A bearded man wearing a mask of death wildly played a spiff on his guitar. The soloist roared into the microphone, sounding like a wounded rhinoceros. The bassist swung his head round and round, his long hair making fractals in the air. The drummer as if in a trance and gripped by fever and delirium, beat on the drums as if the apocalypse had arrived. Back-up singers wailed like banshees as they assaulted the eardrums of the audience. Some who were dressed like robots or samurai warriors came up the stage and pirouetted with spastic, jerky movements, then shrieking, convulsing, jumping up and down, they danced as they brandished their weapons of choice.
The audience, hundreds of them crammed into an auditorium in an atmosphere of collective enthusiasm and uninhibited expression of emotions, were all very young, wearing wigs of garish colors, clad in anime and cosplay costumes with webs of glittery fabric crafted with so much creativity and forethought. They then paraded on the stage for the best costume contest. Afterwards they joined the audience in a dance with synchronous rhythmic movements that invited corresponding undulations in others. The atmosphere was pervaded with an effervescence that generated a sense of communal solidarity.
It was another Otaku exhibition I attended. I also make it a point to attend book signing events of novels printed from stories in WattPad and books for young people like Ang Diary ng Panget. I go to launchings of pop albums from dance groups like Girls Generation, EXO, Shinee and One Direction. Every now and then, I also go to video game competitions for Dota2 and League of Legends. As I stand there, an old man among the very young, eardrums ringing from their screams, I always ask myself what will happen to these “aliens” when they grow up. What values will they espouse? What will happen to the Word of God sown in their hearts, as the Gospel of this Sunday narrates? Will it fall into hard ground, eaten by birds, choked by thorns or bear fruit a hundredfold?
According to the McCann World Youth Survey, this is a generation who pride themselves on their ability to distinguish right from wrong, develop their own distinctive moral framework and have a strong commitment to justice. The survey also showed that only 6.3% of the respondents wanted to be famous. Their top wishes for the future were to maintain good health (40%), be successful in their chosen career (40%), meet their soul mate (36%) and look after their family (34%). Their values are connectivity, truth and justice. Can they live up to these values when they will run the world in the years to come?
The question of values
There is an urgent need for a discussion about what values are needed to address the many difficult challenges and choices our country is now facing. A value is a belief, a mission, or a philosophy that is meaningful. Whether we are consciously aware of them or not, everyone has a core set of personal values through which he or she measures the significance or importance of something. These values color the way the message is received. Our Lord’s parable of the sower illustrates the different ways the values of the Kingdom of God are received.
Values come into play because we are beings with consciousness, needs, and preferences. These values shape our own ethic for living. Our lives can go well or badly for us depending on the values we espouse. Our values guide the activities that decide what kind of country we want. Our cultural values as a society will chart the course of our nation’s future. If cultural values dictate, for instance, that it is alright to spend money that belongs to the government for personal needs, then we have to face up to the PDAF and DAP scandals currently causing turmoil in our country.
Our capacity to reason enables us to understand that we cannot simply act on our instincts. We also realize that there are other beings like us who have their own preferences and needs and sometimes these clash with our own preferences and needs. To have the right values means to act with moral excellence, to conform to a standard of right conduct, to “be good” in a meaningful way. And this goes to the heart of the matter – what we are supposed to be like as human beings. For what do we ought to strive, and how should we do this?
One is a good, a loving, a brave, or a selfish person because one has developed, over time, through practical conduct, the habits of such a person — acting as one ought from the habit of living out values chosen freely and intelligently. Madali maging tao, mahirap magpakatao because we have to live up to our values. Our leaders today have betrayed us because they failed to live up to right values – hindi sila nagpakatao.
The values of the Kingdom of God
Pope Francis has repeatedly said that the world is going through not just an economic crisis but a crisis of values. What values can we choose that will help build sustainable and prosperous societies for the 21st century? We have to radically reassess the values underpinning our understanding of progress, economic growth, development, and personal success, so that we can live a life driven by our chosen values, a life lived with others, a life that is genuinely our own. These values in turn direct projects that will help the biosphere flourish and assure the generations yet unborn of a more abundant life.
In Values in the Time of Upheaval, Pope Benedict XVI discusses the crucial questions of where we find our values and how we can put them into practice in our personal life and in our community. Values are the guiding force that will allow us to adapt to changing situations. What values will allow the Filipino people to flourish in a convergent universe?
How should these values shape earth-human relations, the mystical attraction of being-in-communion with the emerging creative process? How can we determine the values by which we should live in the context of the creative self-transcendence of a universe in the process of becoming? How can the new story of the world be the source of understanding and values? How can a new, more integral language of becoming and value emerge from this new understanding of the universe? How do we resolve the conflict between our personal values and the values of other members of our community?
A nation built on truth, beauty and goodness makes it easier for young citizens to mature, develop sound habits and strong characters, and conduct themselves with honesty and truthfulness. What values should we inculcate through the family, the churches and the schools to make young Filipinos virtuous enough to sustain freedom, empower themselves and create a better world?
As rational creatures, we can imagine the consequences of the values that we espouse; as moral creatures, we must act on that knowledge. To live in such a way as to embody our values is the strongest moral stance that we can make – to live a life that we believe in, and then matching our behavior with what we most deeply believe is true, good and beautiful.
We have to make decisions now as a nation about what a human being is, what our values ought to be, what kind of world we want to live in, and what legacy we would like to leave behind.