention and public sympathy. What I rant about is not that these people exercise their right to express themselves and their causes because I truly do not begrudge them that. But how many times have we witnessed a rerun of the same drama unfurl before our very eyes over and over again: hapless policemen desperately asking rallyists not to block a main thoroughfare, to stay in the sidewalks, or to move to a side street, only to be met by stubborn opposition under the guise of freedom of expression?
It does not help of course that harassed policemen often engage them in this lose-lose contest; there certainly is a better and more proactive way to manage the fracas. But in this contest of wills, it is the commuters - the working class - that is being made to suffer the consequences of a war many among them did not elect to fight. This is one of those things I was referring to in that letter when I said that "your concept of democracy is limited to having your rights and freedoms respected at the expense of ours."
There are those who accuse me (who they say is representative of the middle class elitist orientation) of being callous to the cause of freedoms and rights simply because I do not grant them a few inconveniences. Again, since I do not claim to speak for any class, I will speak for myself although I know for a fact that this view is shared by many others, by my friends at least.
As an employee, I am aware that the Bill of Rights give me certain rights and freedoms. However, I am also aware that the exercise of my freedoms and my rights come with certain responsibilities; that, in fact, one without the other (freedom without responsibility) is untenable. If employees were to follow their lead, they should not be barred from holding rallies and demonstrations against CEOs they do not like or find immoral, even if these actions cripple the organization and affect the delivery of services to the public consumers. Even that TV network which vigorously protests the perceived threat to press freedom and seemingly advocate an absolutist and despotic view of freedom, has in the past appealed for the same restraint in the exercise of rights and freedoms and appealed for responsible ways of protesting from their employees in the course of its labor management problems.
The issue is not the expression of rights per se, but responsible ways of doing it. The operative concept is recognition of and respect for the rights and freedoms of others. These are issues that transcend all boundaries, political and economic included.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I would like to reiterate that as much as I would like to, I can not possibly answer all responses and comments emailed to me directly or made in this blog. However, there are some comments that I feel I need to answer in the interest of being fair to people who are dragged into the fray in this blog.
1. Janine - I spent some time trying to accomodate your request, but I couldnt find the link. Please leave a comment (which I will not publish) giving more details. I tried to email you but it bounced.
2. To those who emailed me asking for interviews for whatever (school papers, newspaper articles, TV docus, etc), I am awfully sorry but I can not possibly accommodate everyone for the simple reason that my schedule until middle of April is hectic (8-5 job, 6-9:30 teaching job). My views are published in this blog, and I honestly think there is very little else I can add to the posts. But I will try to accommodate those I can fit into my sked.
3. To those who wrote me expressing their disgust at the way a columnist outed me and then trashed me, I would like to say thank you very much for the concern, I appreciate it; but it is her column, and she did publish my response in full. I will continue to respect other people even if their views are contrary to mine.