Took the cab going to church this Sunday and as I always did before had a good conversation with the driver. Cab drivers are those who practically see the fundamental things we oftentimes dismiss or simply don’t have chance to think about. Everyday commute exposes one to alot of fundamental issues; consistent increase in oil prices,readily reflected increase in international prices but belatedly when it goes down, ineffective traffic enforcers interested only with catching violators and getting a share from collected penalties, petty to serious criminal activities, even road rage, of course traffic and convuluted, even non-functional infrastructure, and because the only available entertainment (apart from occasionally taking time to stop and read tabloid papers), listen to radio, oftentimes news and talk shows. From their perspective, where life is dependent significantly with all these, how much they earn after managing to get enough for their boundary, much of what the government and officials do or don’t do has significant impact on their day to day existence. And why not? Traffic prevents them from getting more trips which means more frequent flag down rates and therefore fastercollection of boundary and more time to earn for his own, coupled with continuously increasing oil prices and therefore goods, and other facts of everyday life which is anything but enough and satisfying.
And so, the way I understood it, the way the driver spoke and made a litany of complaints, of stories of injustices and incapacity on the part of what he says “voiceless people” like him, whatever he does, its’s already a foregone conclusion, he will always be like how he and his family is. I’m certain there are alot more like hime as drivers stop at times and share the same frustrations with others. Of course I just listened, trying hard to convince him that reforms, however difficult and incremental is possible, that government is not perfect but has been showing some improvements and even the media he considers biased and also ineffective, remains an integral part of a functioning democracy. As we get near the church, there seem to be no sign of softening, of understanding that there’s hope and even if probably, not in his generation, or my generation, things would be better in the near future. His reply remained vigorously in the negative. As I was paying for the fare, I then just asked, if he had children and learned he had four he quickly described as just like him, poor and barely educated. My last statement was, I know of someone very close to me who used to wash dishes for a living as he worked his way to school and then managing to get good education for all his children. At least, I saw him smile before I stood up.
Regardless of what you do in life, even if you have a far better, more convenient, probably luxurious life, the government, what it does and don’t do, have an impact to our lives. The only difference is in the degree of what is discernible, the degree of its impact to us. But from where we sit, if we were fortunate to have better education, the least we can do is to try to convince them that we can do something, especially in a democracy that much depends on people participating, remaining vigilant. It is important that while much of what the government does impacts our day to day life, it doesn’t mean that we can’t do anything to live better lives or in the opposite, that we are not to blame in part for the kind of life we live. The driver for example, sounded terribly frustrated, even mad that instead of doing their job of contributing to the formulation of good policies, good programs, Senators Santiago and Enrile has resorted to name calling. I share that same sentiment, as I’m sure many feel the same, but still, this kind of politics wouldn’t necessarily prevent one from getting education, if not for himself, for his children.
The government is an enabler, the rest is for us to work for. Of course, if there’s nothing to work on, then one won’t earn a living and live a good life. In simplistic terms, this is how important government is. The easiest thing to do, whether in government or in another organization, is to criticize, even blame others for one’s misfortune or failure, but this does not translate to anything better for us or others. And this is how the concept of “participation” should be understood. Participation is integral to democracy, for governance to function. Participation is fundamental as we live our daily lives, reflecting on what the government does and what needs to be done. Participation is needed so that mistakes and failures are identified but more importantly, alternatives are considered and thus governance is improved. This precisely explains why we have been using “governance” more and more instead of the traditional “government.” The crucial element is participation, participation that is not limited to finding fault, caling people names and more, but of understanding more our role as responsible citizens; making others understand more, not necessarily exactly as our own limited understanding, ultimately to be able to contribute to improving governance, working for better policies and programs and achieving good governance.