"Our Children Are Watching"

We are the role models for our children. Our children watch and learn from us. A nation's leader may not be necessarily a diplomat, or born with a sweet tongue, but with all certainty, a nation's leader talks to his or her constituents. Months ago, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton reminded us that we need to make sure that our children could be proud of "the choices we are about to make, the goals we will strive for, and the principles we will live by", since we are our children's role models. Every adult is, and a nation's leader is one of the most important role models.

Unfortunately, we often forget our great responsibility to the next generations when we become so intensely hooked on an ideology. When we fall prey to a gross reductionist mindset, we begin to look at life through an extremely narrow lens, thinking that we have the answer to all of the challenges before us. Here is one example. Drug abuse is one of society's daunting challenges. This is true. Unfortunately, some of us have already concluded that drug abuse is the root of all other major problems such as crime, poverty, and even a failing basic education system. With this perspective, solving drug abuse then becomes a task of highest priority.

There is still nothing inherently wrong with the above thinking. The trouble comes when one starts to propose killing all drug users and pushers as the solution to all of our problems. Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states that "In countries which have not abolished the death penalty, sentence of death may be imposed only for the most serious crimes in accordance with the law in force at the time of the commission of the crime and not contrary to the provisions of the present Covenant and to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. This penalty can only be carried out pursuant to a final judgement rendered by a competent court." Drug abuse is serious, but a civilized society should not consider drug abuse as among the most serious crimes. Drug abuse, first of all, is a health problem. Drug addicts deserve treatment not the death penalty in a society where human rights are protected.

Above copied from United Nations Human Rights
Sadly, people can easily buy the extreme view that because some drug addicts have committed heinous crimes against society then all drug addicts especially those who can not be reformed easily must be put to death. It is truly extreme yet the current president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, seems more than willing to subscribe to this viewpoint. Duterte, unfortunately, is not just one voice from the Philippines. He is the current president. And our children are watching.

An author of books for children, Candy Gourlay, recently posted her thoughts about the Philippines' war on drugs on Facebook. Those thoughts are reposted here in this blog for the simple reason that we do truly need to pause and think about our children.

What are we teaching our children during the war on drugs?
I've been watching recent developments in the Philippines with dismay. As a children's author, I wonder about the young readers of my books in my native country. What do they make of it all?

When children see a President declare that people who suffer from drug addiction do not deserve to live, are they learning to disregard the humanity of people not like themselves?

When they hear that more than thirty people are being shot dead every day, do they lose their ability to care about human life? Are they learning that murder is a better solution than the law to social ills? When they hear their parents calling their enemies Dutertards or Yellowtards are they learning that name-calling is a way to win an argument? And at the same time, are they learning to disrespect and despise people with mental illnesses?

When they see the oftentimes pornographic graphics disseminated all over social media by professional trolls to silence the people objecting to the war on drugs, are they learning obnoxious ways to express themselves? When their parents copy the behaviour of the trolls, what do they learn?

When a female critic of the government is relentlessly bullied on social media with cruel taunting and a fake sex video, and when top government officials suggest that it's okay to screen the sex video in Congress, what are our children learning? Are boys learning that it's okay to abuse women? Are girls learning that they are worthless because of their sex?

When their parents cheer for murder, do they learn that the end is justified by any means? Do they feel safe? Or do they feel powerful?

When something wrong is said, and blame is laid on the piece of paper that reports it, are children learning to blame anybody but themselves?

When they see their parents asking no questions when someone they support does something wrong, are they learning that loyalty is more important than doing the right thing?

When they see, time and again, something that sounded wrong being explained and reinterpreted as right, are they learning that they can say anything however rude and make it sound okay later?

When they see adults shouting insults at each other - online or otherwise - because they support different political camps, are they learning that this is the only vocabulary of debate and discourse? Are they learning that silencing people is better than hearing their views? Are they learning how to be petulant and sensitive in the face of criticism?

When they see people they admire - an elder, an author, a singer, a celebrity on TV, a politician, anyone - remain silent in the face of murder, bullying, lies and abuse ... are they learning how to keep their mouths shut?

When nobody offers any alternative to murder, are they learning how to despair?

Back in 2005, I made a BBC radio programme exploring the social impact of the migration phenomenon in the Philippines, where eleven percent of the population has left to work abroad. The programme was called Motherless Nation, because the migrations were mainly of women faced with a stark choice: stay and their children will starve. Leave, and their children will become motherless. In the documentary, I wondered whether the absence of mothering might have some kind of impact on our future society.

Well today, I am wondering something similar. What kind of society are we creating in the wake of this ugly time in our beloved country? What kind of culture?

Change is coming. We will soon see it in the adults our children are going to become.