Posted on 24 November 2009.
“A cheerful poverty is an honorable state.” – Epicurus
I have to be honest, it is hard to catch up a freethinker’s lifestyle. Most freethinkers here in the Philippines belong to the class “A” affluent families and as a person belonging to the…eh down right dirty, I’m having a hard time coping with it. As a freethinker I have to be realistic and here’s the fact: LIFE SUCKS!
We always held our meetings in this classy mall, surrounded by stores and restaurants that only the privilege can enjoy. We do it in Starbuck…WOAH! A cup of coffee in Starbuck cost …eh is it 175.00 Pesos ($3.74) per cup? I can only afford a coffee in a styrophor cup worth 10.00 Pesos (that 21 cents for you American readers). They eat sandwiches and novelty foods I only dream of eating, they have gadgets like cell phones with videos, Nintendo Wii, Videocams, sleek cars, cute dogs, beautiful and sexy girllfriends…the whole shebang!! Just think what that does to me? Boy…if you want to start feeling sorry to yourself and indulge in self-pity.
Many of these guys are armed with shelves full of books! There are those who owned about 400 to 600 volumes. Well…I can only dream about it. Being financially deficient is a hindrance. I lack the finances to buy books. And to top it all, most freethinkers’ books (or May I say “all”) are foreign made. Geewizz! Foreign books are too costly! Thank Darwin that I have a photographic memory when reading books. There is this bookstore here in Manila, yep Power Books…that is the name of the shop. Luckily, for me, this bookstore allows shoppers to read the books off their shelves.
Sometimes I feel that I should stop attending this “yuppie club”, fearing that people might think that I’m just a “pabigat” (weighting them down financially) or worst, that I’m a freeloader.
Therefore, it made me thinking. Is freethought only for the affluent? Is freethought synonymous with people who graduated from prestigious schools and universities, to those who are successful in life, for those people with cars and are able to dine on fancy restaurants? Is freethought only a vice of well-off individuals just to exercise their bored minds? How about the poor, the destitute, the miserable and the hopeless, can they afford to be freethinkers?
I sometimes wonder why I become a freethinker in the first place?
Pragmatism is the philosophy of the poor man. He seems to believe things that have uses for him. Don’t get me wrong, my freethought was not fueled by hate of life. Life is not fair, but I do not blame it to a so-called “Supreme Intelligence”. Maybe I am a different case…one in a million perhaps. Nevertheless, not every poor people in Manila share my enthusiasm with philosophy and science.
It is impossible to philosophize with an empty stomach. Do you think a poor man will have the luxury of time and money to do some research regarding science and philosophy?
Speaking of research, books are expensive and education is too costly. Poor folks will use their resources more on food. The sad news is that majority of people in the Philippines is below poverty line, and because of the worldwide economic crisis we are now facing, it is expected to double.
In this situation, what’s use of freethought?
For some people, and especially the poor, this is where religion sets in. Religion thrives in a world of crisis. When people become desperate, they start to look and cling to any support they can find – even invisible ones. So how can you tell them that people who mastered the art of selling God are using them?
I still believe that somewhere in Payatas, Tondo or those shanties in BASECO Compound, there is a freethinker like me. He may now be writing his thoughts on a piece of paper…he doesn’t have a computer, he can’t afford it. I wonder if people in his community listen to what he says? Christians in his community may even accused him of just being angry to God for giving him a miserable life. People will not take you seriously when you are poor.
I imagine him getting his information from books that sold cheap in Recto, books that were published in the 60’s and 70’s, too obsolete in modern standards.
Does he sometimes stop from his backbreaking labor to wonder if his arguments are correct or if there’s a new idea that entered his mind? Does he also look in the Internet if he can spare P15.00 from his small salary? Does he also analyzed religious revelations if they are true? How does he handle the idea of having no after-life, with the thought that he is doom to live in a miserable existence without any means of escaping? Does he also think he’s alone?
Freethought may be expensive but thinking is priceless. Maybe that is why I keep on attending this yuppie club.
I believe that social stratification is not a hindrance especially if the Filipino freethinkers’ vision also caters love and camaraderie.
As a freethinker my goal must be realistic so I can reach my hand on a different world- the world without luxury, where false hope thrive. This is the world of the impoverished where self-pity becomes a thick haze that blocks the vision of progress. Where pragmatism narrows objective world-view, where minds are clouded by distrust and apathy and where poverty limits dreams and aspiration.
Unfortunately, there are freethinkers trapped in this kind of world, and these are freethinkers I would like to reach out to. It is a matter of cooperation within the Filipino freethinking community to reach to such sad individuals.