Justice Flowing Like a River—a Millennial’s Take on Poverty Alleviation and Economic Justice
By AC Wilson, Pastoral Planning and Development Officer
Last September 24, 2015, I was asked to serve as a discussant in a Symposium on Poverty held at Christ the King Mission Seminary in Quezon City. The said event was organized by the Society of the Divine Word and the Lay Society of St. Arnold Janssen (LSSAJ ) with which Bro. Sam Ferrer, Public Affairs Ministry (PAM) assistant coordinator, was the chairman of the symposium. After the symposium, Bro. Roy Dizon, president of LSSAJ requested a write-up of my sharing and noted how listeners from Radio Maria were very appreciative of the discussion. My sharing at that time used a rather impromptu, conversant style, delivered in Filipino. Now, to appreciate the narrative text, please find the similar content of the sharing in edited and written gist below:
First, I would like to extend my praise and appreciation for the sharing of Rev. Fr. Benigno P. Beltran, Jr. SVD. Before the symposium, I, along with other discussants was given a case narrative of his work with the parishioners of Smokey Mountain thru Veritas Social Empowerment, Inc. The story described how socially inclusive, ecologically responsible, and economically profitable innovations are possible. “Justice Flowing Like a River—Social Innovation for a more Just, Peaceful, and Sustainable World” is a fitting title in expressing how community-based, faith-impelled and scientifically (both social and organizational) planned market enterprises can thrive. Given this opportunity and with the use of digital technology, it positively affects the community’s well-being as well as an individual’s, a participant’s feelings of self-worth. I am grateful to have read, listened and learned from it.
As I reflect on the ideas presented in their experience, three (3) thoughts come to mind. These humble musings are my personal insights and some, in the form of questions. Perhaps, these can also enrich the reflections of our readers and listeners:
- On Postmodernity & Poverty Alleviation:
In the flow of history, we now stand in postmodern times. The phases of Modernism and Postmodernism have unique characteristics which shape culture and movements. By taking a look at the qualities of postmodernity, we might be able to see opportunities and strategies for change that fit where we stand today.
In the modern times, the idea of grand narratives is a dominant feature. This pertains to one-size-fits-all knowledge base and experiences which runs contrast with the postmodern approach of localized, diverse, and multiple narratives. Here, there is more value in participation in the production of knowledge and experiences. Modernism also espouses a grand plan or a concept of change in a linear progression. Postmodernism, on the other hand views change as a series of networks and flows, connections and reconnections, forming and reforming, learning-unlearning-relearning. There is more than one way, yielding to the creative geniuses found in the digital age. This view also gives space to listening to more than one direction, allowing room for the participation of even the marginalized and forgotten in society. Lastly, modernism is known for autonomy or a strong sense of ‘self,’ with less emphasis on relationships. On the opposite, postmodernism strives for solidarity and complex interdependence among different sectors, institutions, even countries in dealing with challenges. There is a longing for authenticity and trust-building in relationships.
Definitely, I am in no expert stance to judge which period is better. I personally believe that both have their flaws and contributions. But how can we utilize who we are and where we are today in addressing poverty and economic justice? I find that the set of ideas found in post modernity opens larger spaces of participation which stimulates innovation and progress. A manifestation of this is found in the Veritas-Smokey Mountain case. Collaboration can be seen in the e-trading network they employed and their peace pacts and trade agreements with indigenous peoples, such as the Kalanguya tribe from the mountains of Nueva Vizcaya and with the Dumagats of Bulacan. Networks were also established with the Department of Agriculture, people’s organizations and private companies. Once, I learned of the strategy “Collaborate and Dominate.” When utilized for good, I find that it brings hope in combating poverty and in actualizing what Saint Pope John Paul II mentioned in Centissimus Annus— allowing the marginalized to participate in exchange and production is the best way to solve poverty.
- On Peace and Justice in a Millennial Economy:
Born in 1984, I belong to the older sector of what we now call as ‘millennials’ or digital natives. We represent the population whose birth year falls from 1980 to mid 2000. As the Generation Y, we found ourselves born in the midst of economic and political uncertainties, most of which caused a distrust in socio-political institutions. In terms of employment, there lies the option to join Diasporas abroad or reap gains in outsourced businesses. Consumerism is high and is right at our fingertips. I pondered: How can the millennials who shape the Philippine millennial economy contribute to economic justice?
How can the millennial economy become a source of social innovations for a more just, peaceful, and sustainable world? How can young Filipinos exercise leadership in developing just economic systems? It is indeed a broad question but can tap on the role of the youth as entrepreneurs, social marketers (Gen Y: number of Facebook likes can translate to profits), and loyal customers (Gen Y: more than brand names, peer reviews and blogs matter). I also wonder what entrepreneurial ventures will allow the partnership of urban youth dwellers and rural youth dwellers? Noticeably, more young people today opt to push marriage at later ages (late 20s to above 30s) and makes it a goal to do as much travel and vacation. As we, the millennials enter the prime of our economic years, how can the local travel industry maximize this trend? How can tourism promote the integrity of creation while economically helping the youth in travel destinations? Also, with Filipino Diasporas across the globe, how can we tap them to support social innovations like Veritas? They may provide human and physical resources which can help these initiatives flourish.
- On Politics and Sustainable Development:
Lastly, as we continue to value the pillars of sustainability, the triple bottom-line or 3Ps of People, Planet, and Profits, let us also remember the 4th P in sustainable practices and impact: Politics. I remember Pope Francis in Evangelii Gaudium, begging the Lord for more politicians who are genuinely disturbed and moved into addressing the roots of social ills. We need charitable politicians who are sincere, effective in dialogue, and are interested to lead a socio-economic healing process. For this to happen, grassroots-based social innovators are also called to be advocates for good governance. Good Governance and Economic Justice go hand-in-hand. Philippine politics should make a breakthrough, a return towards public service. This is the longed-for path to a sustainable future which involves engaged communities, principled politics, and integral development.
I hope my reflections can contribute to yours. To Veritas Social Empowerment, Inc, congratulations! May you continue to develop more models that manifest charity in economy! Thank you for this opportunity to listen and learn from you and also to be listened too.
Anne Christine G. Wilson, RSW
Youth Leader/Pastoral Planning and Development Officer
Diocese of Novaliches
September 24, 2015