There’s been a lot of hullabaloo amongst the Freethinkers over the Reproductive Health Bill being stopped dead on its tracks because of the meddling of the Catholic Church. And why not? It’s not everyday (or maybe it is) the Church manages to run over “Secular” and “Humanist” at the same time. Now everyone’s practically screaming about how overpopulated the country is and how people should stop making babies they can’t feed. Fact is, however, population control isn’t a one-shot solution for poverty (which is really the heart of the matter). It’s only PART of the solution.
Poverty is a rather complex beast and solving it is no simple matter. In fact there are volumes of books dedicated to the issue and it’s practically an entire course in Development Management. Luckily, it’s very nicely illustrated in this little gem that I found called Ayiti: The Cost of Life. In the game, you control the lives of Jean, Marie, Patrick, Jacqueline and Yves – a small family in Haiti struggling to for a better life. It’s amazing how complicated it still is considering that it’s meant to be a simplified model of real life. Go ahead and attempt to beat it.
In the game, you’ll find yourself balancing the health, wealth and education of each family member. The goal is to reach a steady income level with enough security to withstand sickness, epidemics and natural disasters. The key to winning is to squeeze in as much education and productive investments while keeping the family healthy and financially afloat. It’s no small task.
Now why does this matter? Because while we rally for Secularism and push for an enlightened society free from religious dogma, we can never really pull it off while a quarter of our countrymen are starving. The Catholic Church is interferes simply because it can. They are no different from the wealthy, or the powerful, or the influential asserting themselves. We all know they shouldn’t, but they do it anyway. And they will continue to do so while the general public supports them. And general public will continue to support them as long as they are hungry and uneducated. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs theorizes that until a man’s basic needs are met (the bottom rung), he will not be motivated to seek self-actualization (the top rung). That is the difference between Our World and the First World – they have full stomachs to think about the bigger, heavier things.
That being said, our priority should already be clear – to raise the quality of life of Filipinos. Easier said than done, certainly, which is why Secularism will have to take a back seat. The RH Bill is only a small battle in a much larger war against poverty, and should we lose it, there would still be so much to do. Indeed, there is still so much we CAN do regardless.