The Structure of a Divide01.12.10
Aired on November 27, 2010
Narration by Emily Bolinas
THE STRUCTURE OF A DIVIDE
If one wants to be a neighbor to another, it all begins in the community where one lives. Sometimes, we wonder why some seemingly good ideas for running our communities do not work when these are implemented. It may be a good chance to think about whether this is true of our country as a whole.
It is often said that there are many good laws and policy decisions on record. The question is always in its implementation. One explanation is that people tend to get around these rules by corrupt means. Another explanation is that, perhaps, there is a deeply rooted structural divide that is essentially cultural in nature.
In all post-colonial cultures, there exists a sharp culture divide between an elite culture and a mass culture. Both cultures are influenced by outside cultures in different ways. The elite culture receives this outside influence directly. On the other hand, mass culture often relies upon more indigenous value systems and, if ever they are influenced by outside cultures, it is through those who can navigate between both indigenous and foreign cultures easily.
This may not be so clearly seen in the city, where it seems the mass and elite cultures share certain aspects, especially a Westernized way of proceeding. However, the contrast can be seen when one looks at the urban-rural divide. The further one goes from the big cities, perhaps into the hinterlands, the stronger the divide seems. There are indigenous people who have lived for years with a certain system of values that would be alien, or dare we say, “backward,” to some of us. Development organizations that work with these people serve as “brokers,” understanding their world yet using tools that are foreign in origin.
So how does this affect the way government legislates or carries out policy? Earlier in our series, we were reminded of local government’s role in mediating the interests and needs of communities. At the lowest level, newly elected barangay councilors may actually play a large role in being a “broker.” In other words, a councilor can negotiate between the culture “on the ground” and a policy-making process that is alien to the average citizen. Instead of being merely a service provider, a councilor can become crucial in advising higher level authorities in telling them what could be done.
If one reads the narratives of the Bible, we hear very little of the local chieftains or the village leaders who are in the background of the stories of kings and rulers. Yet they are those whom the monarchs rely upon to carry out their God-given duty to rule God’s people. The key to being a neighbor when it comes to making our laws is to listen to the voices on the ground.