Sino Ang Bobo?

by Jose Ma. Montelibano

Bobo is now a popular word. It is derogatory in meaning, of course, a cross between simpleton and stupid. There are nuances to ignorance and lack of capability for intelligence. The bobo is a living defiance of Creation’s plan.

The sad thing about calling people bobo, less as individuals but more as a class, is that the ones calling others bobo may be more bobo than their intended victims. Perched from a pedestal of superiority, largely self-claimed from a conclusion that they are 1) more powerful, or 2) wealthier, or 3) more educated, or 3) more holy, or 4) more connected to those who are from 1, 2, 3 and 4, the bobo callers reveal their arrogance or holier-than-thou attitude.

Visibly, the world is not equal in its exteriority. There is basis for some to be more than others, in looks, in talents, in wealth, in color and in many other ways. That is why the more refined societies insist on the virtue of respect. Respect alone levels the playing field like no other, and no society can transcend to development or maturity without it. And this is why the ones who think of, or call, others bobo show their own bobo character.

From the bobo-ness of the self-rated superior, if such have authority or great influence over authority, flow the bobo-ness of policies and programs. The politicians, bureaucrats, the elite, and the hierarchy of the Church who are the equivalent of the former in the field of the religious, dictate the value system of governance and power. Sometimes, the academe tempers the bobo-ness of authority. Sometimes, too, the academe submit to and justify this bobo-ness.

One important feature about being bobo is that it is a matter of choice. That means the bobo has options, and to be bobo is one of them. The poor and the ignorant, who are most of the time being the ones called bobo, have the least of options. They exist in a largely choice-less world of isang kahig, isang tuka, or the world of pure survival. In their own dimension, the Filipino poor have been great survivors.

In fact, many of them are now great achievers, especially the OFWs and their families who have crept out of the pit of poverty by their bootstraps and not by the generosity, wisdom or resources of those above them. Because they now have much more options than before, OFWs and their families have the possibility of being bobos themselves. They have escaped from a historical trap only to soon find that the world of more money is a mine field as well.

Bobos are self-made. Admittedly, they become so mindlessly, blinded or blind-sided by power, wealth, influence, or egos that color or cover the truth. But because of their superior material resources and the influence they wield because of such resources, bobos are the most dangerous class of Philippine society. They rule, period.

The extent of their wisdom, or bobo-ness, largely expresses itself through the abundance or scarcity of respect they give others, and the massiveness or insignificance of impoverished citizens that society hosts. The “No Wang-Wang” announcement of P-Noy is decidedly the most radical attitude to the traditional sense of entitlement of the bobos, the most respectful attitude towards those prejudiced by the bobo class. P-Noy only has one more achievement to accomplish that will surely earn for him a status not far from Rizal; P-Noy only has to drastically break the yoke of poverty of half of Filipinos by political will, by moral courage, and by a powerful sense of destiny.

I am especially influenced by some strategic views of the famous Albert Einstein who described insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” He actually calls those whom I refer to as the real bobos as insane. What does that make of all our societal leaders who have been confronting our major problems by giving the same failed solutions decade after decade? Should we consider them as bobo or insane?

Einstein went on to say that we cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used to create them. I use Einstein’s thoughts and words because they ring true more than just because they came from Einstein. I wish what he said is flawed in a significant way because the repetitive solutions we apply to the same historical problems point to serious levels of stupidity on our part. And I say “our” deliberately for the kind of tolerance we show the bobo or the insane.

The poor in this country of ours did not create itself. It was not laziness, it was not kabobohan, it was not even failure that made them poor – they were simply born poor. How can they, then, be the problem? They are victims of poverty, not its author. Only those with the authority, the power, the resources and influence to make the historically non-poor into the poor as we know them now can be the problem.

Why can we who have the desire, the clarity of mind, the generosity of heart, the practically of life, why can we not jump out of the same mindset that we used to condemn our people to poverty, or to tolerate it once condemned? We can be the superior class, the warriors and heroes who can save the rest of our people. We need not stay bobo all our lives. Worse than bobo, we cannot stay unconcerned for brothers and sisters.

One day, we will talk about the way of the warrior, of bayan, bayani and bayanihan. Soon, I know, because I feel the new dawn is here even before I see the light. The dream team of Filipinos is born. The cry of the suffering among us has been heard, their stories now being told and retold. Relief is around the next bend, and the future is full of hope.

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