Why We Are Shallow

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Why we are shallow

HINDSIGHT By F Sionil Jose (The Philippine Star) Updated September 12, 2011 12:00 AM I was visited by an old Asian friend who lived here 10 years ago. I was floored by his observation that though we have lots of talented people, as a whole, we continue to be shallow. Recently, I was seated beside former Senator Letty Shahani, PhD in Comparative Literature from the Sorbonne, watching a medley of Asian dances. The stately and classical Japanese number with stylized movements which perhaps took years to master elicited what seemed to me grudging applause. Then, the Filipino tinikling which any one can learn in 10 minutes; after all that energetic jumping, an almost standing ovation. Letty turned to me and asked, “Why are we so shallow?” Yes, indeed, and for how long?

This is a question which I have asked myself, which I hope all of us should ask ourselves every so often. Once we have answered it, then we will move on to a more elevated sensibility. And with this sensibility, we will then be able to deny the highest positions in government to those nincompoops who have nothing going for them except popularity, what an irresponsible and equally shallow media had created. As my foreign friend said, there is nothing to read in our major papers. Again, why are we shallow?

There are so many reasons. One lies in our educational system which has diminished not just scholarship but excellence. There is less emphasis now on the humanities, in the study of the classics which enables us to have a broader grasp of our past and the philosophies of this past. I envy those Hindus and Buddhists who have in their religion philosophy and ancestor worship which build in the believer a continuity with the past, and that most important ingredient in the building of a nation — memory. Sure, our Christian faith, too, has a philosophical tradition, particularly if we connect it to the ancient Greeks and Romans. Remember, the first Bible was in Greek. But Greek,...
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