By: Juralyn Lilian A. Obra
University of Cordilleras
Liberty and prosperity are two pillars necessary to uphold the right to life. They are also means and ends of each other. We need liberty to gain prosperity, the same way that prosperity leads to liberty.
Liberty is a right we exercise whenever we chose to act despite our fears, speak despite our insecurities, and dream despite our uncertainties. In this modern time, the battle for liberty is no longer a struggle against physical chains and against foreign conquerors. It is now a battle against ideologies that pin us down and against our own habits that limits our potentials. Liberty is a state, where one is free to dream and drive towards it. And yes, we safeguard, not attain, liberty because we are all born free. Yet we are always presented with circumstances that challenges our liberty. Thus, eternal vigilance is needed to maintain this freedom.
Prosperity is a state of abundance not just financially, but in all aspects, be it relational, health, intellectual, or spiritual. In this modern time, the measure for prosperity is no longer in terms of wealth, houses and cars. It is now better measured in terms of meaning full relationships, contentment, and well-being. Also, we nurture, not obtain, prosperity because we are all born valuable. However, stewardship and continuous improvement is required in the appreciation of our gifts.
We could say that prosperity is the goal, and liberty is the means is to achieve it. The opportunities available to a liberated person will ultimately bring prosperity. Likewise, to consider liberty as the goal and prosperity as the means is equally true. The contentment that comes with prosperity could liberate a person from material desires that prevent him from finding his real passion.
It is easy to understand the importance and interdependence of liberty and prosperity. The challenge lies in recognizing that liberty and prosperity is a need of every human. They are universal necessities, not just of the self and those dear to it, but of every human being. The failure to accept this truth has led to serious troubles. There are a lot of cases about people who abused their prosperity to curtail another’s liberty. And of people who misused their liberty to deprive another of his prosperity. There are also instances when a person, thinking that prosperity is more important than liberty, gambled their liberty for the sake of prosperity. Others have risked their prosperity for the sake of obtaining liberty. These stories have different facts and different characters, but most has the same tragic ending. Indeed, liberty and prosperity are interconnected and one is useless without the other.
In order that we could achieve liberty and prosperity for every human, we need laws. Laws are created so that in our individual pursuit for liberty and prosperity, we do not trample on others. Laws provide the insight, inspiration and instrument that we need to safeguard liberty and nurture prosperity. A long lasting and all-inclusive liberty and prosperity could only be achieved under the rule of law.
We need laws for insight. As they say, knowledge is power. We need laws that promote education and effectively disseminate information. Education empowers the citizens leading to freedom from poverty, unemployment, and unproductivity. We need laws that promote accountability of government officials. This is possible through giving the masses transparent information on government activities. We need laws that provide guidance on how citizens will conduct their daily affairs. Laws that provide guidance on how to treat everyone with respect and fair play. We cannot deny that laws help forge a nation. The laws in force affects the attitude and responses of the citizens. An abundance in quality information frees a nation from ignorance. Awareness heals apathy.
After empowering the citizens, we need laws for inspiration. Most Filipinos dream of going abroad, thinking that it is the only way to gain prosperity. The much treasured and celebrated dollar remittances come from a very high cost. The Philippines is left with very few professionals and skilled laborers. The Filipino family is left unstable as the parents leave their children for better opportunities. We need to be reminded that prosperity does not necessarily come at the cost of the right to live with our families. We need laws that inspire a citizen to be better, at the same time we need laws that inspire patriotism. In our pursuit for individual liberty and prosperity, we need to be constantly reminded that the best path is the path where everyone gets to have prosperity and liberty. We need laws that inspires each and every Filipino to dream bigger and act bolder towards those dreams. Laws that helps us break away from stigmas and stereo types.
Once citizens are inspired, we need laws as instruments. Laws to serve as tools which catalyzes the goal of safeguarding liberty and nurturing prosperity. An example would be using a progressive system of taxation as a wealth distributing device. This could help the nation break free from societal classes thereby contributing to inclusive growth. Similarly, we need laws to build roads, schools, hospitals. Infrastructure development liberates trade and movement, leading to economic growth. We need laws to serve as foundational support for the dreams of the inspired Filipinos. Laws that help them be the social entrepreneur they want to be, if that’s the case. Or laws that protects their inventions and discoveries, if they opt to be researchers or scientists. Whatever the Filipinos dream of, there should be a law that could help them materialize their dreams.
For me, this combination of factors defines safeguarding liberty and nurturing prosperity under the rule of law. It is a national phenomenon where everyone gets to enjoy liberty and prosperity through the insight, inspiration and instruments provided by the law. Nonetheless, black letter laws are not the end solution to every problem we face. Laws, without implementation, are just letters beautifully woven in a paper.
How then could we achieve safeguarding liberty and nurturing of prosperity under the rule of law?
“You don’t need to try hard, you only need to love.”
This is the core message in one of the worship services I have attended. It is surprisingly simple yet universal, finding its application not just in the realms of spirituality. Laws should be engrained in the hearts of every member of the society and lived by daily. Only then could we be under the rule of law. Because of this, my advocacy is to help creating better laws then promote the understanding and appreciation of the law.
I am not yet certain on what specific career path I should take, but I would want to use my profession to promote love of fellowmen, love of the laws and love of country. I could be a jurist who specializes on the study of how the law and society interacts. Using these studies, I want to help in creating laws that does not just solve short term problems but laws that help form values in the society. I am not interested with how the government should act in times of calamities. Rather, I am more interested in laws that help prevent the devastating effects of calamities in the first place. Examples are laws regarding waste reduction and waste management. We could also come up with laws that promote sustainable development. These laws create obligations that could ripen to habits after a period of successful implementation. Likewise, I am interested in rectifying the corruption of previous administration. But more than that my desire is to stop corruption from happening. I want laws that create awareness and cures apathy, not just laws or any other acts which makes noise only after the damage is done. The ever-regrettable corruption in the Government started as small and tolerable corrupt practices in the citizens. I want to contribute in the creation of laws that cut through the very core of the problems. Laws that are responsive to our current situations. Laws that are representative of our present time and culture.
Or maybe I could also be a law instructor. As a student, I know that among the best ways to influence the younger generation is to be their mentor. I want to help students of the law to gain better understanding and appreciation. I would also want them to develop trust, confidence and respect to the Branches of the Government. More importantly, I want to fan their flames of patriotism. Like what our national hero, Jose Rizal, said: “The youth is the hope of the motherland.” As an individual I may not accomplish much, but through inspiring and influencing the younger generation, we could do greater things together. Another reason is probably because I really enjoy informed discussions. I am currently working as a part time instructor in the same school I am taking up law. I consider this a diversion and stress release from the multitude of readings and activities that I must perform as a lawyer. Being an instructor is very fulfilling and enriching. For me, the best part of being an instructor is having the ability to influence another person. More than being an educator I want to be an influencer propagating excellence and patriotism. The other thrill obtained from being an instructor is the opportunity to learn from younger people. Spending time with younger people is like a breath of fresh air. Youthful idealism is something I don’t want to forego as I venture in to the law profession.
Another of my great aspirations is being a Diplomat and representing the Filipino’s culture and values to the rest of the world. I believe that promotion and appreciation of the laws is best achieved when there is an understanding and love of culture and nation. As a diplomat, I would advocate for the use of soft power to achieve economic development and to national enrichment. The term soft power is first coined by Joseph Nye in 1980’s to describe a “power” that lies ‘with the ability to attract and persuade … [which] arises from the attractiveness of a country’s culture, political ideas, and policies1. The Philippines is a great nation. (Take note, “IS”, not “was”, not “will be”). But as long as we remain blind to how prosperous our people, culture, values and environment are, we will forever be bound to poverty.
I want to be a Diplomat because I want to experience first-hand how foreign countries uses soft power for their national well-being. Think of America’s Hollywood, South Korea’s Hallyu Wave, and Japan’s Anime. This are some examples of soft power. These countries are not just entertaining the rest of the world, they are propagating their culture, values and beliefs. As they do so, they improve their economy and enhance their national identity. It helps boost exports, attract tourists, increase citizen morale and improve national image.
Another reason is my desire to be a representative of the Filipino’s culture, values and aspirations to the rest of the world. We all know that most nations perceive the Filipinos as domestic workers. While being a domestic worker is an honorable job, it undermines the potentials and talents of all Filipinos. The most valuable resource of this nation is the Filipino mind. Unlike other resources which are depletable, it is a bottomless pit of creativity and ideas. Creativity and ideas – this are capital that costs nothing yet never runs out because they are made simultaneously as life flows. Before the Filipino mind creates economic value, we need laws for insight, inspiration and instruments.
We need to inspire Filipino minds to dream big. We need laws that unleash the creative genius in every Filipino. We need to be liberated from our limited mindsets. We need laws that provide insight on how to use the Filipino mind in a manner that benefits the nation. Looking at the prevalence and incredibility of fake news today, I often wonder what would happen if the people behind them would use their creative genius for writing story plots instead. Will their ingenuity make Philippines at par with South Korea’s “k-drama”? Or probably, could they create a movie that could outperform the USA’s The Avengers: Infinity War? Filipinos are extremely talented and our government has the duty to guide its citizens in optimizing these talents. We all have great potentials, and one of the duties of the Government is to optimize the use of these potentials. Otherwise, it will be used for gratifying selfish desires. We also need laws that will serve as an instrument in showcasing the capability of the Filipino mind, both locally and abroad. And after the world discovers its talent, we still need instruments to provide continuous support for our citizens.
My heart is set ablaze by many dreams on how to safeguard liberty and nurture prosperity under the rule of law. However, I acknowledge that God’s plan for me might be different from the plans I have today. And so, I will just do my best in this moment. In small ways, will try my best to be an inspiration, to provide for insight and be an instrument of the things I live for.
Today, as I study the law, I will keep in mind that my goal is not a high grade nor to impress. My goal is to be my best version so that when the right time comes, I could pour out all those hard-earned skills and knowledge in serving this country. A high grade is just a by-product of my passion. But a grade could never be enough to quantify the knowledge and values I earned during studying.
In my work as a part-time college instructor, I will keep in mind that my goal is not just to earn. My goal is to help my students be the best versions of themselves so that when the right time comes, they too could do something for our nation. I could just hope that somehow, I could inspire them as I strive for excellence while serving them.
In my daily affairs, I would practice the virtues of perseverance, sympathy, fair play and humility. Today and everyday will be the best moments to hone within me the qualities of a public servant.
I know that today I may not yet accomplish much. I am determined to accomplish much for tomorrow, but I don’t have any assurances for the future. Nonetheless, no matter what God’s plan for me is, my resolve will always be the same. I want to dedicate my life loving this country, understanding its laws and pursuing excellence in serving.
1Nye, Joseph S., Jr. 2005. Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics. PublicAffairs Books. Copy at http://www.tinyurl.com/mug36ku. Retrieved on September 1, 2018.