Saturday, June 29, 2013

Indifference and hypocrisy

published 29 June 2013, Manila Standard Today, page A5
On June 26, Interaksyon.com published an article by college student CJ Chanco after seeking the latter’s permission. That article was initially published on Chanco’s Facebook page. The piece —“Inhumanity of Indifference: Padyak driver dies in front of passing pedestrians near DLSU-Taft”—has since been shared many times over on the Internet.
Chanco wrote about a man whom he saw below the LRT station near De La Salle University-Manila. He had been riding on a jeepney but because of the traffic, he decided to walk all the way to Vito Cruz. It was then he saw the man, a pedicab driver, slumped and immobile.
According to Chanco, the security guards of DLSU were the first responders to the situation. They however did not know what to do especially since the university clinic refused to take the man in.  Soon the man was laid on the gutter along Taft Avenue.
Chanco described efforts to bring the man to the hospital.   It was rush hour on a Friday evening, there was a downpour, and traffic was bad.  No other vehicle stopped to help. No jeepney, taxi, FX, car.  Other padyak drivers and some street children flagged down vehicles and banged on car windows, to no luck. While some people looked, they did just that.
The man was eventually taken to the Ospital ng Maynila, but by then, it was already too late.
A few days later, Interaksyon photographer Bernard Testa tried to piece together the man’s story based on interviews with those closest to him.  First emerged a name—the pedicab driver’s name was Reynaldo Carcillar.  He was 51 years old and a father of two.  Carcillar’s wife Carmencita also said Reynaldo had first suffered a heart attack in 2009, when he nearly died in his sleep.
* * *
Chanco is said to be part of his university’s newspaper and in the latter part of his piece, after narrating the events of that day as he saw them, he used the power of his words to ask difficult questions many of us may not be comfortable answering.
He mentioned the De La Salle students, not one of whom bothered to look at what was happening. Instead, after their classes, they simply went to their cars.
He wondered whether the university would have let the man into its clinic had the man not been a mere padyak driver.
He spoke against bureaucracy – there was no approval from inside, so the guards could not do more than what they were already doing. Chanco used the term “baboon” to refer to the fellow from inside the school who was supposed to make that decision but who did not.
He showed anger at the “callousness of universities that earn tens of millions of pesos to teach their students how not to give a damn about the plight of the rest of society…”
He asked whether the man would have suffered the stroke had he not tired himself ferrying students of the schools in the area from one place to another.
Chanco also offered excuses for the people who did not pay attention to the tragedy that was unfolding that evening. “Perfectly understandable,” he said, citing the rain and the traffic.
Maybe, too, people did not want to take the man to the hospital because they were worried they would have to foot the bill and then the man, or his family, would not have the means to pay back.
Finally, Chanco acknowledged his own helplessness and guilt. He described himself as useless, and expressed guilt for turning a tragedy to his literary advantage.
* * *
For many, indifference was what lent ignominy to the already tragic death of Reynaldo Carcillar. He died in a public place, on a busy avenue and surrounded by thousands of people. And yet he died alone. Nobody cared enough to do something just because he was who he was – a lowly padyak driver.  And many of us are told not to overreact because these things happens all the time.
Yes, life is cheap.
What resounded however were Chanco’s  characterization of a society that says one thing and does another…”in a society that wears its values and casts them off when they prove inconvenient; casts them off like they shrug off countless, nameless millions because they are somehow beneath us…”
Indeed it is so easy to condemn the many who did not stop to help that man slumped on a gutter. What heartless people!
What is more difficult is to admit that the same incident could have happened on Katipunan Avenue, or the Philcoa area, or Espana, or any other busy thoroughfare.
It could be raining, too, and the people could also be rushing: rushing to their classes, rushing for home, for an appointment, or simply trying to be on higher ground before the streets get flooded.
And if it were you, or me, or anybody we knew, what would we have done?
Yes we say we should be men and women for others regardless of which university we attended. We may have an advocacy or two about empowering the poor and helping the needy.
But if it were us, right there, would we have stopped, did everything we could, or would we have continued on our way, believing our present circumstances excuse us from the obligation to be present because it’s not convenient for us?
Indifference is a monster. Hypocrisy, a more sinister one.

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