Sunday, February 12, 2017

The FACTS about ourselves and Social Interpretation

1. Let us say that a tourist is riding a bus. As the bus rolls on the tourist sees mountains because that is the view from THAT SIDE OF THE BUS. The tourist then goes to the other side of the bus. This time the tourist sees, say, houses and the street and cars. The mountains cannot be see FROM THIS SIDE. The tourist cannot see all. His view of the country depends on where he is. 

2. This illustrates our own human condition. We are always situated in a particular place and time--that which philosophers call as the "here and now". Our view of the world--and life in general--begins from where we are. Of course we can change our positions. We can change situations. A Filipino knows and understands the world around AS A FILPINO. Maybe this person goes to the USA and migrates there; he settles down there. Maybe he can now have an "American" view of things. But even so, he is now American WHO WAS ONCE A FILIPINO. His being an American now is based on his being an immigrant. His view of the world may be Americanized but as immigrant to America. He is not the same as the person born and raised in America. He may be an American but the FACT remains that he is an IMMIGRANT TO AMERICA and not a locally bred American. 

3. One reason why we shift positions and situations is because we respond to our actual situation. We want a new situation, a new position. Two things are to be remembered here. First, inthe new position we cannot deny the fact that WE CAME FROM A PREVIOUS SITUATION. Second, even in a new situation we still see the world and life from a perspective--from the perspective of the new situation.

4. This proves that WE ARE NEVER ABSOLUTE. We cannot escape viewing things from a position, from a perspective, from a  point of view. The world is also presented to us depending on the profile shown to our point of view. I am in front of THIS SIDE OF THE TABLE. I see THIS SIDE OF THE TABLE. I cannot see the other side because I am not positioned on the other side. So I see the table from my point of view and the table shows its profile on this side. 

5. We cannot escape this human condition. We always experience the world from a point of view and the world reveals to us from the profile facing us. In other words, we are not absolute and we cannot escape being situated in a place and time. 

6. I am situated in this place and time; another person is situated in another place and time. I am here, you are there. Let us extend this discussion. I am here and I grew up here. I was born here. I was born to a particular family speaking a particular language. I was born male, man. I was born with this body. This is the color of my skin. This is my health condition. This is my culture. This is the religion in which I was raised. These are the FACTS OF MY LIFE. These are the FACTS ABOUT MYSELF. I experience the world STARTING FROM THESE FACTS ABOUT MYSELF.

7. The facts about ourselves are irrevocable: THEY CANNOT BE DENIED, THEY CANNOT BE CHANGED AND REVERSED. That I was born in a particular day, month and year is irrevocable. That I was born and raised in a particular family is irrevocable. That I grew up in this neighborhood using this language is irrevocable. I can never deny that they are facts about me. 

8. But even if I cannot deny them as real and factual, there is still something "revocable" in them. They are facts about me but I can take an attitude towards them. I can have ways of interpreting them, give them meaning. They are FACTS-FOR-ME. 

9. A handicap, for example, is FACTUALLY handicapped. There is no denying of it. It is a fact that the person is handicapped. But WHAT DOES THE HANDICAP MEAN FOR THAT PERSON? WHAT ATTITUDES DOES HE TAKE TOWARDS HIS HANDICAP? Maybe he complains and finds his handicap as a curse. But maybe he might be more positive and feel challenged by his handicap. He can take different attitudes. 

10. Human existence is about living the facts of ourselves. A heartbroken person may be so sad that he/she decides to live the rest of his/her life without falling in love again. This person might refuse any form of friendship. That means that the person has made an attitude towards the experience--the fact--of being heart broken AND HAS DECIDED TO SHAPE LIFE ACCORDINGLY. The person, refusing to make friends, may end up all alone, lonely and having very little intimacy with people. The person's life then is SHAPED AND FORMED DEPENDING ON HOW HE/SHE HAS TREATED A FACT. 

11. Notice that as we move on in life we take attitudes towards the facts of our lives and WE CREATE NEW FACTS. A person who admits to be factually good in singing may decide to shape his life in terms of a singing career. Now as a singer--a fact--his life is now factually that of a singer.

12. What does this have to do with social interpretation? The facts of a person can be verified. We can observe the person or do research and investigation about the person's past. We can gather facts about him/her. Then we can build a whole interpretation of that person based on the facts we have gathered. We can do this, we can have more or less good access to the facts. But what does the person do in front of situations? What goes on inside him/her? What attitudes does he/she take? What plans will he/she make? We do not know this. The person may be so in touch with what he/she wants to do and all we can do is observe fro the outside.

13. In society we tend to conclude that we understand people. And we base this underdstanding on the facts observed from that person. But we need to open space--a space that belongs only to that person. We do not see eveything going on inside that person.

14. As Christians we say that the person may be having a dialogue with God. We believe that there is a concience which is a kind of ├»nner sanctuary" for the person. There, inside, he/she is in contact with God. How that happens we have no access. It is completely private to the person and God. 

15. Whatever conclusions we make about other people, let us keep in mind that WE DO NOT SEE ALL IN THAT PERSON. Knowing that quiet possible dialogue with God is outside anybody else's competence. In that sanctuary the person is very much image of God. Even if that person is reputed to be a "very very bad person" we still do not fully know what is going on inside of him/her. That space proper to that person should be respected. We have no right, for example, to apply the death penalty to that person. We never know the dialogue he/she is making with God. We never know how God is working a way through the conscience of the person. Let us not interfere.

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