28 February 2007

Fractured, or really damaged?

MY MORNING last Saturday ended in a big letdown, and it made me reflect as to whether what has been happening is the rule rather than the exception. And it brought back to mind this controversial article by James Fallows.

We were awakened that morning by the usual dance music accompanying the Saturday Group aerobics session, but there was something else distinctive above the din: it was the loud voice of our newly elected homeowners association president hurling invectives against two individuals behind the weekly event. Later, I gathered he was drunk, which explains his aberrant behavior that morning; most of the time, he is a soft-spoken jolly fellow.

The object of his bile were the two winning directors from the opposing party in the homeowners association election early this month; after the elections, they circulated a letter denouncing the Comelec for alleged favoritism (among others), and declared they will not assume their seat in the nine-man board; and that actually came to be as both snubbed the oath-taking of the newly elected officers just the other Saturday. That they pushed through with their weekly aerobics event without clearing it with -- and I think, a move meant to spite -- the newly installed board was apparently the last straw.

Now, Grandview is a relatively small community of around 250 families, and I expected a little bit more than ordinary. Compared to the neighboring Green Valley community of urban poor households resettled by the city government, we are by and large relatively better off, economically and educationally. In our midst, you can find public school teachers and other government employees, several lawyers, a newly appointed judge and many entrepreneurs. A handful can afford to send their children to private schools like the Ateneo and USI. In all streets, you will find cars both old and new parked along one side.

In spite of this, that recent village election mirrored one of the worst attitudes ascribed to Filipino politicians: it is said nobody loses in Philippine elections because there is always a winner on the one hand, and his opponent who claims he was cheated on the other.

After the ruckus died down, one of the parties involved approached me and tried to explain himself. Agreeing that their relationships have been fractured, I suggested holding an assembly -- a sort of a bull session -- that will seek to thresh out the thorny issues among them and hopefully restore normalcy. But I also chided him for taking that stance that effectively rejected the community's decision to put them in the Board as fiscalizers of the winning majority.

Or is my hope misplaced because what we have here, as Fallows said, is not just fractured relations but a damaged culture whose "public life does become the war of every man against every man"?

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